(1) The first thing that you need to know is that the first two years of CR, like any career, will probably be the least-paying. You can expect from 30K-70K, depending on your city and work load.
(2) The thing that you need to focus on is work ethic. You will need the same discipline and push that you had in CR school. It doesn’t let up. Now you don’t get weekends, for the most part, free.
Any free time that you have will be spent working on macros, to speed up your editing. I believe I had 100 different editing macros as a freelancer, and I made most of them from scratch. This includes select, insert Okay, insert All Right, insert includes, so on. It’s extensive. And these don’t count the macros that you need to work on that you write from your machine keyboard, not the QWERTY. These include stitch macro, glue macro, cap last, and open dictionary. This steno macro list is considerably shorter, but also needs to be worked on.
(3) You need to work on is building your office/equipment up to standard and your wardrobe.
(4) The second-to-last thing is to work on finding work-life balance as best as possible. Meaning, have time to work out and cook your own meals at least. This will be a hard thing to do once you start working, but very essential. You are making the least amount of money per page than you ever will, so you should not kill yourself over that amount. It will not seem low to you at first, but when you become realtime, you see the figures go up 75%.
(5) Finally, the last thing you need to focus on besides time management and your macros is organization. You CANNOT get behind with your receipts and documentation of your jobs. You start letting things slide, tax time will be a personal hell and you will lose checks that should have been owed you. It is easy to get behind in freelance, so you MUST have a very organized office and a system of organizing the paperwork/exhibits/receipts from the get-go. I have a few posts on these things, on how to lay out your office and what to keep for taxes.
This list represents the ONLY things you should focus on in the first year. Realtime, travel, autoindexing, and higher certification can be tackled another year. Focus your money on your loans and equipment, and that’s what you should reward yourself with (equipment, new work clothes, massages – all CR-related things) because money will be tight until at least the second year. Don’t make exciting purchases like exotic trips or a new car straight off the lot – this is the time to press hard to get your loans paid off and house down payment together so you can begin contributing to your retirement. The earlier you start on your retirement, the less years you have to save because of compounding interest. It is essential not to go wild with your newfound money, especially since you need to be setting aside 25-30% for taxes.
I recommend reading my post on the worst investments to buy. It is important to keep your expenses low if you want a chance at a retirement, college fund for your kids, and a comfortable house. Do not fall into the common money drains.