You have your great niche idea for services you want to offer, so jump into the water and start swim? Great idea, but maybe a small boat could help to have a better start. This is the plan b when starting freelancing.
How to become a freelance data consultant – part 3 – the plan b
I did not jump into cold water when I started freelancing. There was a safety net below me. No, I am not one with a wealthy heritage.
My initial safety net was project management.
I did project management for tech projects for some time in my career. I was no Jedi master but had enough experience. What I knew was that project management was an excellent asset in the freelance market. Just scanning over job postings on freelance project boards, I could see that there were plenty of project management gigs around.
But it got even better for me. I had lunch with Lars. Lars was my manager at my time at Audible, and we stayed in regular contact afterward. I knew from our last lunch that he was struggling with resources. So I brought the topic up again and see, the problems had become more severe until now. So I offered him my help, and luckily he accepted.
So, I had my first freelance gig in one of my old companies, which made a lot of stuff easier. I did different projects over 1.5 years. And I started to look for data & analytics projects during that time. After 1.5 years, the data projects were so established, I reduced my hours at Audible significantly (but came back from time to time when they had exciting projects).
These first projects were not the ones I was looking for in the end, but they were for something I could do easily, within a lovely environment. And it gave me space to develop the data area more slowly and selectively.
So what is my safety net today? I could still look for project management gigs. But most likely, if everything fails, I would look into remote product or data jobs. That was something that was not that present when I started freelancing but is well established today. It would mean to switch into a constant one-client setup but keeping the own place of work. That would work for me as an alternative.
Why is a plan b necessary?
For me, it was essential to enable me to search for data projects in the first place. It took away the pressure to earn enough revenue to pay our rent and for our living. With this covered, it left me with enough time to build my data projects.
So have a list with two columns. In the first one, write down the projects in the area you would love to end up. This is your target area. It might take time to get there 100% (for it was ~2 years), but you can work towards it. In the other column, add the tasks and projects that fit your experiences. Something where it would be easy to start. Basically like a regular job but as a freelancer with fewer hours a week.
It helps to renew this plan b list from time to time to sleep well at night and don’t wake up with revenue concerns.