I've been a freelancer for a while now. And I have to say it's simultaneously everything I expected it to be and everything everyone warned me about. It's a terrifying thing to leave the stability and the security (not to mention the insurance, the perks and all the swaggy benefits) of a typical 9-5 desk job. But once I had made the jump, took stock of all my bearings, I'd have to say that the fulfillment I feel working as a freelancer is so much more enriching than working in a typical office environment. Now, I can only speak for myself but for those of you who are thinking of making the jump, here are some nuggets of wisdom I've picked up along the way.
Be 100% sure of your decision
Dont just make the jump when things start to get difficult in the office. Don't make the egregious mistake of resigning just because you're tired of office politics or you're annoyed at certain coworkers. Your decision has to be based on something more than that. It has to be based on your growth as an employee (or lack thereof), whether or not your earning potential is doubled or tripled and still so many other factors. Make sure that if you're unhappy, it's because your value as a person or as an employee is undermined in an office setting. If you talk to your superiors and your colleagues and you're truly unable to make compromises, then maybe freelancing is for you.
It's not always peaches and cream
I was holding on to this delusion that being a freelancer would open the doors to so many opportunities. While that is somewhat true (because you don't need the capital to pay for overhead, ergo you need not overcharge anyone and clients are always looking for the best bang for their buck), you still kind of have to work twice as hard to get in the same room as these clients. I'm lucky because I have an account management and business development background. But if you're someone who doesn't enjoy meeting people and getting out there and getting out of your comfort zone (this was delusional me for a while), you will eventually have to make adjustments. Remember, you're not only competing against the agencies or companies that you've left behind, but you're also competing against other freelancers. Other freelancers who are far more competent in their respective fields. You really need to have your work cut out for you. Which leads me to my next learning nugget...
Always be on the lookout for enrichment opportunities
When I put this website up, I was lucky enough to have been messaged by a few people asking about what it is that I do. One of them asked if I had been certified by Google/Facebook, etc. etc. And I thought to myself, "Oh shit. I'm not. I should get on that." And get on that, I did.
We're all very lucky to live in the day and age of the internet, as it were. As it turns out, there are so many online courses freelancers can take to be able to build up their resumes and portfolios. You just need to know where to look. So flex your Googling muscles and start looking for ways and means to add credibility to your portfolio by improving your skills.
Try to work while the sun is still out
In the beginning, I had a difficult time getting my daily priorities straight. I would wake up and think, "I don't have anything to do today!" But the truth of the matter was, I would put off some of my tasks just because I thought they were menial or clerical and end up working til the wee hours of the morning.
In time, I was able to figure out a daily scheduling system that worked for me. As soon as clerical, secretarial paperwork or errands had to be run, I would try my best to get them out of the way in the morning and then try to finish all the creative work by 6 PM. I realized that even though I could burn the midnight oil and work til sunrise because of my flexible schedule, didn't mean that I had to. My clients are still mostly corporate entities. They still start work in the morning and end at night. It would be pointless for me to put off replying to an email til 3 AM, if they were only going to read it the next day anyway. Not only does this prolong correspondences but it diminishes some professionalism points that are needed to sustain clients.
Motivation! Motivation! Motivation?
A friend of mine who recently became a freelance consultant asked me some questions about my day to day. I told her that sometimes it really is difficult to get up every day and force yourself to work when you don't feel like it, especially when I could be at the mall (getting my consumerist on) or having coffee with my best friend or just watching sci-fi fantasy shows at home. There are just so many distractions! It also didn't help that I had an "I'll only work when I'm in the zone mentality." This is the numero uno mindset that you should get rid of. Working "in the zone" is just a myth people tell themselves to stay in their comfort zones. I find that powering through a non-in-the-zone day can be more personally satisfying than working only when you want to.
I think it's important to remember and remind ourselves constantly that any kind of work, even and especially freelance work, is still work. A big chunk of it is conditioning yourself to remain motivated to finish a project and to see it through to the end even when you have better, more fun things to do. What really works for me is a daily reward system. If there is one distracting thing that I would really like to do or get done for myself, I will only do it once I've accomplished the tasks that I would like to put off. Sometimes, I'll reward myself with a beer or a good cup of coffee with a friend or some new make-up or I'll book a ticket and go on a solo-trip somewhere. Rewarding yourself for accomplishing tasks is so much better than just giving in and putting them off.
As it turns out, I've learned quite a number of things from freelancing after only one year of doing it. What's great is that I still have so many things to learn and to discover. Are you a freelancer? What are some of the things you've learned from your journey? Sound off in the comments below!