I know many people think they can just start calling themselves a freelancer and the clients will come. I will admit I thought the same way also. Unfortunately, that is not how it works. You got to take risks and really put yourself out there for people to find you. If you are hiding in the depths of the internet then you, most likely will not have any clients. You got to get courage any way you can. I will admit to downing some liquid courage before sending an email introducing myself. I got knocked down many times, but I have also made some really good friends and clients along the way.
One of the hardest lessons I learned last year is you gotta keep your finances in order. Just because you have no idea how much you made don’t mean that Uncle Sam is too dumb to know. Trust me the IRS will catch up to you. If you don’t keep everything separate then it will come back to bite you in the ass. Trust me I found out the hard way. I had all my personal stuff mixed in with my business stuff and it took me and an accountant a month to get it all straightened out. Another lesson is to keep all of your receipts. I use Expensify for this. I can just upload stuff and it creates fancy looking reports for my accountant. All in all, this was a VERY expensive mistake that I made cause I failed to research self-employment very carefully. Don’t let it happen to you.
I never realized just how alone I would be. Hours spent on blog posts and promoting and connecting on social media. When friends wanted to go out I would stay in and do more work. Don’t get me wrong I loved almost every minute of it, but there were times when I would just get so lonely and wondered if I was cut out for the freelance lifestyle. I am still in the stages of trying to gain traction so I still pour my heart and soul into this, but I will be the first one to say that it is a long and hard road to the top. Those ultra-successful people you see in the blogging world have worked their asses off to get where they are and they deserve everything that they have. I just keep telling myself that it is all worth it in the end.
Another mistake that I made is that I neglected self-care and I paid heavily for it. I ate junk, did not work out and spent hours and hours tied to my computer. I got back that cramps up and I got sick the last part of the year. I finally realized that I had to take care of ME if I was going to succeed. I do best on a paleo diet and if I was going to be able to move I needed to work out and throw in some yoga to stretch my muscles.
My creativity also came to a standstill. In the Artist Way, the author talks about how you have to continually refill the creative well or it will go dry. When I first read that I thought it was a bunch of crap but now I can tell you it is very true. As a creative professional, you have to engage in activities that exercise your creative muscles or you will find yourself staring at a blank screen with no idea of what to write.
I learned quite by accident that if I am working on a piece of writing and it is just not coming together if I jump in the shower and just forget about it for a few minutes then my brain will come up with something brilliant. I have used this trick more times than I care to admit. Let’s just say I am REALLY clean these days.
I am so glad that I managed to build a network of other freelancers that get where I am coming from when I talk about blog stats and traffic and all of that. My friends in more traditional jobs think I am insane to be worried about how many repins I got on Pinterest but my freelancer friends know exactly what I mean when I get all excited that I got 300 visitors FINALLY after spending days building up my network on Pinterest.
To help build your creative well engage in more creative pursuits. Don’t try and make money off of it just do it for fun. I like to take pictures. I know they will never end up in a magazine, but it helps me exercise all my creative muscles and I find that the ideas flow more when I do this.
I also had to restrain myself when I first started out. I wanted ALL the programs and technology. I realized later that half I did not even need. This was another expensive mistake. I quickly realized I only needed a few programs to get started and to maintain the business.
I also learned not to be afraid to invest in your business. Like many people would think that paying 17hats is expensive but having everything in one program is so much easier than having 6 different programs. There are times when you have to put in money such as for a website in order to move your business forward.
The ONE thing I wished I had done was to make a business plan. I really had no roadmap of where I wanted to go. I thought as long as I was getting clients that were good enough. I later realized that doing business without any kind of plan was not the best idea. It is beneficial if you have a roadmap of where you want to go. Like do you want to live the laptop lifestyle? Would you rather be in a cabin in the mountains and commune with nature? Once you know where you want to end up, you can reverse engineer it so you can take the appropriate steps to make your dream come true.
It has almost been a year since I started freelancing. This year has brought many surprises and rewards. I never thought that I would be making a living as a writer, but here I am. While the rewards have been many there were still plenty of hard lessons that I learned last year.