When I started freelancing some *cough* years ago, it was still a tenuous-at-best career path, one to be discussed in hushed tones and used more as a hobby, supplementary income, that sort of thing. The Internet was young, and so was I (18, to be exact), an ambitious writer who has since ghostwritten quite a decent amount of content.
For all its mountains and caverns, I’m still heartened to see how much things have changed in the overall gig economy/self-employed landscape. Freelancing is now akin to personal power, taking charge and working with one’s creativity. So, now that I’ve been on this career path for literally half of my life, here’s what I’ve learned thus far…
Embrace the strength that is self-reliance.
Freelancing can be incredibly collaborative or solitary, depending on the project and the niche. I prefer the latter, simply because working across large swaths of time zones and differing perspectives does not usually a happy atmosphere make.
Instead, my focus is on a quiet home office, completing work with minimal guidance. It allows me the time to really think about how I want to approach a project, and even sometimes tangentially inspires me to weave an idea into my own ventures.
Research first, apply later.
Freelancing is a choose-your-own-adventure that is not to be taken lightly. For every legitimate job opportunity, there are still a disproportionate amount of scams. This is particularly true on freelancing platforms where people bid for jobs or sign up for databases waiting for clients to hire them – I would personally avoid any of these entirely. “I’ve started a website that needs lots of content” jobs are generally a no-no, also.
The “free” in freelance should never, ever mean working for less than your experience is worth. When you find an interesting job opportunity, make sure you calculate the rate versus the time you’d need to complete a project. How long has this company or individual been in business? If they require a writing sample, it had better be reasonably paid.
Stolen writing samples, paid favorable reviews, fake job postings only actually meant for business promotion…the list of nefarious deeds can go on, and on. Basically, trust nothing and research thoroughly. Yes, it’s time consuming and a bit stressful sifting the good from the bad, but your career will thank you for it in the long run.
Earn more than you spend.
This is true of any job, any financial situation, but it’s even more important in the world of freelancing. After all, the tradeoff for the flexibility of this career path is (most of the time) paying for your own health insurance and pension plans, as well as project contracts that be swiftly broken. Don’t even get me started on self-employed taxes.
Basically, unless you have passive income streams, if you don’t work, you don’t earn anything. With niches regularly changing, a continuous job hunt is becoming more of a reality than ever. Put your positive pants on and look at it this way – it’s like playing a video game, with real-life income your daily point score.
Some “employers” bank (pun only minimally intended) on freelancers taking their low-paying projects because isn’t something better than nothing? No, never EVER. And another thing: PayPal is a preferred payment method for many due to its safety, but don’t forget there are sometimes conversion rates and transaction fees. Make sure you only work for those who cover these costs themselves, so that your paycheck is whole, and you are happy.
Always prioritize your wellbeing.
It can be all too easy to lose yourself in a project – just a few more minutes can all too quickly become several hours. Bills are a fact of life, but making ends meet shouldn’t be your whole life. Before you know it, weeks, months, perhaps even years have passed, and you’ve missed out on those fun events and relationships that make life the gift that it is.
Set strict times for work, then leave the rest to leisure. When you strive for personal and professional excellence, you’ll be pleasantly surprised to find how the puzzle pieces of life can beautifully fit together.
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