Freelancing is often looked upon as being inferior to full-time employment. While successful professional freelancers who have held down regular jobs prior to their independent careers know this to be false, most people don’t. Striking out on your own into the unknown frontiers of working for yourself is not for the meek of mind and the hesitant of heart, but many people find freelancing to be a lucrative and personally rewarding career – one they can look back on with pride as the years roll by.
Reassuring as the prospect of a successful career in freelancing sounds, it is NOT a bowl of cherries. Unpredictability of projects, stiff competition, the ever-elusive vacation and other factors play a big role in your life as a freelancer. You can hardly predict what your clients will or will not do, and being in this line of work – no matter what your expertise is – can be stressful, to say the least.
So how does one make the transition from employed to self-employed? Many people have successfully crossed over this figurative rickety bridge, and it is from the distilled wisdom of the many that the few can benefit. If you’re one of the lucky few to have the courage – or in many cases, being forced by circumstance – to live life as a freelancer, then there are some valuable tips that you can use to make your experience not-so-harrowing. Let’s look at this from an emotional perspective, because it is emotions that often come in the way of your ultimate success; truth be told, it will also be emotions that help you succeed.
Letting go of a stable career as a full-employee is nothing short of gut-wrenching. The fear of not having a financial anchor (often referred to as a ‘pay check’) is one of the greatest challenges that you as a newbie will have to face. Unless you have thousands of pounds in the bank saved up for a rainy day – and believe me, it’s pouring now – you will surely have to gain mastery over this fear. This is not to discourage you in any way, but to set expectations at the right level. You’re NOT going to get a free meal except at the soup kitchen, and life’s much more than that.
Planning is the best way to alleviate or dilute that fear. If you have a solid plan to get into freelancing, then you’ll be the better for it. Pity the soul that gets pushed into freelancing with no other options open to them and a two-digit bank balance staring them in the face. If you have the luxury of planning your freelance career, grab that lifeline and don’t let go. The better you plan, the better your emotions can be controlled. It’s a question of head-over-heart in this case, so unless your head is ready to deal with your new environment, your heart doesn’t stand a chance.
This is fear’s younger brother. Not quite as “head-on” as his older sibling, the emotion of doubt can play a much subtler yet equally devastating role in your success as a freelancer. Doubts about your ability to cope, your ability to find projects, your ability to find clients who pay on time (or pay at all) are all valid emotions that you need to learn to deal with.
The best way to allay doubt is to count your blessings. Simplistic as this may seem, you as a freelancer obviously have some skills – otherwise you wouldn’t be attempting this move. Focus on those skills and list them if you need to: this technique will help reassure you that you have the ability to handle whatever comes your way. It also helps create confidence – a known antidote to doubt.
Surprisingly, greed and avarice can wreak havoc on your freelance career. Aiming too high means you won’t get the projects you go after; but, on the other hand, aiming too low can get you bogged down with low-paying projects that will force you to take on more and more work, ultimately leading to a breakdown in the quality of your work.
The only way to deal with avarice is by first mastering doubt; however, be realistic when you list out your abilities. If you are just starting out in your career as a freelance translator, for example, then don’t go after tough projects that are beyond your current skill level. Even if you have the confidence, you may not have the ability, and greed can only blur your vision to the extent that you’ll end up missing opportunities that are right for you – just because you spend too much time chasing after those that aren’t. Identifying your special skills and matching them to your prospective clients will help you land projects that will help fortify your career instead of waste your time.
These three emotions, therefore, are the gauntlets at the entrance to the world of freelancing. If you can successfully master these, then you have made the “rite of passage” as it were. Don’t think that your challenges are over yet: there are many more to come. But, if you have overcome these biggest initial hurdles within, then you are now ready to face freelancing head-on – without the worry that your own mind will be playing against you.