Next month I’m celebrating one year of freelancing. This has been an amazing year, I’ve never enjoyed working more than now, and I’m so grateful for the experiences.
I’ve learned some things along the way, which I’m sharing not only as a written reminder to myself but also hoping to help people who are considering freelancing.
Keep in mind that what is true for me might not be for you, and what works for me might not work the same for you.
This is just my experience.
1. What I want from a job
Freelancing has made me realise what I really want and don’t want in a job. What I can compromise on, and what I’m not willing to.
I learned that working from home suits me really well. If you need a lot of social interaction, it might not be for you, as you’re basically in the house a lot, not seeing anyone. For me, it works because I’ve created a very active social life, outside of work. I think that’s a must.
Freelancing made me realise that I wouldn’t want to go back to an office. That the freedom to create my own schedule is worth the downsides. The better work-life balance is priceless to me.
As with everything, there are downsides to freelancing as well.
Freelancing is uncertain, especially in the beginning, and the lack of job security can be quite stressful for many people.
It might also take a while to make decent money, and your income can vary significantly from month to month. You have to be prepared to manage that and deal with the constant change.
Any holiday you take means not getting paid for that time, which might make you more reluctant to take breaks from working. (However, the plus side if you also work remotely is that you can travel anywhere and also work some of that time)
3. Time Management
I thought I was good at time-management before I started freelancing. I then realised how wrong I had been.
Being on my own, free to work whenever and wherever I wanted, made me realise that my time-management skills weren’t fit for that. I quickly noticed that it was taking me 7 hours to complete a 4h job, because I was constantly taking breaks, and doing things around the house.
But that was in the beginning. I eventually got the hang of it, and once you figure it out, you can be much more productive at home. Which leads me to my next point.
4. Set routine
I have to have a pretty standard routine for working, in order to be productive.
When you’ve never worked from home consistently, you picture the heavenly images of working from the beach, lying down on a sunbed with your laptop in your lap, sipping a cocktail.
That doesn’t work for me. Maybe it depends on the type of job you’re doing.
But I’m a content writer, and for that, I need to be either at my desk at home, or in a coffee shop. The Starbucks close to me has an upper floor, where people go and work. That usually works great for me, when I need some extra motivation.
The time of day is also crucial. In the beginning, I was happy to have the flexibility to make my own schedule, because that meant I could go out during the day, and work evenings.
For a long time, I was waking up at 10, and starting work at 12. It was a mess. I ended up working all day, and not having any time for my own projects.
Fast forward 1 year, I’m waking up at 7–7:30 to do something for me (writing, taking a course etc.), before starting work at 9, like most people.
While it might seem like I’m giving up a privilege, or not taking advantage of an opportunity, this is what works best for me right now.
5. Valuing myself
As a new freelancer, I tended to be willing to accept any relevant job. Any job is better than nothing, right?
Nowadays, while I’m still willing to compromise on certain things, I don’t have the same perspective anymore. No client is better than a bad client. I don’t want to work with unprofessional people.
6. Business admin
Previously, the HR department of my employer was dealing with my finances, including paying my taxes. All I had to do was … nothing.
Dealing with invoices, having an accountant, all this was new to me. How this works is different in every country, so I won’t go into details. However, you definitely learn a few things, so be prepared to not know what’s going on for a few months.
7. Patience and motivation
As a freelancer, there are times where you don’t have enough work. Or in my case, there were 2 months when I didn’t have any work.
This period was a lesson on patience and on keeping the motivation to keep going, to not give up.
The fact that I would have found a regular job much easier made it more difficult to stay motivated. Many companies were calling for an interview, but they didn’t accept part-time, or remote work. You need patience for that.
Thankfully, I found two great clients, but now I know that the nature of this is uncertainty, and I’m more prepared to go through the hassle again if needed.
Because it’s totally worth it for me.