Last Updated on July 20, 2020 by Camilla Gill
What You Need To Know If You Want To Be A Freelancer
This post may contain affiliate links. Read our disclosure here.
You might be interested in this post if you are trying to figure out how to start freelancing and what you need to know, and that’s great! Quitting my job to start freelancing was my dream for a long time. Even before I actually started working I was already dreaming of a life filled with travel and making my own rules.
If only we could go through life with our future selves guiding us we would probably make a lot less mistakes. Unfortunately, we can’t do that but, I can take this opportunity to advise you on all the things I wish I had known before I started freelancing in the hope that you can learn from my mistakes.
6 Things To Know Before You Start Freelancing
1. Get Over Your Imposter Syndrome
This is something I still struggle with, even after 3 years of working as a freelancer. I often feel like I have no idea what I’m doing and that everyone else is doing so much better than me in this freelancing game.
Imposter Syndrome is a real thing and it can seriously mess with your head if you don’t keep it in check.
Social media makes it seem like every other freelancer is earning 5 figures a month and has a bursting calendar packed with work. It’s easy to believe that everyone else is a super-successful freelancer and you’re a big, fat, freelancing fraud. But as the saying goes, comparison is the thief of joy.
Focus only on yourself, try your best, and celebrate your small wins. Most people on the internet are wildly exaggerating anyway in order to make themselves seem more desirable to possible clients.
What really helped me get over feeling like a fraud was this amazing book by Meera Kothand, called ‘But I’m Not An Expert!’ It really helped open my eyes and realize that all freelancers or online business owners start from the bottom and as long as you are able to help your clients achieve their goals and solve their problem, then it’s all good!
Another book I would recommend for any women wanting to start freelancing but struggling with imposter syndrome is The Middle Finger Project.Trash Your Imposter Syndrome and Live the Unf*ckwithable Life You Deserve. This book is for women who want to transform into Boss B***ches and the writing reflects that!
If reading isn’t your thing, then you can also download this book for FREE with Amazon’s Audible trial. You get to download 2 books for free during your 30-day trial and then even if you decide not to continue with the trial, you can keep the books! My favorite kind of trial!
2 Listen To Your Intuition
Being a freelancer can be tough financially, especially when you are starting out. And being stretched for cash can influence the way you think, forcing you to take on jobs even when you’re not entirely comfortable with the work or the client.
But, you know what? Every time I’ve had a weird feeling about a client, it has always ended badly.
And as a freelancer, your reputation is key to winning new clients so you want to avoid as many awkward endings as possible. So, before accepting any new job, try to jump on a quick call with them to see how your personalities fit together, especially if the project is going to be a long-term one.
If you get an off-vibe, then listen to it; your intuition is there for a reason, to help guide you to making the best decisions.
3 Find Your Work-Life Balance
Before I started freelancing, I imagined it to be a life where I would barely have to work and I would have heaps of free time compared to my friends stuck in offices. Boy, was I wrong.
Being a freelancer is great in so many ways, but if you’re not careful, you can find yourself working all hours of the day, every day.
When I first started freelancing, I was desperate to build up the experience so I would accept literally any job. And this was fine until I realized that, actually, there are only 24 hours in a day and I would quite like to spend some of those hours sleeping or socializing.
A large reason why I started freelancing was that I wanted to be able to live a digital nomad lifestyle, free to travel wherever while making money. But if I was working all the time, then how would I have time to travel?
Although there will be times you might have to work overtime, try and set a limit on the hours you work to avoid becoming burnt out. Keeping a healthy work-life balance is key to your happiness!
4 Don’t Rely On Clients
You might have heard that a freelancer should spend about 30% of their time looking for new work. I had heard this too, but naively thought it didn’t apply to me. Please pay attention to my story to avoid you making the same mistake I did!
I’d been freelancing through Upwork for about 2 years when one of my regular clients upped my hours with them. With this new gig, I was able to financially support myself with only one client. It seemed like I had hit the freelancing jackpot, we had a great relationship and they paid very well.
Life was very comfortable for the next 8 months, until, you guessed it. The contract ended. They had decided to employ someone inhouse to do my job, leaving me high and dry without any regular income.
To be fair to the client, they were very kind and gave me a month’s notice. The thing is, during the time I had basically been working full-time for them, I had stopped actively looking for new work, so I was without any clients or income.
It felt like I had to start over again and put in some serious hours to find new clients, which was hard work to say the least.
The lesson here is to always make sure you are actively looking for new clients, and building up your network so that you don’t have to depend on any single client for money.
5 You’ll Need A Tough Skin
When a client doesn’t like your work or wants you to make some changes to a project, it can be easy to take offense. Don’t let it damage your confidence though.
The client isn’t making a criticism about you, they are simply concerned with getting the best results for their business. Perhaps the way you chose to approach the work wasn’t aligned with their personal view.
The work isn’t personal so don’t let it get to you. Everyone makes mistakes all the time in the business world, so don’t beat yourself up over negative client feedback.
Instead, learn from the experience and use it towards making your next work project even better!
6 Get Your Finances In Order
As a freelancer, you’ll need to wear all the business hats, from marketeer to accounting. Yep, accounting. This is probably one of the most important things to know before you start your freelancing career.
As soon as you start freelancing, make sure you have a good system in order for doing your books. Otherwise, it will cause major headaches down the line when it comes to paying your taxes at the end of the year.
If you know nothing about bookkeeping (like me), then it’s probably a good idea to either pay a professional to show you how to do it the first time or ask a friend to help. Alternatively, there are plenty of online courses and good books out there to guide you through the process.
A good one to teach you everything you need to know (and avoid the mistakes that I made) is Freelance Bootcamp – The Comprehensive Guide to Freelancing.