How One Millennial Quit Her Job to Be a Full-Time Freelancer in 6 Months

quit job in six months

This post comes from contributor Kali Hawlk, who quit her day job to become a freelance writer and editor. Read her entire story here.

Six months ago, I started documenting how I planned to shift my side hustle into a full-time career within one year. As it turned out, I quit my full-time job just three months after writing that post and started working for myself full-time. Not only did I blow away the 12-month deadline I set for myself, but I also went far beyond my original goal of beginning a new career.

I learned to change and adapt to new situations and opportunities. I figured out how to take action on my own instead of waiting for someone to give me permission to succeed. I started to understand my purpose and my passion — and the whys behind creating something great for other people.

And (most exciting to me), I created a successful, full-time digital business that I absolutely love. I’m passionate about what I do. I adore the clients I get to work with and serve. I feel so, so happy that I finally found my confidence, my stride, and my niche.

Most of my articles have been about sharing experiences and lessons from my journey this year. But today, I’d like to take a quick look at where I’ve been, where I’m at, and where I’m headed as a new solopreneur.

Looking back: How I built my online business

Originally, I set out to be a freelance writer and blogger. Over the seven months it took to establish my side hustle, grow my portfolio of gigs, and quit my day job, my work evolved. I quit trying to blog my way to a sustainable career; I realized that writing posts and articles full-time wasn’t going to work for me.

So I evaluated, pivoted and changed course. I was willing to adapt and try new things, instead of wallowing in my failures. I picked myself up and examined what went wrong? What wasn’t working? What could work instead? I kept testing ideas — and gigs — until I found my sweet spot.

Being an entrepreneur is all about experimentation, and not being afraid to test out new ideas and strategies.

I realized that content marketing and management was my sweet spot. It was the conjunction of what I was good at, what I loved doing, and (most importantly for those of us looking to build a business) what other people were happy to pay me to do.

As soon as I switched my efforts from scoring writing gigs to creating a niche for my content management services and developing a portfolio of my ideal clients, things really took off. This switch not only allowed me to start succeeding with my work, but set me up to create a legitimate, sustainable business from that work.

After a crazy-busy period of 80 and 90 hour work weeks and dealing with burnout, I decided it was time to leave my day job in someone else’s business behind. I put in my notice in May 2014 and had my last day during the first week of June.

I had made my dream come true: I was a full-time freelancer running her own business!

Where I am today: How my business serves others

In past posts on Careful Cents, I’ve tried to explain what I’ve learned through my experiences. But I haven’t talked much about the details of where those lessons lead me, or what I found when I reached my definition of success.

When I quit my job to run this business, I had a few key content management clients. Over the summer, I worked to shed some of my work that was solely content creation — and writing — in order to pick up more of my ideal clients.

The first step in that process was to actually define my ideal clients! I already had an idea of my niche, but I worked to clearly identify my specialty and stick to it.

Picking a target market wasn’t nearly as difficult as that whole “stick to it” thing. It’s hard to turn down work, especially as someone with a fledgling business. It’s difficult to see that as anything but just turning money away. However, focusing on who I can serve the best and turning down the rest has lead to the most success. (And the perfect opportunity for rhymes.)

Today, I’m pleased to be the go-to service provider for financial professionals who need help developing and maintaining their online presence. I serve advisors and planners by handling site and blog management, social media management, email campaigns, and other content marketing needs.

who you serve best quote

Staying steady: How I market myself

Word-of-mouth marketing has been my best tool for growing the business so far. I have an amazing lineup of clients that make me want to jump out of bed to get to work for every day. And they all came to me off referrals from other clients or people that hear about what I do.

I strongly suggest that anyone who wants to create their own business or freelance career work on developing strong relationships and connections. My network has made all the difference for me, and I woudn’t be writing this post as a solopreneur living her dream without the people that recommended me to others, or clients who referred me, or simply spread the good word about my business.

My best advice: make your clients the happiest people on Earth.

Knock their socks off with every little task you do and aim to go above and beyond every time. Be genuine, sincere, and kind. Care about them — and they’ll care about you. Your clients, and your connections, are the most valuable assets you have to your side hustle, your freelance career, or your solo business.

Take good care of them, on every level. They’ll return the favor.

Moving forward: My business goals for the future

This post wraps everything I’ve learned over the past several months about transitioning from being an employee to becoming my own boss. I’ve shared a lot on Careful Cents, and am happy that it’s only the beginning of many exciting experiences, more lessons learned, and amazing opportunities that I know are in my future.

I have big plans for my business, and I’m always working to improve, progress, and evolve. Right now, my goal is to create a strong brand for my business. I launched my efforts off the small following I built around a personal blog, Common Sense Millennial — but the business is an entirely different and unique entity now.

It has a separate website at KaliHawlk.com, and my current task is to build up my own brand in the same way I do for my clients’ businesses.

I’ve also toyed around with the idea of building a digital marketing agency from my business. I want to ensure that the business I’ve created from the ground up is not only profitable and successful today, but in the future, too. Sustainability is important to me, so I’m always considering ways to scale up while keeping the business versatile and capable of adapting to change.

And I’d also like to experiment with developing a line of products to go along with the services I offer. I hope to create courses, ebooks, and other resources for business owners who prefer a do-it-yourself approach to marketing and brand building.

To do all this, I’ll need a strong support network and a community full of people who like to share ideas and encourage each other. I’ve definitely found that in the Careful Cents community, which has been a great source of inspiration and help throughout the last six months. I’ve also gotten to join a fantastic mastermind group in recent weeks, and I’ve set a goal of building more (and stronger) relationships.

Let’s connect

If you’d like to connect — and I’d love for you to do so! — you can always reach me on Twitter @KaliHawlk. Please come and say hi! I really appreciate you hanging out with me here in this Taking the Leap series for Careful Cents, and I want to say a very big thank you to Carrie for inviting me to share this journey and its experiences with you.

If you’re currently working on building your freelance career or solo biz, I’m here to help in any way I can. You can do this! Stay tenacious. Stay dedicated. Stay inspired.

And don’t give up. Believe in yourself and what you can build!

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6 comments

  1. Tai says:

    Great article! I too transitioned from employee to freelancer the first week of June! 6 month update coming next month! Congrats on your accomplishments!

  2. You’re so inspiring! I love reading about how you do what you do. And, I think you make great points about impressing clients and focusing your efforts on projects where you’ll succeed. I apply those two things to my day job and it makes my workday so much more focused and productive. By concentrating my efforts at the top of the pyramid of my projects, my boss is happier, I’m happier, and the end product is better.

  3. Corina says:

    Hi Kali,

    Great, inspiring article. Thanks for sharing your journey.

    I am at the beginning of my solo career and people like you and Carrie are my inspiration.

    Thanks again and see you on Twitter. 🙂

  4. Love this–very inspiring. I like that you knew what you were doing (freelancing) wasn’t working/where you wanted to be and continued to tweak and refine that until you found the model that was perfect for you. 🙂 Great post!

  5. Jeffrey Hill says:

    You’re totally on-point about the networking. I’ve only started freelancing the last few months, and I’ve seen how much a difference it makes when my network and connections grow. The nice part is you get to meet cool new people along the way, and not only does it open up new worlds of opportunity, it also leads to learning something new very frequently!

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