I must admit that I was pretty naïve when I started out ‘properly’ as a freelancer back in July. It had all seemed so straightforward. I would launch my website and social media accounts and the (quality) jobs would just flow in. However, the reality proved to be a bit different and the past three months have instead provided me with a priceless crash course in the realities of attempting to build a new business from the ground up (in the middle of a pandemic). Here's some of what I've learned.
1) Grow a thick skin
The early days of freelancing are all about the hustle. You won’t win all the jobs you might wish to and that’s ok. What is important is that you recover quickly from any rejection, refocus and trust that it is all part of the journey.
2) Think like a business owner (not a freelancer!)
This was key for me in terms of beginning to establish a more productive (and slightly more ruthless) mindset. Freelancing has connotations of flexibility (which is one of its main advantages) but you should be aware that there are people who will look to take advantage of that by trying to get you to work for free or offering insulting rates. I call these people ‘spirit stealers’ and have become quite good at weeding them out already. This brings me to my next point.
3) Establish your worth
I have learned the hard way (don’t they say it’s the best way?) to distance myself from content mills such as Upwork which are generally exploitative. Though I still dip in and out of them occasionally, I now only do so to respond to incoming interview requests (offering decent rates) which I find appealing. It can be tempting to work for peanuts in the early days (been there, done that, sucked the life out of me) but it is simply not worth it financially or mentally. Now if I find myself low on work at any stage, I find it much more fulfilling to put my energy into a Udemy course or polishing up my portfolio.
4) (Try to) embrace those boring jobs
When I decided to try and live the dream by writing for a living, I thought I’d be doing just that – all day (didn’t I tell you that I was naïve coming into this!). In fact, I probably spend less than half of my working hours writing for paying clients at present. A good portion of my week is spent writing proposals and responding to quote requests, doing online courses, filling gaps in my portfolio and trying to get a grip on my social media. I don’t love all of this but have learned that it is all necessary to enable me to do the work I do love.
5) Value and respect your first clients
I am indebted to my return clients who gave me income in the early days but, more importantly, reiterated to me that I was offering something of value when things seemed to be a bit uncertain. They know who they are and that I will always find time for them, even at short notice and if it means setting my clock for 4am (and yes, that will still be the case when I am rich and famous!).
As we all move desperately, in spite of current circumstances, to embrace the shiny brand-new year, I can’t help but think that ‘2020’ somehow seemed to contain an extra sprinkling of futuristic promise. Perhaps that made the way it would unfold even harder to swallow? In any case, unfold it did in its well-documented and uniquely shocking way. But it wasn’t all bad.
I must admit that I was pretty naïve when I started out ‘properly’ as a freelancer back in July. It had all seemed so straightforward. I would launch my website and social media accounts and the (quality) jobs would just flow in. However, the reality proved to be a bit different and instead, the past three months have provided me with a priceless crash course in the realities of attempting to build a new business from the ground up (in the middle of a pandemic). Here's some of what I've learned.
*Not a real word at present. Covid. C-19. Contact Tracing. Frontliner. Physical Distancing. Zoom. These were just some of the entries included in last month's Oxford English Dictionary quarterly update. It seems a bit strange that these words, already firmly embedded in our collective consciousness, have only now been added to the world’s most famous word catalogue. (And there they will remain; once a word is added to the OED, it is never removed. In any case, there is no fear of the C word being forgotten any time soon).