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Lessons Learned During My First Year As a Freelancer

Posted December 20, 2013 by Lisa Granshaw in On the Ladder
FreelanceimagesAny freelancer will tell you that taking the leap to self-employment means you’re starting on an uncertain journey.  Among other things you have to come to terms with having an unsteady income, finding your own health insurance coverage, and doing your own quarterly taxes. Even with these challenges though, freelancing can be a rewarding experience.

At least that’s what I’ve discovered during my first year of freelancing. I’ve always dreamed of being a freelancer and while I have yet to match what I was making last year as a corporate employee, I am doing well enough that I look forward to starting a second year freelancing in January. Looking back at 2013, there are a few things that have helped me be successful in the freelance world.

Here are 4 lessons I learned that helped me during my first year. 

  1. Make Sure You Have Savings: In order to be able to really concentrate on finding clients or getting your business started, it helps having a cushion of money to fall back on so you’re not worrying about paying your essential bills each month. Having that savings helped me be able to focus on what I needed to do in order to expand my business and grow my profits. If I didn’t have that, I’m not sure I’d be able to even consider a second year freelancing. It’s nice that right now I know I still have a lot of work to do, but at the end of the year I am not in such dire straights financially that I have to worry about going back to a full-time position.
  2. Have a Network: Already having a solid network of connections is a big help during the first year of freelancing. My first few assignments were from people I had worked with closely over the last two years. Those clips helped me pitch other publications and gain new business. I was also able to find new clients by updating my existing network about my new role and receiving suggestions from them on who I should reach out to. It was also nice just having a network of support as I experienced so much change. I don’t think I would have been able to do as much business as I’ve done in my first year without a network. I would highly suggest working on growing your connections before going freelance.
  3. Be Disciplined: Just because you can make your own hours doesn’t mean you should stay in your pajamas all day or only work 3 hours a day. Discipline and having a schedule is key. I was able to work at all different times and take certain days or afternoons off, but I always had a list of what I needed to accomplish for the day or week. This helped me stay focused and freelancing has felt like many of my other jobs as a result. I also established hours when people could reach me. After those hours, things had to wait until the next day. It was a good way to establish that my freelancing was still a job and I could turn off at a certain time. It helped me avoid burning out, which helped me maintain and grow my business.
  4. Take Risks: If you’ve decided to go freelance then you’re probably ok with risk taking to begin with, but during my time as a freelance writer and business owner I’ve discovered you need to be able to risk a lot more then that initial step. Don’t be afraid to email editors even at well known publications. Take the risk of spending money to go to a conference, because the connections you make there can lead to more business. You have to weigh your risks carefully, but the ones I decided to make this year are already paying off and I know will benefit me in the future.

About the Author

Lisa Granshaw

Lisa Granshaw is a freelance writer and career consultant based in New York City. Her company, Media Career Consulting LLC, offers a variety of consulting services to young professionals interested in a career in the media and communications industry. She began her career as a NBC Page, worked as a production assistant at Nightly News with Brian Williams, and was a producer and writer for the TODAY Show's website. Her work has appeared on The Daily Dot, TODAY.com, Parents.com, Vetstreet, Blastr, and more.