Freelancing sounds a hell lot of fun allowing you to have flexible working hours, you are your own and overall cool lifestyle. A lot of freelancers don't talk about the downsides or the difficulties of taking up freelancing.
I have been freelancing myself for 5 years and learnt some things that I wish I had known before starting my career. In this article I would like to share some of the things you should consider when diving into the freelance ocean so you can avoid the mistakes most people do and save up some time, money and most important be more happy with your life.
1. Discipline is the key to success
Being your own boss is extremely hard especially when there is no one around you. When you are the one running the show you have too many tasks to take care of and can get overwhelmed very quickly. This is when the sneaky creature called procrastination comes, when it comes all the cats on YouTube start to look so damn interesting and you start watching them instead of doing the actual work.
Try to set working hours as you would have in the office working for someone else. For example 10am-7pm, let your family and friends know that you are working at that time, even if you are at home (this is where most of the freelancers are based).
Eat That Frog or do the most important thing first. There is an old saying "If the first thing you do each morning is to eat a live frog, you can go through the day with the satisfaction of knowing that it is probably the worst thing that is going to happen to you all day long!".
2. You are the ceo, the salesman, support line and technician
Being a freelancer you'll have to wear many hats, you'll be the CEO, Sales and Customer Support Manager, Technician and many more to run your business successfully. Unfortunately you will not be good in every aspect of your business and that's OK. Here are some tips to manage it all more efficiently.
Try to automate tasks. Instead of writing all emails from scratch have templates for most common emails you send, contracts, pitches, customer support emails and anything that you write on a repetitive basis. The same is with your work, try to find things that can be automated, for example create some actions in Photoshop for saving up documents for web or mobile, it's just a couple of seconds but that adds up in a time.
Make small improvements everyday. First of all expect to suck at most of the stuff that you don't know. Business, taxes, paper work, marketing, it's up to you to improve by taking small steps everyday. Read an article about taxes one day, take a course on marketing the other day and you'll get better at what you do.
3. Take some time for yourself
Working for yourself takes more time than usual 8 hours at the office working for someone else. As a freelancer you'll want to get more done by working overtime and that is fine if you really enjoy it. However you'll burn out at some point and that is why it is crucial to take some time for yourself. Everyday.
In my case I go for a run every morning and workout for at least 30 min in a gym, it refreshes my mind and lets forget all the problems I have in my business. Another thing is that on Sundays I take day off no matter what, so on Monday I am fresh and ready to get the work done.
4. Varying income
At the very beginning of your freelancing career you'll be struggling a lot getting clients as you will need to create a good reputation and get some work done. The thing is that you'll take every job possible because you will need to pay the bills and survive somehow.
After some time it will get better but it is important to manage your finances carefully. There are no guarantees that you will earn as much money this month as you did last. This is probably where being a salaried employee biggest advantage shines - fixed paycheck every month that pays the bills. However saving up some money for bad days, taking care of your taxes will work out itself in the long run until you get better at managing clients and earning a steady minimum cash flow in your freelance business.
5. You'll have hard times
You will have hard times in terms of physical and mental state of yourself. Getting sick, not earning enough or struggling completing work on time you will ask yourself "maybe getting a 9-5 job would be a better idea". When you hit this phase take a short holiday, think about how much more freedom you have when working for yourself and most important it is all up to you.
Remember why you have started freelancing in the first place and when you get refreshed and inspired again, go back and change some things, so you will become a happier and better freelancer.