Lessons Learned During My First Year As a Freelancer
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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.