I have been successfully freelancing since 2009 (July). This new lifestyle allows me to earn a pretty decent ‘wage’, to travel a lot and also be around for my family. As we’re planning on having a baby, this also helps me work at home and stay with my child as much as possible. These are the advantages of freelancing, but it’s not always easy or positive.
As a freelancer, you do have full control over your time and can really enjoy some freedom. This also means that, while you’re ‘being free’, unless you have some serious passive income (from selling books, templates etc.), once you stop working, you stop earning. And getting to working 20/7 is also a pretty big danger, especially for new freelancers who need to establish themselves and start earning better to pursue this full time.
There is a constant battle in a freelancer’s mind to balance work and life. Most of us, who are doing it and earning well, have finally managed this, new freelancers need to go through the process and they’ll find their own rhythm eventually.
Here are few of the things I was able to learn during my freelancing career:
Be serious and provide the best service you can
The best thing about being a freelancer is that you can avoid ‘nasty’ clients and the projects that really don’t ‘speak’ to you. You’re also the one to settle the working hours for your business and many other things employees can’t have control over. Before you do this, you need a solid reputation and this is achieved only through HARD work.
Make sure you deliver on time, as much as possible (or contact your clients if there are serious issues: health problems, unexpected travels etc.), that the quality of work you provide is good and never stop learning. You will make mistakes over the time and some clients will feel you have under-delivered. It’s normal, not all projects are the same, not all clients react the same way, we have problems or don’t always shine in our work.
But do try to provide the best service possible, be nice and polite. These can go a very long way in the business.
Get all the details so that you know what’s expected from you
I think it’s one of the issues we always come to face: not getting all the details from the client, not understanding some tasks etc. We sometimes rush ahead with a project or are ashamed to gather more details. Even if you fear you’ll look ‘stupid’, make sure the client has provided all the details, tasks etc. This will save you a lot of pain further away, when the client won’t like the results or consider you have delivered only some of the things he/she thought you’d do.
Build your own work system
While many books/blogs provide tips to how you can manage your projects/time in a better way, you’ll need to build your own system. What works for me might not work for you and one thing is clear: once you get clients, you’ll have to do quite some work. Most of the time you’ll manage more than one project at a time, more than a client at a time, so you’ll need to schedule tasks, keep deadlines, track your working hours.
Most people use either online tools, PC programs or a pen/paper system, while others mix them for better results. No matter what you choose, it’s important to get a system in place, write EVERYTHING down, so that you don’t forget anything, break down bigger projects into small achievable chunks and try to not waste your working time.
The system you’ll have in place doesn’t need to be similar to what others recommend, just make sure it works for you and tracks your projects/time/prices well. Most important: be consistent with using one, it will save quite some headaches over the time.
Your working space IS important
Freelancers are known to be working from anywhere and everywhere possible. I have worked from my ‘regular’ desk, from a kitchen table, the couch, even an improvised desk. While these are ‘cool’ ways to do my freelancing job, I found out that my working environment is actually very important for my success.
You can work from a ‘coworking hub’, if you hate working alone, you can work from a coffee shop (unless you get easily distracted, as I do), from an office you rent in the city, from home etc. No matter what you choose, make sure you are comfortable with it and can deliver your high quality work. Keep your working space CLEAN and clutter free, make sure the people who are around you (‘coworkers’ or family) know you are WORKING, don’t accept any distractions or anything that will break your concentration.
Have a CLEAR schedule and abide by it
Freelancing is and should not be ‘hectic’ work. I know most of you dread the ‘9 to 5’ and dream of working whenever you want, but discipline for a freelancer can make the difference between getting by each month or securing a very good ‘salary’.
Do not mix your work with family/leisure time. Keep distractions off, when you are doing work, don’t ignore your family most of the day, and don’t bring your work issues to the dinner table. For a freelancer, especially when working from home, it’s difficult to draw a line, but, once you can get well organized, you’ll see that the work you do is getting better each day and you can also be around your family as they need you to be.
Being a freelancer is amazing. It’s been close to 4 years since I started this life and love every minute. I was never as accomplished and happy as I am today, nothing worked for me as well as being my ‘own boss’. But schedule, constant work and attention to detail are important if you want to be successful