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Have you been thinking about starting a freelance career? Maybe even wanting to build a creative agency? You only get one life…so go for it! But before you jump in head first, get the following things in place.

I’m pretty sure this is the last picture of me while I still worked at Fox in May 2002. A few weeks later, my journey into full-time freelancing began. Oh, what I wish I would have known.

Step 01: Get Good at the Services You’ll Offer

  • Go to school or self educate.
  • Practice.
  • Practice.
  • Practice.
  • You must be able to add value to your future clients.

Step 02: Build a Lot of Relationships

  • Reconnect with old friends and coworkers.
  • Make friends where you work now.
  • Meet new people in the business community.
  • Everyone you know is either a future client OR knows someone who can be your future client. Relationships are critical in business. Make a lot of them.

Step 03: Save 3-6 Months of Cash Flow Coverage

  • Save 3-6 months of cash sufficient to cover your living expenses.
  • This can be a combination of money in the bank, money you are waiting to collect and money you will invoice (with 100% certainty) in the next 90 days.
  • You’ll need cash in the bank to cover your personal expenses during the roller coaster of big months and small months as a freelancer.

Step 04: Build a Vendor Network

  • Connect with people who have complimentary skills. If you’re a designer, find some programmers. If you’re a programmer, find some designers.
  • Connect with people who have the same skills as you. Other freelancers with your same skillset can serve as your backup in case you get tons of work.

Step 05: Create Marketing Materials

  • Design a brand style.
  • Launch a website that showcases your work and highlights the value you can provide to your clients.
  • Get active on at least ONE social media channel.
  • Make sure your marketing has a clear positioning statement (what you do and who you do it for) and direct calls to action to generate work opportunities.

Step 06: Prepare Your Business

  • Register your business (where applicable).
  • Open a business bank account.
  • Create a proposal template.
  • Create a contract template.
  • Start viewing your business as a separate entity from yourself. Your business has its own money, separate from your personal money.

Step 07: Quit Your Day Job Properly

  • Don’t burn any bridges.
  • Give two weeks notice (at least).
  • Talk to your employer in person.
  • Give your employer a formal resignation letter.
  • Tell your employer, “I’m ready to go full-time freelance. Thank you for this job opportunity. If you have any need to outsource things in the future, just reach out.”
  • It is common for your current employer to become one of your first freelance clients.

Step 08: Start the Hustle

  • Don’t panic. You have money saved up.
  • Don’t panic. Worse people than you have done this.
  • Don’t panic. There is plenty of work out there.
  • Don’t panic. You can always go back to a day job.
  • Send this message to everyone you know, “I did it! I started freelancing full-time. If you hear of a business needing ____ OR ____ please let me know! I’m looking to add to my client list. Thank you!”

I started freelancing in 2002. I was in panic mode for a couple years because I didn’t have (or know) these things. You don’t have to panic like I did. Work on this list, get prepared and take the plunge. Freelancing and building my creative agency has been the most rewarding phase of my creative career. I wish the same for you.

Michael Janda

I am Michael Janda, an executive level creative leader with more than 25 years of experience in both in-house creative departments and agencies working with some of the greatest brands in the world including Disney, Google, Fox, ABC and NBC. I create books, courses, workshops, lectures and other training materials to help creative entrepreneurs run successful businesses.