Becoming a Freelancer: The Prep Work

How to leave your 9-5 & become your own boss

Woman sitting in front of computer in home office.

You’ve got dreams of creating more freedom in your schedule and taking ownership of your professional career, and we’ve got advice to get you started on the right path toward freelancing. 

We’re talking about when to leave your 9-5, how to leave, and what you need to do to prepare. 

Grab a coffee or a cocktail, if that’s your style. Let’s do this. 

Don’t leave in anger; leave for opportunity.

I know this feels like a punch in the gut right now, but trust me — I understand. I was pretty upset when I decided to leave my last agency gig. Part of me was ready to get on the elevator and never look back. However, I would have burned way more bridges than I did and probably wouldn’t be as successful. 

So decide on a time frame. One month, three months — even a year. This can be flexible depending on a whole host of things, but envisioning a light at the end of your tunnel will keep you motivated and give you a goal to work toward. 

In the meantime, become an observer, a fly on the wall. If the environment isn’t right, take notes on what you will take with you into your next job, and leave the negative behind. 

Save money.

When it comes to finances, you’ve got to be prepared for whatever entrepreneurship throws at you. My advice? Have enough to cover 3 months of expenses in your account. 

After working with that agency, I wanted a small break right before taking on more work. I was convinced if I didn’t do it right then, I would never do it. So I saved. I wasn’t great with money so it was clear I would have to buckle down and save if I had a chance at leaving. 

Saving up $6,000 to pay for the next 3 months after quitting was key, as I was anxious about the prospect of not doing well, and I didn’t want the extra burden of expenses. I realize $6,000 is NOT A LOT for expenses for some families. For perspective, I was 24 and living in a very subsidized family apartment building at the time. 

You’ll have to find the right number for you, but I know it is doable. It may take a little more time and patience, but it can be done!

Reach out to your contacts. 

Update them BEFORE you leave. If you have enough of a relationship with them, ask for help in securing a few gigs before leaving. You’ll be amazed at how much people are willing to help, advise and support your dreams of going solo. A lot of the time, they have worked with you and have seen your potential. 

I’m a firm believer in Karma and Universal Balance because no one has gotten anywhere truly ALONE. We may like to think that way, but if you look at our lives as a whole you’ll notice that we meet special people along the way who influence our trajectory for the better. We sow seeds when we establish great relationships. Be your best gardener. 

Build your skills.

I would be nowhere if I sat around on my downtime and waited for things to come to me. I have always been an avid reader, diligent student, and had a hunger for knowledge. 

In the 6 months before leaving, I dove headfirst into online courses and lectures to gain more knowledge on what I would be doing once I stepped out on my own to start freelancing. 

At that point, I was told 5 times that I was not the best designer, but I was a great administrative person. I HATED that. But I decided instead of staying mad, I’d do something about it. I distinctly remember cramming every night and weekend for a month straight on how to lay things out in PowerPoint and how to do charts and graphs. I didn’t just want to do well in my next chapter, I wanted to excel. 

Take a cleaver to your resume.

While the length and design of your resume may differ from industry to industry, one thing remains consistent: People don’t want to read a novel when they’re reading your resume. 

When you’re updating your resume, ask yourself — is this relevant? If your answer is no, then you need to kill your darlings and cut it out. When it comes down to it, having a full resume doesn’t mean much if your experience isn’t relevant to the job or project.

This applies to freelancing opportunities as much as it does to a traditional 9-5. Stop using filler information. Be genuine. Do the work. 

Budget your time as a new freelancer.

When I came to the conclusion that my time was done there, I scheduled my first 6 months of freelancing wisely. I used a simple whiteboard with goals, pictures of things I wanted to do, and money brackets I needed to make every month to feel successful. 

I had bills I wanted to pay off, and I celebrated the milestones once they were paid so I would see small bits of success. Those are the things you should hold on to on your way to becoming your own boss.

Here’s to your first quarter as your own boss!

Congratulations! You’re becoming more entrepreneurial every. dang. day. As we share the lessons we’ve learned from our experiences with you, we’re hoping these tips will help you up your game and inspire you to take the next step.

If we can do anything to help you along your freelancing journey, please don’t hesitate to reach out to us and say hello!

Wishing you the best! 

— The Ruby + Citrine Team


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Alex Alcantara

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