I Survived A Year Of Freelancing! Here's What I Learnt

Nothing in life could prepare me for this.

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I Survived A Year Of Freelancing! Here's What I Learnt
It's a stereotypical millennial dream to become be your own boss and work in your own time, but the thing about dreams is that they don't always come true.

Hard work isn't always enough. That is, unless you've got a proper game plan.

Although I work in the media industry, I think some of the things I've learnt are applicable to freelancers in any industry. Of course, I'm not an expert here to give you advice or anything like that - I'm just sharing part of my experience.

So, let's get to it!

1. It's true what they say - over time, the work picks up

And I want it now!
This is what all the freelancers I knew told me before I decided to become a freelancer. At first I was really skeptical, but then I realised that when you are a freelancer, you are basically an entrepreneur and the product is you.

Business books and articles will always tell you that perseverance is the key to success, so as a freelancer, you've got to stick at it for a while before people know who you are and trust in you. However agnostic you may be in life, you still need to have faith in yourself.

Plus, the more jobs you get, the more confidence you have in your work! That's a really underrated feeling.

2. But you don't know when the work is going to pick up, so you need to prep!

That being said, each freelancer has a different experience, so you don't know when exactly you're going to get a steady workflow. This is when you've got to be like a good boy scout and BE PREPARED.

I know some freelancers who gave up before their careers kicked off just because they chickened out when they didn't get work right away, or because they ran out of money. That shouldn't happen.

Before leaving your day job, you should save up some funds (preferably a year's salary at least) and start telling the right people about your plans to work independently. You'd be surprised by how much some of your friends are willing to help you.

It's also a good idea to join relevant Facebook Groups to know about more freelance jobs and update your LinkedIn profile. If you're super determined, try locking down some projects before you set forth into the unpredictable world of freelancing. 

3. While waiting for work to pick up, you could learn some new skills

Learn something new everyday.
Skills that will add value to your career, that is. There are countless credible online courses you can sign up for, and a lot of them are free. If you're really tight on cash (or just frugal like me), you can even look up promo codes for classes that you would usually have to pay for.

My favourite online classes are on Skillshare and edX, but there are so many other learning sites for you to check out.  I actually learnt how to make my own portfolio website!

(That was both a shameless plug and an example for you to see for yourself.)

4. You've got to learn to talk yourself up to people

...but I have to!
I used to cringe whenever people sent out broadcast messages to promote their events or whatever they were working on, but now I realise they were on to something.

The thing about being your own product means you always have to promote yourself, which is sometimes a lot trickier than marketing something materialistic and tangible like, for example, a jar of peanut butter.

Unless you're naturally built with an indestructible sense of self-confidence, telling people how good you are at your job is an art. That's why you always hear public figures talking about the importance of their "personal brand".

Truthfully, I haven't quite mastered it yet myself, because I'm always worried about coming off as obnoxious and braggy, but I'm giving you a heads up and letting you know that eventually, it is something you're going to have to learn to do too.

5. You can't count your chickens before they're hatched

Yup, that's correct
Even when the work does start rolling in, you have to be ready for when things don't go according to plan. It's almost inevitable that some work that you've been promised will fall through.

Some clients will seem super enthusiastic at first and make you all sorts of promises, and then disappear very suddenly. Sometimes, it's easier to get jobs than to get paid for them.

Most freelancer contracts demand a 30 to 50 per cent deposit before a project starts, but clients tend to just ignore this. As a freelancer, you'll probably find yourself doing the work anyway because you want to sustain a good relationship with the client in hopes of more work in the future.

I don't think that's such a terrible thing, but you must also make sure people know that you are not a pushover so that they don't take advantage of you.

6. Everyone will want to tell you what they think you should do. Don't listen to them

I can't hear you
I don't know what it is about people, but a lot of them want to shove their opinions in your face.

Many people will try to give you advice on how to build your career, even when you never asked. The most ironic part? They're usually wrong.

You should only ever take advice from people who have some sort of experience or seniority in your field, or from the people in your close circle of family and friends that you know genuinely care about you.

7. Don't be too hard on yourself

Self love is the best kinda love.
It's okay to not reach all your goals even when you've already set a timeline for yourself.

Before I started freelancing, I dreamt up a whole bunch of things I was going to do and succeed in, but the reality is that most of these aspirations are further away than I initially thought.

After talking about this to a lot of people, I've learnt that I shouldn't beat myself up over what I haven't achieved, and just focus my energy on eventually achieving them

8. Always set new goals

Every day, actually.
Part of growing in your career and as a person means adapting to new things, and that's why you need to always set new goals for yourself.

The beauty of working as a freelancer is that you can reroute your course whenever and however you want. You can diversify your services as much as you'd like or be super focused on just one thing.

Just like an appraisal at work, every now and then you have to evaluate your career path and evolve however you see fit.

Of course there are many other things that you will learn for yourself as a freelancer, but I do hope that I've helped you in some way or another.

Maybe I'll write an updated version of this in a year! And if you do choose to bite the bullet and become a freelancer, I wish you all the best!

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