Jumping into Self-Employment Without a Net: 4 Things You Must Do

self-employment net

Today’s post comes from writer Melanie, who recently quit her day job to start her own freelance business. She shares more of her journey on her blog, Dear Debt.

I did it. I quit my job.

For the past month I’ve been adjusting to my new freedom as well as a wildly different freelance schedule. It has been awesome, trying, invigorating and unsettling all at the same time.

You see my journey to freelance life is a bit different than the norm. I had everything (and everyone) in the world telling me that it wasn’t possible, and a bad decision.

I still have $38,000 in student loan debt and I’m the breadwinner in my relationship. Not only that, I didn’t have the recommended six to twelve months of expenses in an emergency fund.

Leaving my very secure job may have seemed like a foolhardy decision, but it was a decision I carefully considered before starting this new adventure. For six months I worked the equivalent of two full-time jobs, pursuing freelance work and maintaining my full-time job. After that time, my freelance income started to become increasingly close to my full-time income.

After feeling like I wasn’t growing, some big organizational changes at my job, and a big push from Carrie, I made the move. It was tough, but here is how I lessened the blow of jumping without a net.

1. Make drastic changes (and hard decisions)

Before I gave notice, I knew I had to change some things with my financial situation to ensure my peace of mind and security. I stopped using credit cards and adopted a cash only lifestyle which cut my spending down 30%. In addition, I started putting more money towards my emergency fund and lowered my student loan payments.

Before this, my number one priority was getting out of debt and I was often paying over a thousand dollars a month toward it. While getting out of debt is still a main priority for me, being financially sound (and not getting into more debt) is just as important, now that I’m testing the freelance waters.

If you’re jumping without a net into the freelance world, think of what you can do to make your situation more stable. What extra expenses can you cut out? How can you rearrange your debt to save money (refinance, negotiate a lower rate, etc)?

While making these drastic changes and difficult decisions were hard, I know it’s affording a flexible lifestyle, more rest, and the most powerful feeling: being my own boss.

2. Have a support system

Jumping without a net can do a number on your psyche and mental stability. By telling others your situation, you might open yourself to unwanted criticism or feedback. Having a strong support system can help during this transition and offer helpful feedback.

I am so lucky that my parents and partner were very supportive of my decision. They believe in me, which made me believe in myself even more.

Aside from family, find a mentor, or group of freelancers online or in your neighborhood that can help you out. I am eternally grateful for Carrie’s mentorship as well as her Careful Cents Club, which has been a great resource for me.

As a new freelancer, it’s important to find people in your corner that support you and that you can learn from.

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3. Entertain the worst case scenario

Quitting before you have every single thing on the list crossed off can seem like the scariest thing, ever. It’s not, it only seems that way because of our deep-seated beliefs that the world will end without a job.

But we are more than our jobs. We simply need to make a living to get by.

I looked long and hard at my situation. I have three months in an emergency fund, my student loans are not due until 2015 because of advanced payments, and I’m on my way to getting affordable health insurance.

I thought about the worst case scenario. What if I didn’t have enough money? What if I couldn’t pay my loans or my rent? What would I do? In the worst case scenario, I could:

  • Put my loans in forbearance
  • Move back home with my parents
  • Go back to a regular job to pay the bills

Absolutely none of these options involve being homeless or starving. Those are the worst case scenarios for me, as I am fiercely independent and don’t want to rely on anyone — but it’s nice to know your options if things really did get bad.

4. Be willing to make it work

Being a freelancer is risky and jumping without a net is a bold move that I don’t recommend for everyone. But for certain people, it just might be the push that you need to get started living the life you want, not the one you were told to live.

Sometimes doing something risky can make you hustle even harder to get what you want, because you don’t want to disappoint yourself and you want to prove that you can do it. I know that’s true for me and I’m excited to push myself and get out of my comfort zone.

I still have so much to learn, but I’m grateful for the journey.

Have you ever quit your job without a safety net? 

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