Thoughts & Musings

6 MONTHS IN: SOME ADVICE FOR NEWBIES TO THE FREELANCE GAME

Working for yourself is a bit of a challenge. When my friends ask me how it feels to no longer be tied down to the man, I have to be honest and tell them it feels great, but I feel that I also have be frank about the fact that it feels a bit more exhaustive.

See, what I have come to realize, is that while working for the man may be emotionally draining, there is something to be said about turning off your computer at 5:54 and leaving everything behind when you head home. Before, sitting at my comfortable 40k+/year desk job, fantasizing about no longer having to come to work never included no longer having a minute not working, but at first, that was what it became. My days went from 8hours of work and 8 hours of whatever I wanted, to a full 16+ hours per day of work. Sure, the nature of the work changed. No longer was I posting bills and drafting emails for $20 an hour, now I was scrambling for every penny that I could earn, working even when I wasn’t working, spending hours promoting myself, polishing my social profiles, reaching out to potential clients. It was incredibly tiring.

Now it has been 6 months since I made the change from employee to contractor and I have learned a few things about time, that while they have been said before, bear repeating.

  • No.1 – Stick to your Schedule Because you need the money, It’s easy at first to accept everything that comes your way. That means accepting more than just every client, but also every project that your existing clients throw your way. Often, this means dedicating more time that you would regularly give to a single client in order to complete tasks. While at first this isn’t an issue – after all, you have no other clients and lots of free time now that you’re self-employed – constantly accepting additional assignments will lead clients to believe that you will drop everything at a dime and complete their assignments. Once your client base builds up, this means less and less time for yourself and more and more time spent working. What I suggest – Dedicate a set number of hours per client per week. Make your clients aware of your time limitations right away and handle additional projects on a one by one basis, but be sure you stick to your goals and keep your clients satisfied.
  • No.2 – Limit Your Responsibilities When you occupy any full-time administrative position, it is easy to become a Girl Friday type employee, filling just about any need that the company that employs you has that you can complete. I have found that this is a hard habit to break when you make the change to freelance, especially when offering administrative support. However, as a freelancer, you’re not working to prove your abilities the way you are in a full time position, and taking on duties outside of your agreed-upon tasks can actually end up costing you in the long run. For example, If a client hires me for bookkeeping and admin support, I try to avoid handling their design work or social marketing, instead working with contractors. Same thing goes the other way around. What I suggest – Approach your new clients with a contract detailing the duties you have agreed to perform. Make your client aware of your additional skills, but indicate that rates for these skills will vary from your regular rate. If your client approaches you about doing work outside of your regular duties, it opens a chance for you to discuss a rate increase.
  • No 3. – Make Your Free Time Count No one should be able to tell you how to spend your money, what you should be doing, etc. If you’re busting your butt to make your living, then you should be living the life you want to live, no matter your income. What I Suggest – Maximize your free time by choosing to do things that bring you joy. Whether that means cleaning your house for a few hours on the weekend or saving your monthly dining budget to go somewhere nice one night, doing the thing you want to do brings more satisfaction than just meeting everyone at the club because thats what everyone else is doing, regardless of how much you spend to do it. Budget out your goals, and make them happen.