Can You Be a Full-Time Freelancer? Here’s How to Know for Sure

By Bethany Johnson, Contributor, on December 5, 2016

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For years, you’ve dreamed about it: being your own boss, owning your own business and doing your own thing.

But how can you know when it’s time to make the leap to full-time freelancer? After all, what’s to say you won’t end up back in the cubicle within a few months? Fortunately, there are plenty of ways to know how you’ll fare. The six questions outlined here can guide you along the way.

1. Have you assembled a portfolio?

No one says you need to have hundreds of polished products to show off. You just need a handful of proud moments to convince potential clients you’re the best hire. For just a few bucks a month, drag-and-drop website services offer beautiful DIY layouts to showcase your accomplishments.

2. Are you comfortable with the SBA’s to-do list?

The U.S. federal government has a remarkably thorough page just for freelancers. On it, you’ll find the exact steps you must follow to legally launch a freelance business.

A quick glance at the list can give you the gut check you need to either hold your horses or plow ahead. If you’ve already achieved half the objectives there, you may feel more confident in your ability to leave the daily grind. If the language on the Small Business Association’s site is foreign, however, you should probably hunker down and conduct some more research.

3. Do you already have a few loyal clients?

Transitioning from full-time employee to full-time freelancer is a big leap, but if you already have an ongoing gig or two, you can significantly reduce your risk (and workload). When you’re earning enough from freelancing to replace half the income of your full-time job, you’ll know it’s time to make the leap.

If your’re not there yet, start thinking about what it’d take to sign a contract with one or two clients while you’re still employed. Would it mean working nights for a while? Occasional early mornings? Every-other weekend, perhaps? Having answers to those questions laid out — before you even think about giving notice — can significantly ease any misgivings.

4. Do you know other freelancers, who can level with you?

The internet is supersaturated with online coaches, advertising e-courses and tutorials that teach “everything you need to know to earn six figures freelancing within weeks (without ever leaving your hammock!).”

These hyped-up “experts” may offer some value, but nothing beats an experienced, real-deal buddy to honestly answer your questions. If you don’t have access to the perspective of other working freelancers, join forums, closed Facebook groups and local meetups to hear the joys (and, more likely, the struggles) of freelancing.

5. Do you tend to save more money than necessary?

If you have a track record of keeping a cushion for rainy days, you’re likely more prepared for the irregularity of full-time freelancer pay. And if you genuinely enjoy the feeling of saving cash more than the temporary high of splurging, then give yourself bonus points for this question.

Plus, not only does your save-versus-spend habit reinforce the bank account, it can also strengthen your portfolio.

6. Are you a measured risk-taker?

Successful freelancers are adventurous enough to enjoy the rush of signing new clients and submitting killer work. They also value the free-spirited creativity needed to think outside the box and push the boundaries of the status quo. To be a full-time freelancer, you need to foster a balanced mixture of excitement and steadfastness — to keep clients happy, and yourself employed.

There’s no way to accurately predict the future. No one can know if their idealized freelance life will pan out. Knowing the answers to these questions, however, can go a long way toward giving you a proper sense of how likely you are to achieve your dreams — once you take that exhilarating first step and say, “I quit.”

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