Breaking into the freelance world isn't for everybody. It comes with a lot of headaches, stress, and fear of the unknown. However, if you're up for an adventure and you love the idea of being your own boss, making your own schedule, and being able to work from anywhere with internet access, then you can make it through the nitty-gritty with patience and diligence.
Once you get through the beginning stages and surpass the learning curve of things, you'll find that taking baby steps into a freelancing lifestyle could change your life in so many incredible ways that it's hard to even imagine. I mean, you could travel the world and get paid to write while exploring a new city. Talk about amazing.
If you're looking at pursuing a freelance career, here's what you need to know in order to get through the most difficult parts of the job.
Learn to be patient
Now I know this is easier said than done, but when you're first starting as a freelancer it's okay to dream big, but remember that it'll take some time to build-up to the days when you can log in for a few quick hours and know that you have a steady stream of clients waiting for you to turn in your amazing work.
Becoming a freelancer is all about patience. It requires a lot of discipline, self-motivation, and belief in yourself. That being said, keeping a positive mindset can be draining. When you feel a little discouraged, jot down a quick list of all the things you've learned while being a freelancer. You can also write down your current goals and dreams to help motivate yourself.
If those ideas don't work, try to find a group of freelancers you can join that's encouraging. Many platforms offer a forum and you can find success stories, advice, or a little bit of encouragement to remind yourself why you're pursuing your dream of freelancing to begin with.
Build rapport with clients
Finding compatible clients will entail a lot of hit or miss moments. You'll discover that not every client will like you and you won't like every client. Some will be extremely nice while others will be rude but don't get discouraged.
As you begin completing tasks for clients, keep a list of the ones that leave you good reviews or offer you projects you enjoy. Don't be afraid to pitch ideas and ask if you can help them with future projects. Additionally, always remember to ask for reviews on your completed work so that you can add it to your portfolio. Offer to leave them a review as well. You never know when they may be looking for more work and seeing your positive review of them may lead them back to your inbox with a new project request.
Find the perfect work-casual lifestyle ratio
This is one of the toughest things for freelancers to get ahold of. Everyone's schedule and ability to work is different. You're the only one that can dictate how much time you have to put towards freelancing. Some days you may have more energy to work than others. Sometimes you'll need an extra hour or two to relax or focus on other parts of your day, and that's okay. Finding what works best for you specifically is the only way to make freelancing work. Be willing to adjust. Be flexible. Show yourself grace.
Make a budget
It's hard to go from making a steady check to having an uncertain income. Freelance work is never guaranteed pay, and a lot of clients will want you to work on spec. However, if you put in the extra effort, track client patterns, and do a little extra research, you can find some great clients that will slowly begin to offer a sense of steady work.
Compared to most 9-5 jobs, freelancing works best if you treat the pay like it's a monthly income. Work out your budget, cut back on some of your extra expenses for a bit, and focus on setting a goal for your must-haves, like electricity and food. Once you begin to build relationships with clients that offer long-term work rather than a quick buck here and there, you'll find yourself regaining that sense of comfort within your budget.
One tip is to always save a small percentage of what you make to put into savings if you can. This will drastically help you when you're building your client base and it'll come in handy for those dry spells that every freelancer faces.
Feeling the social bug
You might be surprised but this part of the job is difficult even for introverts. Freelancing typically means spending a ton of time alone, and while that can help you when you need to focus and put in the extra work to get a project completed, it can also feel extremely lonely at times. You're often isolated and don't have time to hang out with friends or family, at least not when you're first starting out as a freelancer.
My favorite thing to do when I begin feeling the social bug creep up is go to my local café and have some tea or coffee. The baristas all know me, and we mutually respect the fact that we both have work to do while simultaneously making small chit-chat. This is one thing I've found that can act as the quickest cure for a spout of loneliness, and it doesn't take up a ton of energy or time or really distract me from working.
Figuring out taxes
Nobody enjoys tax season, but it's something we all must bite the bullet and face. As a freelancer, you'll find that you're not only your own boss, but you're also your own accountant. That is unless you hire a CPA to assist you. Keeping up with expenses, incoming revenue, and anything you could use as a tax write off will come in handy when you go to file your taxes.
As an independent contractor, it's your responsibility to keep up with any exchanges between you and the clients you work with. If you can plan a day out of each month, or bi-weekly, to sit down and track your spending, reevaluate your budget, and make note of any monetary exchanges then you'll find yourself less stressed come tax season. This will also help you find a work and life balance as you continue your freelance career.
Don't let the hardships of freelancing discourage you from pursuing your dreams. If you're wanting to make a career in freelancing, make sure you take time to plan out your goals and revisit them routinely. Be willing to adjust your schedule, work hard, and ask questions from other freelancers when you get the opportunity. There are clients all over the world in need of your specific skill set. Go out and show them how you can help make their biggest projects shine.
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