What I learned from starting out as a freelancer

Making the decision to leave corporate America and take a chance on owning my own freelance business did not come lightly, especially in this economy. It was just days before I gave my notice when I saw a Facebook status shuffle that gave me the boost I needed. It read, “You have to make the choice to take the chance in order for your life to change.”

In the last few years, I’ve had ups and downs, but I’ve been fortunate enough to have more ups than downs. I’ve gained some great clients and lost a few. I’ve had some not-so-good clients that made work unbearable at times. I’ve had to learn my craft on my own, through books, independent courses and the help of some great peers in the industry. But through it all, I’ve learned some great lessons on how to be a great freelancer and a better person.

Don’t underestimate your talents

When you first begin the freelance life it’s easy to assume everyone else bidding on a project has more experience than you. You may find yourself second-guessing your work and questioning its authenticity. That’s not always the case. You may have more practical applications for the job at hand or have a more thorough grasp of the concept. You may find that you connect personally with the project manager or client, and we all know how important relationships can be in business.

Don’t under value your work

My time, intellect and skillset are valuable. Not everyone can do what I can do. They may think they can, but in reality, they can’t. When I first started out, I would consider accepting the $10 projects, but I quickly realized that my time and my services are worth much more than that. Now, I will pass on projects that I feel are below my expectations. Is this arrogance? No, it’s confidence.

Be flexible

Whether it’s with your schedule, your finances or your self-defined niche, be willing to bend a little. Just when you think you have it figured out, someone’s bound to throw you a curveball that will have you reeling to figure it all out again.

Monday’s still suck

I found this to be really odd. It didn’t matter if I worked all weekend long to meet a deadline, Mondays still seem difficult and Fridays still rock!

Be strong

Will power is an essential characteristic of the most successful freelancers. There are no more time clocks telling me when to work or when to take a break. On a beautiful spring day it may take all I have to sit down to finish a project, even though the deadline is looming. But, I’ve learned that your work ethic is defined by you, and you alone. There is an upside, though: I can always take my laptop to the park to experience the best of both worlds!

Enjoy life

There is nothing greater than being able to create your own destiny. Having two small children, I am now able to keep them home with me a majority of the time. I can accompany them on preschool field trips or simply watch them as they grow. However, there are times of sacrifice, when a job must get done and a trip to the zoo is pushed to another day. Fortunately, my family seems to understand the tradeoff and is willing to just as flexible with me as I am with work.

I’m not going to sugarcoat it, being a freelancer is hard, hard work. I’ve been doing this a few years now with many sleepless nights wondering where the next job is going to come from. Fortunately, I’ve always had a job come to fruition just when I need it to. Is it luck? Maybe. But I’d like to think it’s because I have proven myself and offer quality work. My drive and dedication have served me well, but the freelance lifestyle isn’t the right move for everyone. Self-sacrifice is a tradeoff for the many rewards, but it’s up to each individual if it’s worth it to them.

Are you just starting out? What lessons have you learned?


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