It’s that time of year when people are taking stock of 2018 and looking ahead to 2019.
I guess without knowing it, I’ve been reflecting on my first 6 months or so as a freelancer. Long walks with the dogs are great for thinking time.
I might not have been freelancing for very long, but I’ve learnt a lot. Partly through my own experiences, partly by reaching out to other people. And reading. Lots of reading.
Mostly, I’ve been thinking about what I would tell myself if I started again. Or anyone looking to go freelance, for that matter.
1. Listen to others, trust yourself
There’s so much to learn and so much good advice and support out there. You’d be a fool to ignore it.
In the first couple of months I felt like everything I heard or read, I had to do it. Contracts. Payment terms. Rates. Social media. Marketing.
But you can’t do everything and we’re all different. So what works for someone might not work for you.
Get out there, whether it’s online or in the flesh. Listen and learn. But don’t feel like you have to do everything. Ultimately you know yourself and your business.
2. Find the sweet spot between persistence and patience
I’ve really struggled with this. Whether it’s finding new clients or marketing my business. It doesn’t happen overnight, but it doesn’t happen by magic either.
If you’re too persistent the chances are that you’ll become a bit of a nuisance. It’s not an approach that sits comfortably with me anyway.
Too patient though and you’ll probably find things don’t happen. You’ve got to look for and create opportunities.
My experience of finding new clients is there’s usually a lag. So just because someone doesn’t respond at first, it doesn’t mean that it’s not worthwhile in the long run. Stick at it.
Strike the right balance between persistence and patience and you should be okay.
3. Like anything, there’s pros and cons
There are pros and cons to any job. It’s no different for freelancers.
Pro: I’m my own boss. I can take on the work I want to do, work when I want and make my own decisions.
Con: I’m my own boss. I don’t have a boss to turn to and the buck stops with me.
Pro: I work from home. I don’t have to commute, I can work where I want and get to walk the dogs at lunch.
Con: I work from home. It can be lonely, I struggle to switch off in the evenings and I have to provide my own IT support. Actually, that last bit might be a pro.
I firmly believe if you can live with the cons of freelance life, you’ll love the pros.
4. Learn to ride the freelance waves
I’m ending on a metaphor. Apologies if they’re not your thing.
I’ve seen and heard a lot of people liken freelancing to riding the ups and downs of a rollercoaster. I see the comparison.
But from my experience, and speaking to more experienced freelancers, it feels more like surfing. Well I imagine it does. I’ve never surfed in my life.
We’re all riding the same waves. We’re all dealing with the same challenges. It’s just with experience you get better at dealing with them.
There are times when there just aren’t any waves to ride. It’s the same with freelancing. It might be a quiet time of year. Make the most of it and be ready to go when the waves are out again.
Getting hit by big waves hurts. You’re probably going to fall at some point. Whether it’s missing out on a pitch you gave up your weekend for or massively misjudging a project. Don’t get too down about it. Pick yourself up and go again.
Go find your surfing community. You might be able to develop your skills and improve on your own, but it can be lonely and difficult. Reach out, get involved and value the community of freelancers ready and willing to give you that support you need.
When you learn to ride those waves, it feels good!