From Employee To Freelancer to Consultant

You're an employee right now, wondering about going Freelance (and then eventually starting a consultanty). If you're like most freelancers I know, you'll give your two week's notice, then look for some freelance clients and magically get paid in time to pay rent.

This is the worst possible way to take control of your career. You must consider and prioritize the three most important items about Freelancing and Consulting:

  1. Cash Flow
  2. Cash Flow
  3. Cash Flow

Seriously. Right now, you get paid on the regular. It's likely not "enough" -- after all, companies pay you what is called your Replacement Cost. However, you get those moneys on the 1st and 15th and can pay rent. Giving that string of cashflows up without other cash to replace it is Risky.

Instead, I give you the method I used to move from Employee to Freelancer -- with two kids and a wife who stays home with the kids.

Part Time Gigs

There are many small companies that have a web application and want to make continual changes to said application, but cannot afford a full time developer. To them, having 20 hours of you is genius level awesome. Take this gig in addition to your current 40 hour work week. Invoice every other week.

20 hours at $75 an hour is only $6,000 per month. If that's enough for you, #partyon. If not, take a second 20 hour part time gig.

By the time the 3rd invoice comes in, you will likely be making more freelancing than employeeing. The decision is easy, happy, and totally easy to sell to the family.

80 hours a week?

Yeah, for 2 months max. That'll be tougher than normal, but it's doable. Note: this is only doable if you are capping your work at 40 hours a week. Which: do this no matter what.

Pricing your gig

You should try pricing the gig at $1500 a week, for up to 20 hours of software development. If the customer has the work, you get paid. If they don't, well, then you can work on backing up the production servers, or upgrading from Rails 2.3 to 3.0. There's always work.

How to find these gigs

Ask current consultants and freelancers if they have any clients they can't totally service any longer. This is totally a thing -- there are consultants who are now charging $150 an hour, and have a client who only pays $75 an hour. What is not profitable for them is a perfect stepping stone for you. If you don't know any freelancers, go to Meetups in the tech speciality you love.

Do Not Wait Until Unemployed to Start Freelancing

Don't wait. It only increases your risk -- which is the absolutely enemy of a successful freelancing and consulting career. See also: importance of cashflow.

Current Employer

Your current employer might have made you sign a contract prohibiting any outside freelancing deals. If so: find a new employer. These are stepping stones to your future. Best case: find a remote gig and see if you can handle working from home. It's good info to have.