The world of freelancing employs millions. It’s a unique opportunity that allows professionals with a unique set of skills to work independently for a diversity of clients. However, freelancing has its own share of challenges.
My journey as a freelancer started off and even though I have already built a great career in this space, there are some truths about the industry that I wish I knew when I got started half a decade ago. Don’t get me wrong though, I couldn’t wish for a better outcome once I rolled up the sleeves and jumped right into the freelancing industry, but perhaps my career would have been so much better if I realized the following five truths right from the onset.
Here are 5 freelancing truths I wish someone had told me ten years ago:
- You Must Learn To Save Your Money Very Creatively Well, unlike a monthly paid job freelancing is a little unpredictable. At the time you can have bumper months with great earnings but at times the cow runs dry and the revenue drops or disappears altogether. The problem with many freelancers is that the bumper months where revenues are really good to create an illusion of unstoppable revenue flows. However, you have to balance your earnings between the good months and the bad ones. In that case, before you go further with your freelance career, have a creative way of saving your money. You can save for retirement, save for the dry months, or simply put together a fund to expand your craft in the future. Either way, the unpredictable nature of freelance work cannot guarantee you a cheque every month especially when you are getting started. So be smart and put some money way.
- Focus On a Small Number of Clients If you are good at what you do, a lot of clients will come knocking on your door. At first, you may look at this as a great opportunity to guarantee yourself a steady flow of work and keep your earnings growing but it can also be a curse. In my five years in the freelancing world, I’ve always realized it’s very difficult to juggle different clients with different tasks. You find yourself working too much and this drains you out. Ultimately, productivity starts to drop, you start to procrastinate tasks, and eventually, the quality of work delivered to clients drops significantly. The best way to keep everyone happy and your great reputation intact is to work with a small group of clients. The golden rule is to simply have eight hours of your day from Monday to Friday designated for work. If there is too much work to fit that schedule, you can either let go of a few clients or simply bring in a team that can deliver. Keeping clients happy is the most important thing when it comes to freelancing. Maintaining a small group of happy clients is far much better than having a long list of disgruntled ones.
- Maintaining a Normal Schedule May Not Be Possible Freelancing is a great job but when you start to establish yourself in the marketplace, you may be required to work at odd hours just to accommodate client needs. Maintaining a normal schedule during the first stages of your career might not be an option. Besides, freelancing is global and the different time zones across the world my really interfere with your schedule. However, once you lock down a few regular clients, you can plan your work on a weekly basis, work from 8 AM – 5 PM and still make good money in the process. Stability in workflow and clients is what really defines your schedule but then again, if you happen to have clients from different time zones you may want to restructure you life a little bit just to be available when your clients need you. Additionally, having so much of a social life in freelancing is a little challenging. Most of the times, you will be working alone in front of your computer unless of course you have a team. But remember leisure time is very important in any job. You can basically, designate the weekend for your social life and the weekdays for work and remain strictly disciplined to that schedule.
- You Must Have a Thick Skin The flexibility of freelancing is amazing but believe me, there is so much pressure. Things are not always going to be smooth sailing and sometimes you may need to hold your nerve for the sake of your career. The pressures of freelancing can get under your skin so easily and it’s up to you to remain professional and courteous all the time. It could be a difficult client who is shooting down all the ideas you have, a delayed payment, a difficult task, or simply a bad day at work. However, no matter how bad the situation is, you must keep calm and weather the storm. Establishing a great career in freelancing involves a lot of growing up and as I like to say if it’s too hot to handle then let it go. You don’t have to suffer for anyone, if the client is unreasonable and difficult to work with, let them go. Don’t let one person spoil your day and break your spirit or will to make it as a freelancer. Besides, for every bad the experience there are perhaps ten more good ones waiting for you. Just move on and you never know, you might just get the lucky break you’ve been looking for.
- Freelancing Is Fun but it’s Still a Job Freelancing is a fun and flexible way of making money. You get to be your own boss and you can work based on your own schedule. However, don’t forget that it is also a job. While it’s important to enjoy your freelancing career, you must take it seriously enough in order to succeed. In that case, instead of working on your pajamas, wake up in the morning, dress up, get some coffee and be as professional as you can. This helps to create the feeling that whatever you are doing is important and it will be easier for you to take it seriously. If you can get an office, that would be even better. Although most of us start at home and probably work form there for most of our freelancing careers, once you become big in your space you may want to get an office where you can work without any interruptions. Taking your job seriously leads to better productivity and soon enough, you will start to expand your client base and revenue.
How to Make It in Freelancing
Becoming successful in freelancing is possible but it takes time and patience. Most of us start from scratch so the first few months or years could be very challenging. However, here are some tips to be
successful in freelancing without overworking yourself:
Join A Great Freelancing Site
The first step in joining the online freelance community is finding a reputable job site. There are so many marketplaces with millions of jobs. However, you must ensure you only go for jobs that match your skills. This ensures you are as productive as possible.
Diversify Your Skills
It is also important to learn as much as you can. Diversifying your skills helps you access a wide range of jobs. Additionally, many potential employers will want to hire freelancers with a wide set of skills. In that case, try and learn more about what you do each and every day.
Manage Your Time Well
When it comes to freelancing time is everything. Remember the more you work the more you earn. In order to ensure you are as productive as possible, make sure you have managed your time well. You can simply have a weekly schedule where every task assigned by clients has its own time slot. This helps to ensure that orders are delivered in time.
Focus On Long Term Contracts
The biggest challenge in freelancing is to get a long term contract. If you can get a client that guarantees you a constant flow of work for a long time, then you are likely to make it big in this space. In that case, it is important to try and build long term work relationships with your clients. There are a few ways you can build long term contracts with clients. To start with, make sure you deliver exceptional quality.
Secondly, maintain a good working relationship with the client and don’t forget to keep in touch even if the current job is over. This ensures that once another job arises, you will be the first to be considered.
Market Yourself Effectively
It is important to stand out in the freelancing world. There is a lot of competition and having a strong plan to market your craft can really make a big difference. The first place to start in marketing yourself online is your work profile. If you belong to any job marketplaces, make sure your profile is compelling and captivating. Secondly, you may also want to start your own website. This can help you land direct long term clients that pay better. Additionally, join business networking sites such as LinkedIn and connect with professionals in different areas.
Don’t Forget Local Clients
Most people look at freelancing as a global phenomenon and more often than not, their focus is mainly to get foreign clients. However, freelance websites can be more than a day spent in front of a computer at home. You can still work with local companies as a freelancer offline and online. In light of this, do some research on available local companies and see if they need someone with your specific skills to work as a freelancer.
Freelancing can help you break away from the boring routine of normal employment. However, you have to come prepared well enough. Having the right skills is simply the start. You need to learn how to put yourself out there for clients to find you. Don’t also forget the freelancing truths listed above just to be better prepared for what’s ahead. However, with patience, commitment, and great skills, anyone can make it in the freelancing space.