A lot of people who go freelance will cite as one of their main motivations the desire to be their own boss and a general disdain for the standard routine that working a generic 9-5 office job can create. However being your own boss isn’t always easy and it certainly isn’t always fun, and without the 9-5 routine some people will struggle to structure their working days.
When choosing to go solo you adopt sole responsibility for all work produced, this means you are in charge of quality control (with no one looking over your shoulder to make sure everything fits together neatly) and it is down to you to ensure all deadlines are met. You will have to make all of the tough decisions, deciding what your budget can and can’t stretch to, which clients you can and cannot take on, and how much time can be spared for any extra side-projects (if any time can be!).
You undoubtedly have to be confident. You have to believe in yourself, your abilities, and what you can achieve. You also have to be honest and self-aware. How much work can you really take on, what are your limitations, and what would stretch you to breaking point? On top of this, you need to know your freelance business inside out. What are your core values? What is the key to the products/services you offer? How do you stand out among the competition? These are all questions which will need answers when you’re pitching for work – because as a freelancer this is another job which is down to you!
A lot of these qualities and answers come with time and experience. Your confidence and self-awareness will build as you work and you will probably come to change how you answer the above questions as you (and your freelancing business) evolve. One technique I have seen other freelancers use is to ask clients to state their favourite and least favourite aspect of working with them upon completion of a project. You may need to take any answers with a pinch of salt, but it can help you see where you are succeeding and where you need to improve through the eyes of another.
There are also, of course, plenty of networking opportunities for freelancers, where you can share (and seek) advice and opinions on a whole host of issues. If you’re working in a collaborative space with other freelancers this also makes life easier, having people on hand to bounce ideas off and provide a second opinion, without having to work for someone else!
Your working routine
When you’re a freelancer, one of the biggest teething problems can be learning how to effectively manage your time. This isn’t just a case of knowing whether you should work 8, 10, or 12 hour days (and often much longer), it is also knowing how much work you can afford to take on, how much time you need to leave aside for the administrative tasks you will have to tackle, and how much time needs to be dedicated to finding future clients so there’s no slump once you finish the projects you are working on.
Firstly, it should go without saying that you shouldn’t just say yes to every approach from a potential client. Some projects simply won’t suit you. Some clients will require a freelancer with skills you don’t possess and some clients will just be bad news (whether that is messing around with deadlines, not paying you by the agreed date, or simply being unpleasant people to work with). It is part of the learning process to notice which clients are good and bad for you, but don’t be afraid to ask around and do a little digging before you agree or disagree to a project.
Secondly, even if all the clients approaching you are Saints, there is only so much you can do with your time. We are all human, we need time to relax and recharge our batteries, so if you’re working all day, seven days a week, something has got to give. Try to know in advance how much time you can dedicate to working and only accept projects which won’t push you over this. However, when that ‘dream project’ comes along, it is down to you to decide if the extra time is worth the rewards on this occasion.