I’ve been freelancing since back in 2017. But I’ve been a successful freelancer for only the past few years. See? There’s a difference.
Back when I didn’t know how the market really worked, I made the mistake of quitting my job without a strategy.
I thought I would just make myself available, and the companies would come flocking to write me a blank check. Sounds stupid, doesn’t it?
In defense of my 23-year-old self, I didn’t know any better. I was horribly inexperienced and I had no one to guide me through it. But you won’t believe how many grown-ass people still share the same view.
“You are lucky!”
“Because you get to earn so much money wearing shorts.”
They have no idea how wrong they make it sound. Dude, I’m not on OnlyFans!
Then when they jump into the pool, they find out how cold the water really is.
One college mate of mine spent months sending out pitches and resumes without hearing back from anyone before switching back to her old job.
Another guy I used to work with back in the day was shocked to discover that his rates were too low to sustain a decent income, despite his years of experience.
So, yeah! Listening to hype might be damaging to your health, bank balance, and sanity. Here’s what you need to know before quitting your job.
Freelancing Isn’t for Everyone
Not everybody wants the same rewards. Not everyone can take the same risks.
Contrary to popular belief, freelancing is not your one-way ticket to a better life. You still have to hustle to find clients and secure work, and the income can be just as unpredictable as a Vegas slot machine.
If you’re not constantly improving your skills and knowledge, you’ll be left behind and out of work. So if you’re thinking about making the switch, be prepared to face aggressive competition and work hard to stay ahead.
When you are quitting your job to become a full-time freelancer, your budget will be tight. So you can’t hire help.
It’s you, and you alone, who will have to handle the marketing, business development, sales, client handling, and accounting, aside from doing the actual job your client will hire you for.
But, at least you get to be your own boss. Right?
As Long as You Are Making Money, No Work Is Boss Free
Being a freelancer is essentially trading your own boss with many more bosses — and they go by clients. They are paying you for your services. This means that they have the final say in how the work is done.
While you may have some flexibility and autonomy in your work, ultimately the client is the boss and you need to meet their expectations and deadlines.
As a new freelancer, you don’t have a track record or a reputation to fall back on. So you don’t have the luxury of turning down work or being picky about your clients.
You need to take on as many clients as you can and do your best to meet their expectations, even if it means going above and beyond or making compromises.
It is you who need to make a good impression and build a positive relationship with your clients. That’s how you build credibility.
There Can Be Some Really Bad Clients
While most clients are reasonable and professional, there are always a few bad apples that can make your life as a freelancer miserable.
These clients may be
- difficult to work with,
- have unrealistic expectations,
- or may not pay you on time or at all.
As a freelancer, you don’t have the same protections and safeguards as a traditional employee. So it can be tricky to deal with toxic clients and protect yourself from being taken advantage of.
But there are a few ways you can make it much easier:
- Pay attention to red flags during the initial consultation or negotiation phase, such as a lack of transparent project details or a rush to make a decision.
- Have a clear contract that outlines the scope of work, payment terms, and other crucial details.
- Document everything, including conversations and agreements, to protect yourself in case of any misunderstandings or issues.
But it’s not all doom and gloom. Here comes the brighter side.
You Can Make More Money Working Fewer Hours
Don’t get me wrong here. It’s not like you will earn a grand a week by working 3 hours a day from the get-go.
However, unlike in a job, there is no upper ceiling.
As you get better at producing more and more value for your clients over the years, it won’t be about how many hours you are putting in.
It would be about how harder you are to replace.
If you have a unique set of skills in demand, or if you can outwork a small team by yourself, boom, you make money!
But, again, to get there, you have to work much much harder than you would in a regular job. Because, unlike in a 9-to-5, there is no lower floor bed either.
As You Make More Money, You Can Scale It Up
If you manage to find the right fit for your value, it will reach a point where you will have to decline more projects than you accept. That’s when you can seriously consider scaling up.
By hiring talented individuals who complement your skills and expertise, you can match the demand and make enough money for early retirement or spend more time with your family and loved ones.
Don’t believe me?
Statistics show that 31% of freelance workers make $75,000 every year. Also, the worldwide freelance market is estimated to be worth $1.5 trillion and increasing at a CAGR of 15%.
Imagine having a slice of that.
Freelancing can be lucrative. But it’s not instantly gratifying. That’s what most people fail to realize.
As a result, they harbor unrealistic expectations, fail to make their mark, and (often) become too frustrated and unprofessional for their own good.
On the contrary, those who are far more mature in their approach tend to work really hard for the first few years and then tactfully leverage their momentum into living a much more comfortable life.
Make your choice.