Do you have what it takes to freelance full-time?

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Are you longing for the day when you can turn your side hustle into your main hustle? Or maybe you’ve already taken the plunge and business isn’t at all what you expected to be.

Perhaps you’re not currently working and figure there’s nothing to lose by starting a business of your own.

Whatever your current situation, if you’re intrigued, there’s something inside you that won’t let you settle for the current path you’re on.

Sidenote: Once you're done here, try watching our interview with Chelsea Baldwin on convincing one-off clients to go on monthly retainer. Members of our community at SolidGigs get immediate access. You can learn more or join us here.

We talk alot about:

But there’s one question that every freelancer needs to answer before attempting to do any of these things. And we must continually ask ourselves this same question as we progress in our freelancing career.

Ask yourself: do I have what it takes?

It’s easy to let our emotions take over and blurt out:

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 Yes! I hate my job and need to change that!

But there’s a difference between wanting something and having the capacity to make that happen. Working for yourself may seem exciting and glamorous, but it’s not all sunshine and rainbows.

(PS – Having one of “those” days? Take a break and reread how to stay positive as a freelance designer.)

Despite my previous statement, I think being a creative freelancer is the most awesome thing in the world. However, we live in the real world where there are bills to pay and time to spend with our families and loved ones.

Ultimately, you’ll have the most success if you start freelancing for the right reasons.

Maybe this isn’t you. Maybe you’re thinking:

Yes! I’ve been doing this for so long I couldn’t handle working for someone else!

As we grow and change in our careers, our wants and needs may change, too.

We may crave more stability in our finances and schedules.

Or we may feel excited by the changes taking place in our industry and want to continue evolving our business to meet the changing needs of the marketplace.

Now what?

Now it’s time to take inventory.

Look at your situation objectively so you can give yourself an honest answer. It’s also wise to talk to a couple of people you trust and admire who understand your business and know you pretty well.

Key areas to evaluate include:

  • finances
  • physical health
  • interests & other obligations
  • your current career path

Finances: Your fiscal health

If you’re thinking of freelancing for the first time, you have no idea what you’re getting into.

(It’s okay, nobody does.)

The stability of a paycheck is something you’ll never again take for granted (when you make the switch). No matter how much money your company makes, you (hopefully) get paid on a regular basis.

Not when you’re a freelancer!

I’m no financial expert, but conventional wisdom says there are a few things that’ll make freelancing full-time much less risky:

  • Save between 6 months and 1 year of living expenses
  • Pay off all of your revolving debt
  • Already have enough business to replace or exceed your current income after taxes
  • Be prepared to save at least 10%  (or more) of your income once you go full-time

If you’re already freelancing, use the advice above to set some financial goals for your business in the coming year. Other financial wisdom includes:

  • Set an income goal of at least 10% higher of this year’s projected income
  • Check your income projections against what you actually made and adjust accordingly

Physical health

Working for yourself is a double-edged sword: you have the freedom to do what you want when you want.

This means you can work for 17 hours straight without eating and no one will say anything to you. 😉

The temptation to overwork and burn out is a real issue.

This is why we must:

  • eat well
  • sleep properly
  • take frequent mental breaks
  • not become a workaholic

If you don’t have the stamina to do what it takes in order to pay the bills, you may not be ready to be a full-time freelancer.

Interests & other obligations

  • family
  • other relationships
  • volunteering
  • religion
  • school
  • education not related to your career

When you start freelancing, you’ll have to make some sacrifices. Be honest with yourself and your family / friends / other obligations on what you can and can’t do.

That being said, hobbies and interests outside of work boost your creativity.

Get out into the world and enjoy it.

Pro Tip! Don’t sacrifice important relationships for the sake of your career. There’s always another client to be found, but you only have one chance to enjoy your relationships.

Your career as it is now

Regardless of whether you’re currently a freelancer or full-time employee, be honest about your strengths and weaknesses.

These areas are key:

  • Education and training (degrees, certifications, formal training)
  • Skills (what you have and what you need)
  • Flexibility (can you adapt your business to suit the market)
  • Confidence (including your ability to handle rejection)
  • An entrepreneurial spirit (Think you’ve got it?)

Some of these things can’t be measured or tested. Only you can know for sure.


This is by no means a complete list of what you need to start full-time freelancing. Feel free to add your own ideas in the comments below.

There are many successful freelancers out there who didn’t follow any conventional wisdom and still do great things with their businesses.

And on the flip side, there are those who did everything “by the book” and failed miserably.

Good luck!

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About Sharon McElwee

Sharon McElwee is a copywriter and freelance business coach dedicated to help people get better at making real money doing what they love. Check out her free e-course to earn an extra $1000 in the next 30 days.

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  1. Elizabeth Nelson says:

    This was one of my favorite posts to date. I have been freelancing full-time for 2 years now. While I LOVE working for myself, but the above stressors are REAL. I have had the highs and lows of going full time freelancing…arguments with my spouse about working too much. Even right now it’s a Sunday and I am at my computer. And let’s not even get me started about lack of sleep. Without forced routine, I find my days starting and ending at all hours (something to work on). Thank you for always being real about the topics you all post. It keeps me going to know I am not alone in all the blessings and struggles of being a full time freelancer. THANK YOU !!!!!!!!!

    • Sharon Pettis McElwee says:

      You’re welcome, Elizabeth. I actually freelance part time right now and work a full time job, and this is an area I really struggle with. I have done freelance full time before and didn’t have my finances together. Thanks for the encouragement!

  2. Great article! I started full time freelancing last March after about 6 years of doing it on the side. All the stress is worth the freedom to me. If you are married, have a spouse that is ok with constantly hearing about it, and you working a lot of hours to get it rolling.




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