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5 Signs it’s Time to Make the Switch From Employee to Freelancer

This post is part of a series by Cat from Budget Blonde, who’s documenting her journey to quit her job and become a self-employed freelancer in 6 months.

A few months ago, I set a goal to become a full-time freelancer by January 1, 2014. There are a few reasons I chose this date:

  • It gives me enough time to ensure my revenue is consistent
  • It coordinates with my contract ending at my current job and my move back to the United States

My goal is to be so confident in my abilities as a business owner, that I don’t feel the need to look for a 9-5 job the second I get back to the States.

I crave the security and the benefits of a 9-5, but I also crave the freedom and the fulfillment that only comes when you create something all your own.

Still, as someone who is Type-A and a huge planner, I have to think about the perfect time to make the switch. So I asked myself, “Should I work part time and manage my blog or should I go for it?”.

Then I realized something; I don’t want to ease into being a full-time freelancer. I’ve worked too hard and spent too many hours working on my business.

Are you ready to break out of the daily 9-5 and become your own boss? Is it time for you to make that leap? It’s definitely time to take the plunge!

starting a business

If you’re wondering when to quit your job and make the switch from employee to full-time freelancer, here are a few indicators your time has come:

1. You’re Feeling the Pinch

There comes a point in every freelancers life when their side hustles start taking up just as much time as their day jobs. For people like me, who want to become full-time freelancers, this is a good thing.

It means the business is growing, people are starting to notice your hard work, and you are getting referrals. At the same time, this is also the moment when you start to feel the pinch.

I am currently in pinch mode. Essentially, it’s getting harder and harder to put in a few hours of work at night, after I’ve already worked full time during the day. My normally super human work ethic is starting to wane as I spend every weekend freelancing to catch up.

I just watched Miss America a few nights ago, and when it was over, I realized I haven’t watched a TV show in months! It was actually fun and nice to take a break!

When you’re working so hard towards a goal, you don’t realize you’re not taking time to relax. I’ve started forcing myself to take breaks and utilize my time better, since it makes me so much more relaxed, creative and open-minded the next day.

Beware: the pinch can’t last forever. It would be very difficult to handle an 80+ hour work week for the long-term. So, if you are pinch mode like I am, you’re probably very close to making the switch. Embrace it — it’s time.

2. You’re Bringing in Steady Income

Freelance work is definitely variable, and some months are good while others can take a dip. However, for the past 3 months, I have brought in more income than my day job, and based on my numbers so far, I think this month will be the same.

Because I have steady freelance income already, and I know how I reached that income, I feel confident it’s time to make the switch from employee to business owner.

If my income varied too much or I wasn’t bringing in as much as my current day job, I wouldn’t feel ready to become a full-time freelancer/blogger.

Befor making the leap, make sure you have a nice solid trend of consistent income, and remember it will only increase once you get 40 hours of your week back.

3. You’re a Budgeting Rockstar

Even if you’re not a fan of crunching numbers, running your own freelance business requires you to get very familiar with budgets.

It’s important to know where you are spending your money. You also have to ensure you’re putting away enough money to pay your self-employment taxes every quarter.

You also have to be ready for the slow months. You can prepare by trimming your budget and cutting out the excess now so you can build a solid emergency fund for later.

Ideally, I am trying to have three months of expenses saved just in case my website crashes or I have a family emergency. I know I would feel more comfortable saving six months worth of expenses, and I’ll try to get as close to it as possible over the next few months.

4. You’re Facing Your Fears

Let’s be honest; breaking out on your own is terrifying. It’s exhilarating, but there’s also so much pressure to succeed.

There’s a reason the vast majority of the population gets up every day and goes to an office — it’s safe and secure. They know where they stand, and they know exactly how much they’ll get paid every paycheck.

Freelancing full time isn’t for the faint of heart. It’s for those who are willing to face their fears and work tirelessly every single day in hopes they will make enough money to pay their bills and take care of their families.

It’s a risky decision, but if the thought excites you, and you’re up for the challenge, then you’re ready!

5. You’re Going With Your Gut (and Working Hard)

Ultimately, the decision is yours. I wasn’t convinced my freelancing would be enough to sustain me until I saw three months of solid income on my bookkeeping software.

It took some time, yet slowly but surely, I started to give up on finding a fabulous, new job after I moved back to the States and got extremely pumped about working for myself.

I’m a firm believer that anyone can do exactly what I’m doing right now. The only magic formula is planning + working harder than you ever dreamed possible. If you have a combination of those two things, you can truly conquer the world.

I’m ready to make the leap! Are you? See you on the other side.

How a Weekend Thrive Hive Retreat Changed My Business Mindset
Monthly Progress Report: Embrace Your Perspective
About the author: Catherine Alford is a contributor to Careful Cents and has blogged about her journey to quitting her day job to become a freelance blogger in less than 6 months. She’s an award winning freelance writer who created the course Get Paid to Write for Blogs. When she’s not managing her writing course, you can find her on her personal blog,
16 Comments... Read them below or add one of your own
  • moneystepper October 4, 2013, 8:31 am

    Great advice as ever Cat.

    The main reason why people leaving the workforce to go alone (be it freelance, consulting or starting a business) fail is that haven’t got the physical proof ($$$) that their alternative choice will be a success.

    All too often, it is just a dream and, unfortunately, that is never enough.

    I cannot, therefore, overstate the importance of point 2.

    Good luck with this next stage of your working life !!

    • Cat Alford/ Budget Blonde October 4, 2013, 12:33 pm

      Thank you! It’s so hard to get to #2 but I’ll never forget how great it felt when I realized I made more than my day job!!

  • Michelle October 4, 2013, 9:47 am

    Great post! I’m ready to make the leap also. My last day is next week (I turned in my notice over a month ago). I can’t wait!

    • Cat Alford/ Budget Blonde October 4, 2013, 12:32 pm

      That’s soooooo exciting Michelle!! Congrats!!!

    • Carrie Smith October 4, 2013, 4:51 pm

      Woohoo! That’s exciting Michelle. Congrats and good luck! :)

  • Candice October 4, 2013, 5:02 pm

    I just found this blog and I am in love! I recently started a blog and I’ve been doing very few freelancing writing jobs for people and it’s something I want to grow so that I can one day work for myself. I love these tips.

    • Carrie Smith October 6, 2013, 11:27 pm

      SO happy you found the site Candice! Let us know if you have any questions while you’re growing your freelance business. We’re happy to share our experiences!

      • Cat Alford/ Budget Blonde October 8, 2013, 2:13 pm

        This is the perfect site for you then!

  • Lance@MoneyLife&More October 4, 2013, 8:32 pm

    My income has been relatively steady, but it is nowhere near the level I’d want it to be to go full-time. I need to put in some more hours though, because I’ve been recharging the batteries lately.

    • Cat Alford/ Budget Blonde October 8, 2013, 2:14 pm

      Recharging the batteries is good. I could use a bit of that!

  • Simon | Modest Money October 6, 2013, 2:58 am

    Yep, freelancing isn’t for the faint-hearted. Some months you can fall smack below your living needs and thats scary! In addition to your points, one needs the emotional constitution to see things through – a toughness and persevearance to make things work and patience to see the results of all efforts expended.
    One also ought to be an all-rounder, as a freelancer you handlee most of your stuff from marketing, landing clients, support-office stuff…just about everything!

    • Cat Alford/ Budget Blonde October 8, 2013, 2:14 pm

      Ah yes, it’s a very emotional experience. Gotta be tough and not beat yourself up too much! And yes, it’s amazing how many skills you have to have to be a one man (or one lady) team

  • Laura Yamin October 6, 2013, 11:23 am

    Catherine I can identify with this post. I am on the other side as I took the plunge first to walk away from the career that was no longer serving / did a stint in the temp world, only to find myself yet again in the pinch to be freelancing on a full-time basis.

    Yes you get to face your fears head on a daily basis. Yet I am in constant amazement on how things slowly fall into place. My focus right now is taking consistent daily actions that will support my freelance work and business to grow.

    • Cat Alford/ Budget Blonde October 8, 2013, 2:15 pm

      I used to worry about not getting new jobs or that having a good month was just a fluke, but I find that staying relevant and keeping at it makes the opportunities keep coming.

  • Marissa October 11, 2013, 10:59 am

    It’s not an easy feat to move from a 9-5 to a 24-hour job if you know what I mean. But you are right ultimately it’s a decision only the person can make. It’s essential to plan and prepare yourself for what will come. and believe it will be great!

    • Cat Alford/ Budget Blonde November 22, 2013, 10:43 pm

      Truer words have never been spoken! It’s definitely a 24 hour job!

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