This is a contributed post written by Lucinda Carraway
Do you dream of being a freelancer? Of escaping the rat race and making money, good money, doing what you love and are good at?
Do you spend your morning commute fantasising about having the freedom to start your day when you want and how you want? Are you tired of feeling as though your skills and talents are wasted at your current employment?
When you’re in a salaried position, it’s easy to see freelancing as ‘living the dream’. A life where work / life balance and job satisfaction are a given.
And, in all honesty, it can be pretty awesome!
But the life of a freelancer definitely has its downsides.
If you’re interested in becoming a blogger, or any kind of freelance creative, it’s important to know how to balance the benefits of being a freelancer with the inherent risks for a happy (and profitable) working life.
So, I hope you enjoy this list of essential tips for survival as a freelancer. While it has been written with a bias towards blogging and copywriting, the fundamentals can be applied to any form of creative freelancing.
Don’t quit your day job… Just yet!
Your day job may drive you absolutely nuts. But as resolved as you may be to eventually become a freelancer, it’s not advisable to tell your boss to take your job and shove it just yet. Leaving a stable and salaried job for life as a self-employed freelancer is inherently risky. And while you can never completely eliminate that risk, you can mitigate it by building a stable infrastructure before leaving your day job.
A great starting point is to establish your online presence. Start to grow your following. Reach out to potential contacts who could one day become paying clients. Research the various ways you can monetise your blog or get paid for doing what you’re already doing. Join a Facebook group for other bloggers/creatives in your niche and reach out to them for feedback or advice.
You can do a lot to make sure that you hit the ground running when you’re ready to pack in your day job.
Use resources that will make your life easier
When you become a freelancer, it’s important to remember that you have a business. You are running a business. And as such, you need to behave like a small business owner. Small business owners often learn the hard way that when they don’t lean on the support that’s out there, they can quickly burn out.
Remember that working for yourself doesn’t mean working alone. There’s a plethora of resources which can make your life easier and make you better at what you do. Some of these are free. Others you’ll have to pay for… But all of which are useful.
Small business owners know that trying to do everything for themselves is counterproductive so they lean on IT Support Companies, marketing agencies, accountants, bookkeepers, consultants, mentors and, of course, outsourced freelancers. Use the tools and resources at your disposal and the wealth of advice available on blogs just like this one to ensure that you not only keep your head above water but are actually at the top of your game.
Keep asking yourself “Who is this for, and am I giving them what they want and need?”
Bloggers, like all creatives, must manage a careful balancing act between their own creative need and audience demand. It can be quite a tightrope. After all, you don’t want to spend your life working on content that doesn’t interest, stimulate or excite you. On the other hand, if you aren’t creating the kind of copy that resonates with your audience, you can’t expect them to stay loyal for long.
This is why it’s so important to stay in touch with your following and gauge their tastes and needs. This will help you to balance scratching your creative itches with creating the kind of content that your audience wants.
Remember what freelancing doesn’t give you… and plan accordingly
Freelancing gives you the freedom and autonomy that you’re craving. But there are some things that a salaried job gives you that you’ll never get as a freelancer. You’ll miss sick days. You’ll really miss paid holidays. You’ll find it harder to manage your household budget because you’re not sure when your client’s accounts team will get around to processing your invoice. Being a happy freelancer means not just taking stock of the cool freedoms and opportunities that you’re afforded, but being prepared for what freelancing doesn’t give you.
Don’t worry, it’s nothing you can’t get around with careful planning. Take on a little more work on either side of a holiday and it won’t feel like your much needed break has left a black hole in your finances. Set aside some of your earnings in savings and you won’t need to worry about paying the bills if you fall ill. Make sure that you’re lining up your next client even as you’re attending to the needs of your current client and you’ll never have to worry about gaps in your calendar. Which brings us to…
Get used to playing the long game and the short game simultaneously
The scariest thing about being a freelancer is never quite knowing where next month’s pay packet is going to come from. Without careful planning, you could finish a lucrative piece of work only to find that your fee will have to get you through the next 6 weeks as you hustle for more work among your contacts.
Being a freelancer is all about playing the long game and the short game simultaneously. It’s all about maintaining your network and reaching out to new contacts who could become next month’s paying clients. Get yourself on LinkedIn. Post snippets of your own blog on the platform’s blogging tool which will give prospective clients a “greatest hits” of your posts and give them an insight into your writing style and strengths.
Stay active on social media and within the blogging community. Build good relationships with other bloggers and you may well find that a guest blogging post opens up. Freelance creatives survive or thrive on the strength of their networks. Underestimate or neglect yours at your peril!
Identify bad habits and strategies to ditch them
It’s okay to admit it. We all have bad habits that can get in the way of our productivity or job satisfaction. Some of us race ourselves to the finish every day so that we can clock off nice and early. Though your drive and determination are admirable, the quality of your work can suffer when you work this way. Some of us, on the other hand have a problem with procrastination, while others are easily distracted.
Plan your time effectively. Put your phone in your desk drawer. Install software that will block time wasting sites or apps while you’re working. Whatever bad habits you identify, there’s always a strategy to help you to overcome them.
Look after yourself
Finally, it’s vitally important to take care of your mind and body when you’re a freelancer. It’s essential to keep set working hours and stick to them. Eating healthily and drinking plenty of water won’t just keep you fit and healthy, it will keep you productive too. If you’re spending all day at your desk, take the time to stretch your legs and get plenty of exercise.
You won’t have the luxury of lunch breaks or being “off the clock” so it’s essential that you put your own measures in place to ensure that you take care of yourself while also getting the job done!
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