You decide to go freelance. What’s next? Just give up your job. Bingo!
The money will come in, the clients will be like rainbows coming out of majestic unicorn’s butts.
If anyone tells you this is how to do it they’re lying. The unicorn is lying.
When I decided I wanted to work for myself it took me 2 years to get there, I interned for a year whilst working my previous career, then took the plunge a year later.
I didn’t do it the smartest way, I left my job with no money, no clients and no idea how to get them, but it worked out, I gave myself a month to find myself the clients I needed and wanting it enough / the fear of living on the streets gave me the push I needed.
But it’s not easy.
During this time I had no idea who my ideal clients were, not just the ones that would pay, but the ones that resonated with my cause — the ones who valued their shiz.
I learned harsh lessons.
I had clients that didn’t pay, that didn’t care about the service I was giving, that said they could do a better job themselves, that didn’t realise what services I was even offering.
This was all down to me.
The psychological side of running your own business is often not even considered.
I hadn’t learned who my clients were, my worth or how to communicate who I was at this point. I struggled hard with regular burn out, I had no structure.
So I got help from a lifecoach. The best investment I made.
Here’s a few things you can do to get yourself prepared, mentally and practically;
Chat with seasoned freelancers
Before you embark, speak to other people that have a few years under their belt. They’ll give it to you straight.
Mistakes are your friend
Be prepared to make mistakes and allow the failures, know that these are the most important things during your time as a freelancer.
Understand your boundaries
Find out what your own personal boundaries are — will you allow clients to contact you after hours, will you always say yes to everything asked of you? A lot of things are assumed, but there are plenty of people out there that will take whatever they can get (learned from bitter experience).
Trust your gut
If you feel as though something is off with a client / project, listen to it, you’re probably right.
Perfectionism has no place here
Perfection doesn’t actually exist, as a designer I had to let go of a lot of wanting the moon on a stick with my work when I first started. I do what I do and I do it well, but that unattainable ‘perfectionism’ thing had to go.
A simple one, for some, not for me though. It’s something else I had to learn.
Know it’s an ongoing process. The pressures don’t stop, you just learn to manage them.
Roll with the punches
There will be times when you won’t get the client/job/project you worked hard for. You have to learn to roll with the punches and move forward.
Don’t sweat the small stuff
Cliched as it sounds, taking things personally is a real waste of time when you’re at it alone.
You’re not alone
If you feel like you are struggling or need extra work support, reach out — to other freelancers, join groups, networking in the local area, you aren’t alone.
Don’t discount getting external one-on-one help from a decent coach or mentor in your area, research well, get recommendations, I found this to be the best investment I made.
And of course, be sure to prepare yourself practically, in my opinion this is the easy bit — have everything you need in place to begin — workspace, equipment, bank account, tax registered, any insurance (if you need it).
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These are some things I had no idea about before I started. Four years in and I’m still learning, still riding the Freelance Rollercoaster.