It’s something that every freelancer does: they think that, once they leave the rigorous demands and schedules and the boss that watches over their shoulder for what feels like every second of the day, they will fare much better than they could ever do at their current day job. So they leave, declare themselves “Freelancers” and revel in their freedom. They toss their sleeping/waking schedules out the window, eat whenever they want and work when it feels “right”–usually while in their pajamas and from their comfy beds.
And then, a couple of months in, they can’t figure out why they aren’t making any money. They’re autonomous now! Where is all the work? Why is success not simply falling into their laps?
The truth is this: just because you want freelance success doesn’t mean that you are necessarily going to get it–especially if you continue to approach your new job in such a lazy way. And make no mistake, freelancing is a job. Realizing and accepting that is the first key to freelance success. Here are some others.
You don’t necessarily have to stick to the same 9 to 5 you’ve been dealing with in your professional/day job life. One of the best things about freelancing is that you can structure your day around your best work and focus times. You do, though, need to set up a regular schedule for working, playing and sleeping and then you need to stick to it. If you just wait around for inspiration it isn’t ever going to show up. Instead, train your body and brain to be productive when you need them to be. This is going to feel really annoying when you first start doing it but trust us your “I am going to sit here even if I am not actually being productive yet” stubbornness will eventually turn into a habitual “time to work” focus.
Mind Your Details
There are tons of different details to manage when you are a freelancer. Do not try to keep all of these details in your head! That’s how deadlines go unmet and clients go unserved. Instead set up a few systems for keeping track of all of these different systems or hire people to help you with them. For example, instead of trying to keep track of all of your money yourself, hire an accountant. Use productivity and organizational apps to keep track of your lists and project notes.
Lists Are Your Friends
When you can do anything you want it’s hard to figure out how to do anything at all. There are so many choices! What should you do next? Making a list of things that you need to accomplish each day/week/month will save you time and energy. So where do you start with your lists? What goals do you hope to accomplish by the end of this year? Do you have a few ideas? Great. Now break them down. What steps do you need to take to accomplish those goals. Work backwards from your end goals, breaking them down into smaller and smaller steps. These steps will become your daily to-do lists. If you’re still not sure how to make lists work for you, try checking out “Getting Things Done” by David Allen. That book will make you more organized and productive than you’ve ever been in your life!
Protect Your System
Freelancers live and work on their computers and the Internet. Unfortunately so do trolls, scam artists and other nefarious types. Obviously you’ll want to make sure you have some good internet security software set up.
Beyond that, though, it is important to make time each day to keep up with trends in terms of web scams, viruses and other malware issues. For example, according to an article found on the internet security company, Trend Micro’s, site. Hackers have managed to set up a phishing scam that takes advantage of .gov extensions. Knowing what’s out there will help you know what to do if you get hit by one of them.
Protect Your Self (and Your Business)
Don’t forget to protect your person and your livelihood. Always take the time to do some background checking on any new opportunity or client that might come your way. There are a lot of really legitimate sounding pyramid schemes out there. Never sign any contracts or accept any money before you’ve done your due diligence. Remember almost anything that sounds too good or too convenient to be true almost always is.
These are just six keys to freelance success. What are some of the things that you’ve done to go from freelance novice to freelance expert?