7 Steps to Leaving Your Corporate Job

So, you want to leave your corporate job and become a freelancer, but you just can’t seem to get started.

You’re not alone. Many employees actually wish that they could leave their job. Some of them just aren’t sure of the best way to go about doing it.

In this post, I list seven simple steps that you can take to leave your corporate job and become a freelancer.

7 Steps to Freelancing

Here are the steps you should take before you leave your full-time job for freelancing:

  1. Examine yourself. We’ve said this before, but it bears repeating. Take a good hard look at yourself. Be brutally honest. The last thing you want to do is jump into a type of work you’re not really suited for. Here are some questions to consider. Do you have any marketable skills? Would you be happy without the support of your coworkers? Are you a self-starter, or do you wait for someone else to direct you?
  2. Test the waters. If your company has no rules against moonlighting, you may be able to take on a few freelance clients now while you are still an employee. Not only will this give you a head start once you begin freelancing, it will also help give you an idea about what it’s like to work without traditional corporate support.
  3. Take care of business. Make sure that your personal financial matters are in good shape. Pay off as many bills as you can. Build up your savings account. Check into your available options for health insurance.
  4. Plan to leave on a high note. If you know you’re going to be leaving your corporate job it’s easy to “contract” something we used to call “short-timer’s syndrome.” Basically, it means that you don’t give the same attention and care to your projects as you used to since you know you are going to leave. Resist this temptation! One day you may wish to have your current employer as a client.
  5. Get your ducks in a row. Or, in this case, get your references in order. Make sure that you have contact information for your current and previous bosses as well as key colleagues who can vouch for your abilities. If you can, get them to write recommendations of you on LinkedIn. Until you can build up your own freelancing testimonials, you will need these references to get started.
  6. Give proper notice. While you may be tempted to just storm out of your job without giving any more notice than shouting the words, “I quit,” don’t do it. If possible, you never want to leave a former client or employer with a legitimate reason to complain about you. Instead write a professional letter of resignation that emphasizes how you’ll make the transition out of the company go as smoothly as possible.
  7. Hang out your shingle. You’ve done it! You’ve completed the first six steps and now you’re on your own. But, you’re not quite done. Just like a traditional business owner would put up a grand opening sign on their storefront, you’ll need to build a website to “house” your freelancing business and promote it through social media and through your face-to-face contacts.

In addition to following these steps, you may wish to learn even more about freelancing. In fact, it’s a good idea to read everything you can about it before you make your final decision.

Other Resources

We’ve written quite a lot about working up the courage to become a freelancer and about getting started as a freelancer right here on Freelance Folder. Some of those posts include:

Of course, we have many other excellent posts about getting started as a freelancer, so stay tuned. Also, don’t forget about our two getting started guides:

Your Turn

Are you new to freelancing? What would you like to learn about getting started?

Have you been freelancing for a while? What tips would you add?

Image by KB35


  1. says

    I’m currently Moonlighting in order to one day accomplish this goal but it is hard when you’re married to that guaranteed paycheck.

    I think once I “get my ducks in a row” I can take the plunge. Most of the other steps are done! :)

  2. says

    Great post Laura. For some it may take more or less time, but for me, I took a year to do all these steps (planning the financial aspect is of course what takes the longest). If you do it carefully, it really does work and you might even get your old employer as a client.

  3. says

    These are fantastic points, Laura. I plotted my escape from the corporate world for nearly a year before going freelance, and saved every dime I could during that time (with the cooperation of my wife, who was a stay-at-home mom). As it turned out, I never needed to dip into the fund, but the fact that the safety net was there prevented me from panicking and taking bad projects just to pay the bills.

    #4 and #6 are also key. My dad’s advice to me early in my career was “Never have an acrimonious departure.” And to that end, my employer was genuinely surprised when I submitted my resignation–they had no idea it was coming, and were further stunned when they learned I didn’t have another job lined up. I didn’t do any freelance for them for about a year or two, but today they’re a very solid client–and much more pleasant to work with than I was as an employee!

  4. says

    Josh Jones–Good luck in making the transition. It sounds like you’re being thoughtful about it, which is a good thing. Too often freelancers jump into it suddenly without any preparation at all.

    Sophie McCann, Unless you didn’t get along at all, I actually think getting the employer as a client is a good thing and can be a good start for a freelancer. After all, you’re already familiar with the company…

    Dr. Freelance aka Jake Poinier–Your dad sounds like a wise man. (I remember my dad gave me similar advice…) Thanks for sharing your story–glad to hear things worked well for you.

  5. says

    Great article, something else that could be added is having a business plan. Many freelancers first starting out fail to utilize the benefits of having a business plan, it allows you to appear more professional as well as it gives a sense of direction and focus.

  6. says

    Hello Laura, great post!.

    Leaving your job is something really difficult and more when you have many responsabilities, (economical responsabilities).

    In my experience, I left my full time job a few months ago to live an adventure as a freelancer because I was really tired and I became an unhappy person working nine hours in the day, it was very hard but once I made the decision i saved three months of my salary to survive in case It wouldn’t works, and then, one day I said to my boss: I quit!.. I’m leaving.

    Now I have a half time job, I think it’s a good option to start a life as freelancer, I work four hours for a company as graphic designer in the morning and in the afternoon I’m tasting the art of freelance.
    Now I have respect for my time, I work better and planning my future to be a fulltime freelancer, after all, we are the owners of our time and on the way we learn to handle it, depens our physical, economical, social… and even emotional well-being… don’t you think?.

    … anyway I send you a hug from Guadalajara, México!

  7. says

    Hi David Y! I think a business plan can help freelancers. Many freelancers get stressed out by the idea of a business plan because they think it has to be a long, formal document. But actually, even a short list of goals can help.

    Hi Julia–Thanks for sharing your story and for the encouragement. :) Your experience is really inspiring. I’m glad things are going well for you (and hope they continue to go well). I’m sending my best wishes your way.

  8. says

    I think you are right on it. I was flying as a hobby and wanted to pursue an airline pilot career. At the time, I was in the parts department with Delta Air Lines. I quit to pursue my dream to become an airline pilot.

    I started as a freelance flight instructor to build up my flight time. I was not easy to leave my paycheck, but I did it. I now fly for the biggest regional airline in the U.S. I now make more money and work half the time. This allows me to conduct seminars on leaving your job to pursue your dreams.

    I especially love number 4 on your list because I left Delta on good terms. I will have the opportunity to come back as a pilot if I desire to take that route.

  9. says

    I started my business after being laid off twice in seven months. Fortunately, I had been saving my money to refinance my house so I had a nest egg to start with.

    I tell people who are still working to work on more year and save every penny they can, and take that time to design their logo/business cards/Web site, join marketing groups and start networking, and lay the groundwork for their business. They’ll have a great head start when they go solo.

  10. says

    Great advice, Laura. I left Corporate after 30+ years. I planned a long time for owning my own business. I didn’t leave exactly as planned (to put it mildly), but it all worked out. I basically waited too long so I would add, Just do it..

    Jake’s point about putting money aside is a huge one. It makes all the difference in the world.

    Thanks for great tips, Laura.


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