If you are at the nexus between holding down a day job and breaking out into freelancing, you are sure to be facing the uncertainty and fear that the unknown brings. As a potential freelancer, you can be confident of your success in this field because you are not alone: thousands of people have taken the giant leap from being employed to being independent consultants. To be sure, it is certainly a scary experience when you are new, but the knowledge that others have gone before you and have built lucrative careers should give you the reassurance that you too have the ability to make it in this demanding and competitive field.
In order to help you transition from salaried work to project-based pay, here are some secrets that few people know about, understand and apply to their freelance careers. Unfortunately, even consummate professionals sometimes fail to grasp the importance of these little-known secrets. Here they are, and it is our hope that you can use these secrets to establish a niche for yourself in the world of freelancing:
Secret #1: Get into it gradually
Quitting your job on day 1 and expecting to get a full month’s pay at day 30 is foolhardiness. It takes time to acquire a reputation and a solid base of work as a freelancer, so throwing away your sustenance in exchange for an unrealised dream should not be the way you first experience freelancing. This is not to say that you may not get large projects immediately – if you are lucky, you will; however, this is never guaranteed, so don’t act like it is. So many freelancers give up and go back to their old jobs because they expected too much and were disillusioned by the little that they received. Initially, you can take up projects that will allow you to keep your day job. This way, you do work much harder than the average office goer, but you can be happy in the knowledge that you are building an income stream that could one day become your main source of money.
Secret #2: Go for quality, not volume
When you are new freelancer, the temptation is to get whatever projects you can as quickly as you can. While this may work to initially build your reputation within the community, in the long run, it can be detrimental to your physical and mental well-being. Any professional freelancer knows that clients can often be demanding and seemingly unfair, while trying to get maximum value for minimum cash. So, if 10 hundred-dollar jobs seem equal to a single thousand-dollar job, think again – that’s 10 clients you have to deal with, each with their own quirks and whims. Dealing with so many clients simultaneously can put you in a constant state of panic and affect everything from time management to sleeping peacefully at night!
Secret #3: Prioritise your projects
This might seem like common sense; after all, doesn’t everybody do the most important things first? Unfortunately, fewer people than you would expect actually do this. Most often, freelancers get into a “busy” mode and forget that they have only 24 hours in a day and that they have families who they need to spend time with. If you are a full-time freelancer, it is imperative that you manage your time well. Stick to a regular work schedule and don’t take any projects that fall outside that schedule. Granted, you have to give some leeway to preferred clients if they need an urgent job done, but you don’t have to bend over backwards to please everybody. Often, an “urgent” job is only urgent because the client says it is – they usually build in a buffer for their projects, and pressure freelancers to deliver faster so they themselves can have an easier time of it. Stand your ground, and tell such clients that quality work requires adequate time – most of them invariably acquiesce.
Secret #4: Create a work environment at home
If you are going to be working on the computer most of the time, then you need some privacy where you can concentrate and do your best. Not everyone can afford to have a separate “office” room at home, but even if you only have a table in a corner, make sure that other members of your household appreciate the fact that you need quiet and privacy while at work. Distractions are far more at home than in a regular office, so if you need to ask someone to put off the television or the kids not to play while you work, then by all means do so. In fact, if those distractions can’t be avoided, you can even invest in blinders and ear muffs! That might be an exaggeration, but often, it is not.
Secret #5: Follow a Schedule
When you work in an office, you are expected to be at your desk at a specific time and follow a pattern just like anyone else. Unless you run your own company (in which case you’ll likely be working harder and longer hours than anyone else), this is a given. Set a weekly schedule so you have time for your family, your hobbies and other important aspects of your life. Being a freelancer doesn’t mean being chained to your projects every waking moment of the day.
Most professional freelancers know about these secrets; unfortunately, few seldom follow them. Don’t ruin your freelance career by falling down on these simple-to-follow tips; understand and apply them, and you will soon be among the best and most efficient freelancers in your chosen field of expertise.