Ever since my first piece was published back in the day, I've been hooked on creating. Working with NEN, or Never Enough Notes, gave me a decent starting portfolio, and I continued to work with them for most of my university degree. With them, I learned the nitty-gritty of working with an editor, interviewing people, writing to a voice and brief, etc. For years, I wrote for them at least once a month - even while I worked on my degree. I eventually moved on from music to a wide range of other styles and genres over the years. As I celebrated my two-year full-time freelance writing anniversary last month, I couldn’t help but reminisce and think about what I’ve learned.
What I Love About Freelancing
Over the last few years, I have evolved into a completely different person. I’ve gained confidence in my skills, honed my time management and accounting abilities, and changed my entire life outlook. I’ve learned an incredible amount during my career, and I wouldn’t take back those lessons for anything. I also love the variety of my work. Each day is an opportunity to meet someone new or try out a new style. I love creating and working with people to make their visions come true. Leaving my mark on a project and expressing myself is what keeps me going each day.
Advice For Almost-Freelancers
Don’t quit your day job right away.
As someone who has worked in customer service, I know that there are times when you just want to drop everything and leave. However, unless you are someone with a huge financial safety net, that is not the best move. I recommend freelancing on the side and building up savings to protect you in the lean months before leaping.
Know your worth.
This is something I still struggle with at times. You know what you want to give, but how much do you charge? There are a few different ways of figuring out a metric that works for you. If you want a second opinion, ask some friends and some freelance groups. You can always reassess later - once you have a metric, stick to your guns. Stand up for yourself and your skills.
Get a contract.
Always have a contract. You can find plenty of templates online and even run one by a lawyer if you feel inclined. Often clients will supply their own, but it is handy to have one on hand just in case.
Find your niche.
The freelance market is heavily saturated. Know what unique skills you can provide and sell them.
You can change things.
Nothing is set in stone - you can always change it later. If you’re worried about a routine, pricing list, or website, it is always possible to jazz things up.
Work with other friends and freelancers.
For a long time, I personally knew only one or two other freelancers at a time. My freelance circle is still small, but it is possible to gain contacts or clients through those connections. My friends have also hired me during the lean months, which has sometimes helped me afford food that week. Use your connections to your advantage.
Hone your skills.
Now that you know what you have to offer, hone those skills. Whether you’re well-practised or not, take courses and practice regularly to be the best you can be. Your services need to be top-notch so keep working as though you’re a beginner. Keep an open mind, too - gaining new skills will give you another edge to promote.
Don’t compare yourself to others.
This is another tough one for me, even now. It is so hard not to look at those ‘How I made double digits freelancing in just two months’ articles, but I’ll save you the trouble. Often those people work with the companies they were employed at on a freelance basis and use clients they had at those companies. They often have affluent connections or family members and are successful in some other area of their career. Ignore what others are doing beyond the occasional reassessment of the market and your competitors. Just focus on what you are doing - your break will come.
Have a part-time job if you need to.
There is no shame in needing to take a part-time job alongside your work. Everyone needs to eat and pay their bills, and every freelancer experiences dry spells. You need to survive, and your freelancing journey is your own. You can always quit again when things pick up.
You can stop anytime.
In today’s world, people can change jobs on a dime for many reasons. Freelancing is a hard graft and can often feel unforgiving in the face of all your effort. Whether you prefer the comfort of a regular paycheck, standard office hours, or are just burnt out from freelancing, it is possible to stop and walk away.
Misconceptions About Freelancing
Freelancing has become increasingly mainstream in the last decade. With this popularity come a variety of misconceptions and false ideas of what freelancing is. Let’s debunk some of them one at a time.
You are your own boss.
Yes, you run your business and manage your time, but you do have a boss - several, in fact. Your clients are your bosses, meaning that you have to answer to multiple people at any given time.
Freelancers work from home in their pyjamas.
While this can often be the case for some, freelancers often travel for work. Whether they need to go to an archive, library, in-house meeting, or another relevant place, it is not always possible to get comfy at home.
Freelancing is easy money.
Anyone who says this is a liar. Freelancers work hard for the money they earn and are proud of what they do. Clients and strangers only see the tip of the iceberg - we kick butt behind the scenes.
Freelancing is not worth much.
Your freelance work is worth as much as you put onto it. You measure your own success. It is possible to earn a decent wage and live well with a freelance career.
Freelancers are awkward introverts.
Some people are just awkward, sure. However, there are freelancers of all types and personalities to meet out there.
Freelancers are always available.
Because many of us work from home, some people seem to think that we are always available for more work or friendly social events. This is not the case. Just like every person with a ‘normal’ job, we have deadlines and meetings to go to. While we can shift our schedule around, we are not eternally able to be there for your last-minute project or event.
Freelance work is always exciting.
As much as I wish this were true, this is not the case. I have worked on some truly fascinating projects over the years, but I have also spent a lot of time working on mundane subject matter or generic briefs. Sometimes, you need to take the less fancy work to make ends meet.
My career is the most fascinating and challenging thing I have ever worked on. Freelancing has brought wonderful people and opportunities into my life, and I am grateful for them every day. I hope that this post has shed some light on what freelancing is like or perhaps inspired you to leap yourself.