Taking the plunge and leaving the 9-5 to freelance full-time isn’t an easy decision. But when done right, it’s totally worth it, as Monisha Bajaj recently found out.
As a creative with an itch to explore, location independent work appealed to me long before I actually took the leap. During my undergrad years at the University of Southern California, I found myself drawn to the exciting idea of working from anywhere in the world. I kept wondering, how to start freelancing?
After that, I told myself: one day I want to be able live like this. I wanted control over how I spent my time and have the freedom to travel the world and choose creative projects. I wanted to live life consciously—to craft a life around my values instead of fitting myself into a 9-5 job. For me, this means being able to spend time with the people I care about and doing meaningful work.
Though the seed had been planted, I was quickly swept back into the rhythm of finishing university and job-hunting with my peers. I ended up landing my dream job as a content producer at a content marketing agency in Southern California. Fast forward 6 months, and I had to move back to my hometown Bangkok, Thailand. Initially, I was disappointed. Then I realised: this was my chance. I quickly decided I would not apply for full-time jobs back home. Instead, I would challenge myself to realise my vision of working remotely. Here’s my quick guide on how to start freelancing.
Setting the plan into action
Armed with this idea, I needed to make sure I could support myself financially. In my final weeks at the agency, I had a meeting with my manager and pitched the idea of a remote working arrangement. It worked! We agreed to a 3-month trial to see if this option could benefit both of us. Everything was beginning to come together.
When I arrived home in August 2016, I knew I had a short time to prove to myself—and my agency—that this was something I could do. I also started saving money so I could eventually take my work on the road.
Living on the road
After several months of hard work, coordinating across time-zones, and saving up, I was ready to begin my travels. A bit cautious by nature, I wanted to test my abilities and started with short trips near Bangkok: Hong Kong, Singapore, and Vietnam.
Then, in April 2017, I embarked on a 3-month adventure around the world. I hiked an active volcano in Nicaragua, soaked in the culture in Havana, Cuba, and hopped around Europe! To date, I’ve visited 11 countries and over 38 cities across Europe, the United States, and Latin America—all while producing creative work.
A learning experience
If you’re considering living creatively, full disclosure: it is a challenge. Project workloads aren’t necessarily consistent month to month, which means you can’t always predict your income.
I’ve had to plan for uncertainty, but despite the challenges and stress it’s been an incredible experience. If you’re ready to take the leap, here are 3 ways to set yourself up for success:
1. Define your vision
Before doing anything, take time to reflect on how you see your life. Ask yourself foundational questions: What do happiness and success look like? What do you hope to gain from freelancing? Having a clear picture of what you want will make it easier to make big changes in your life.
2. Set a timeline and stick to it
Since everything you do will depend on you and you alone, learning to commit to yourself is key. Break down the steps you will need to begin your journey. Map out a realistic timeline, then start moving towards it.
3. Plan your finances accordingly
Work backwards from your vision. Start researching and list out your upcoming expenses. If you need to save up, look at ways you can earn more (or cut costs) before you completely ditch your 9-5.
Deciding to freelance full-time was one of the scariest and most exciting things I’ve ever done! Though it took time, I’m so grateful that I embraced the idea of taking trips and living a life of meaningful, creative pursuits.
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