Becoming an Expert after 120 Days Freelancing
It’s not about the best coffee shop
Last week I hit my 120th day of full-time freelancing as a writer and editor.
My freelancing career started out with a smooth transition from one full-time job to two part-time gigs that offered enough projects to keep me busy and enough money to keep food on the table.
But, as every freelancer knows, there are ups and downs in freelancing. Clients finish their projects and don’t need any more help. There are personality differences or style differences to overcome. And sometimes, jobs aren’t what they were supposed to be.
None of those things are bad, it just takes some strategy to make things work.
It wasn’t long before I discovered for myself the valuable lesson I’d heard from other freelancers: don’t put all your eggs in one basket. Find more than one client. I also learned how to prioritize my time well, to make sure I’d finish everything on deadline. Of course, I found my favorite places to work.
But the most important lesson I learned has nothing to do with clients, deadlines, or work spaces. It’s about mentality.
If you’re hoping to have a successful freelancing career, you have to know how to do one main thing really well: hustle.
Talent, good projects, and classy client relations can get you far, but if you don’t hustle, they’re almost worthless. So, how do you hustle? I’m so glad you asked. I’ve developed three simple rules.
1. Always start the next thing. Especially in today’s economy, there’s really no guarantee that any gig will be stable long term. But, instead of becoming the victim of a change, you can be ahead of the game. Do you think you’ll want a podcast in six months? Start it now. Would a website help you look more credible as your client base grows? Make one today (with 90% of website builders, it’s super cheap and easy). Don’t wait on the next opportunity — it’s the difference between living paycheck to paycheck and developing sustainable income.
2. Expect it to be hard. Let’s face it: work is work, no matter where you’re doing it or what it is. Freelancing is a unique niche, because most freelancers like what they do. However, at the end of the day, managing your expectations can change your career. If you expect it to be easy, you’ll live in a state of constant frustration. Work isn’t easy. That’s what makes it work. But if you prepare for a challenge and work hard, you’re more likely to succeed.
3. Aim for quality work over quantity work. There are two main camps of freelancing: drone work and thoughtful work. Drone work is comparable to moving a pile of sand with a pair of tweezers. It’s tedious, dull, and pretty much anyone can do it. Thoughtful work engages the mind and the intellect, and often, thoughtful work is from a client who’s willing to consider your opinions and ideas. At the end of the day, even though quantity jobs do pay the bills, aim for quality projects. It’s a much better burnout prevention plan.
I have a long way to go and a lot to learn, but 120 days in, I’ve become an expert at one thing: The hustle.