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Can You Afford to Start a Freelance Business?


Starting your own freelance business is a huge decision.  There are so many choices to make and things to consider.  Throughout the next few weeks, we’ll most likely look at a lot of these concerns.  I know that Tamara and I have had them, and you’re probably dealing with them, too.  This is one of those posts I’ve been nervous about writing.  It’s one of the kind where we’re really transparent, and you get to see how we’ve done everything backwards.  On the other hand, it should make you feel pretty good about yourself.  ;-) 

One of the biggest concerns for me has been the fact that I’m just not bringing in as much money as I would working a nine-to-five job.  As much as I’m painfully aware of this, I know that my husband is doubly so.  Even though I’ve never brought in a lot of money (my degrees are in the infamously low-paying non-profit sector), what I was earning helped make ends meet in our household. 

Building your own freelance business is not necessarily a lucrative endeavor at the beginning!  Of course, there is the benefit of having low overhead costs, which really helps in comparison to starting some other type of home-based business.  Tamara and I literally started the Berry-Brewer Agency for approximately $220. 

So, yea for low start-up costs, but boo for low start-up earnings. 

What can you do to mitigate this?  Well, the first option is probably “don’t quit your day job.”  I’ve read a whole lot of how-to-freelance books, and pretty much all of them recommend that you don’t turn your back on a weekly paycheck while you’re getting set up.  These books all say to start the freelancing part-time, before or after work.  Once you’ve built up a clientele, then you can quit your other job. 

Oops.  We didn’t do that.  To be fair, it wasn’t exactly by choice.  On the other hand, if things hadn’t happened exactly the way they did, we very likely never would have ended up on this adventure. 

If you have left your previous job, there are a few other ways to help make up the difference.  For example, you could get a different, part-time job.  I’m still considering this option, although, I have to admit that the pregnancy makes it a less-desirable option.  Tamara tried temping for a while, but . . . well, let’s just say she didn’t like it.  Another option for some is to get their significant others working harder.  Tamara’s husband has taken on a second job, and we were lucky because mine just happened to be due for a raise when this whole thing started. 

If bringing in more money isn’t going to work for you, consider how you might spend less while you’re getting your business off the ground.  If you’re going to be spending hours working in front of the computer, for example, maybe you could cut back to basic cable.  Instead of paying a babysitter, maybe you could trade with another parent so that you each had one full day without any kids to really focus on your business. Start making your own coffee rather than send your dollars to Seattle.  The one place we don’t recommend you cut back is on your internet connection.  In today’s freelancing world, the internet is one of the most important tools at your disposal. 

I certainly don’t mean to be doom-and-glooming here.  Freelancing really does take so little money to start.  Unfortunately, the money tends to sort of trickle in at the beginning.  As our business grows, so will that trickle.  In fact, after about a month of officially being in business, Tamara and I just had our first payday.  We each got back our initial investment and there was enough left over for each to receive a small paycheck.  It wasn’t anything terribly impressive, but I can’t tell you how proud I was to hand that piece of paper to my husband and know that our new business had contributed to my family’s income. 

The sense of satisfaction was far more valuable than the amount written on the check.

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    On September 14th, 2007 at 3:49 pm, Melissa Garrett said:

    If it weren’t for the fact that I was (am) a SAHM who decided to start freelancing and that leaving a 9-5 job wasn’t even a decision I had to make, I would have been petrified otherwise. Kudos to you both for taking a leap of faith and just going for it. I feel so lucky that any money I make is icing on the cake (okay, it’s really going to boring stuff like food and gas and winter coats!). The way I look at it, the only place on the payscale I could go was up. :-)

    On September 17th, 2007 at 10:04 am, Laura said:

    I opted for the “spend less while you’re getting your business off the ground” route. It can be tough, but it’s very doable. There were so many ways that we were wasting money and didn’t even realize it.

    On September 17th, 2007 at 12:42 pm, lornadoone said:

    Melissa - Isn’t it great that you can use your talents to earn thinkgs like winter coats and gas money? Congrats!

    Laura - Cutting back on expenses can be a little overwhelming because once we get used to having something (like digital cable, for example), we start to think we “need” it. Good for you for being able to tell the difference and pursue your goals.

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