Hindsight is a wonderful thing, and there are many things I can look back on as a freelancer and say “I could have done that better” or “If only I knew…”. So today, I’ll let you in on the five things I wish I had known before becoming a freelancer, so hopefully you can avoid these pitfalls on your freelance journey…
#1 Just do it
For eight years, I freelanced as a side hustle to gain experience and earn extra income, but I didn’t see it as a realistic career option, despite many frustrations with being an employee. When I finally committed to full-time freelancing three years ago, it was really tough for a while—finding clients, establishing myself, and getting a reasonable work-life balance. But it was worth it, because I love my freelance lifestyle. Yes it’s tough, but if you want it, just do it.
#2 Do what you want
When you become a freelancer, there are so many people offering prescriptive advice on what area to pursue, where to find clients, and how to manage your time. At first, I listened to other people’s advice that I should follow a routine, but I quickly realised that didn’t work for me. The beauty of freelancing is having full control and choice—so try things out, figure out what works for you, and do your own thing, not what works for someone else.
#3 Don’t give up
When I was struggling in those early months, I considered going back to a 9-5 employed job, but I stuck with it, and I’m so glad I did. What many people don’t realise is that it takes time, effort, and patience to become a successful freelancer. It’s not an overnight thing. If you really want to become a freelancer, then don’t give up after a few months if you’re still looking for your first client or your pitches keep being rejected. Just keep trying and you’ll break through.
#4 Don’t put all of your eggs in one basket
At the start, it’s tempting to use one method to find clients and stick with it. But clients can be found in many places. For a while, I only worked through generalist freelancing platform PeoplePerHour, which was limiting my pool of potential clients. These days, I still find the occasional client through PeoplePerHour, but most of my work comes through niche freelancing site Reedsy, word of mouth, LinkedIn, my personal website, and more.
#5 Don’t struggle alone
As a freelancer, every decision you make and action you take is your choice. Unlike working in an office job or 9-5, where someone else makes the decisions and sets the course of action, you get to choose everything—and that can become overwhelming. This happened to me during my first self-assessment tax return, which I messed up. The next year I learned my lesson and hired an accountant. Even though you’re an independent worker, you can hire other freelancers to help in areas you suck at!
What lessons have you learned on your freelance journey? What do you wish you knew when you were starting out? Comment below or get in touch.
Stay tuned for more freelance tips!