We’ve long had a passion for sharing freelance wisdom at HomeWorkingClub.
In this article we have a whole bunch of it from people who are already making a success of freelancing.
In our recent survey, we asked our freelancer respondents to tell us the one key piece of advice they would give to an aspiring freelancer. They did not disappoint!
The replies form a mini “freelance start up guide” that anyone looking to take their first steps in this exciting world would be lucky to receive.
Motivational, realistic, borne from experience, and at times contradictory, here are the top four themes our freelancers focussed on, divided into 24 valuable recommendations. That’s some freelance wisdom right there!
Mindset: Starting the Right Way
Many of our respondents focussed on having the right mindset when entering the world of freelancing. However, they didn’t necessarily agree on the details.
Many advocated for a cautious journey into freelancing, doing some groundwork, and – crucially – ensuring that you have enough money behind you to cope with a potentially slow and varied income.
“Do what you can on the side before quitting your day job and be certain you like it before making it your full-time gig. I was downsized and stumbled into it, but I had a few smaller freelance gigs before losing my job, so I was mostly certain.”
“Go for it! but be organised, plan well and have sufficient money behind you to support you as you begin.”
Others were more gung-ho in their approach!
“Just do it. Figure it out as you go along instead of waiting to figure it out beforehand – because there’s no such thing! Everything changes.” Nadia, WriteBrained.
“Get rid of the fear and just jump in!” Susan Wilkins, Assorted Affairs.
Although these attitudes appear to be at odds with each other, here at HomeWorkingClub we know that everyone’s reasons for entering the freelance arena are different. Perhaps then the key message to take from this is: decide on your approach – cautious or otherwise – then go for it!
The one thing that guarantees you won’t become a successful freelancer is failing to start!
What our contributors did agree on were the key attributes new freelancers should aspire to: flexibility, patience and tenacity.
“You need stamina and determination. Determination to be proactive and continue seeking new opportunities. Stamina to absorb the rejections, dead ends, and detours.” Anita / sabakuINK.
“Don’t give up. Don’t expect too much. Be realistic and change your goals as you go.”
Niches: What do you Want to Do?
Once someone has made the decision to become a freelancer, one of the first questions they often ask is “what should I do?”
That’s not a question anyone else can answer, and we’ve long argued that a better question is, “I want to do xxx, how do I go about it?” Have a read of this article for more on that.
Our surveyed freelancers agreed that finding your niche, and marketing yourself within it, is key to freelance success. This advice however came with a significant caveat: you need to be flexible, innovative and make the most out of any opportunity that might arise.
“Choose an appropriate niche to target. Market yourself extensively and effectively. Be disciplined in your work approach. Be innovative, and differentiate your offering from the average.” Wardwordy.
“Understand why you want to do it and what your goals are.”
“You have got to diversify and research, cast your net wide – very wide – and consider all possibilities, as you never know what might come up. Be alert and ready for anything and everything and think outside the box.” Frank.
A sense of realism and an awareness of the need to pay your dues as a freelancer was evident in many of our survey responses.
Many respondents talked about taking lower paid (and maybe less interesting) work whilst building up experience and reputation. They also advocated for side-gigs and establishing passive income to help weather the “feast or famine” nature of freelancing.
Most of all, they spoke of adaptability, and always being willing to give something a go.
“When starting out, don’t turn your nose up at small, lower-paying jobs. They add up quickly to pay the bills and you gain invaluable experience along the way.” Dr Natasha Beeton-Kempen.
“Have side gigs. It allows you to have income coming in when things are quieter and allows you time to look for the right clients and opportunities with less financial pressure.” Bria Weaver, PR, Events & Content Creator.
“Learn to be comfortable with uncomfortable. Being unsure, embracing the unpredictable and giving “scary new stuff” a go is so worth the freedom this lifestyle brings.” Anna.
Networking: Find your People
I was a little reluctant to include the word “networking” here. Unless you are a natural networker there’s a good chance that the word invokes fear, or at the very least a significant eye-roll!
Nonetheless, networking and building your list of contacts featured heavily in the advice from our freelancers.
“Build your networks in the area that you want to work in. Find ways to meet people (in person or virtually) in your area of work, and let them know what you are offering.”
“Seek out successful freelancers. There is no substitute for hanging around with people (even virtually) who have done exactly what you wish to do.”
Maybe though, we’re talking about networking as something a bit different than the afterwork canapés you might experience in the nine to five.
The value of networking for our respondents was far more about building your own support network, diversifying your client base, and advancing your freelance career – rather than just collecting business cards.
“I found joining a business network helped me find work through referrals, and increased my circle of contacts. It also meant that I was getting out of the house and talking to people, which reduced my risk of social isolation.” Joanna Woodhouse.
“Seek a mentor who is a proven success and emulate him/her.”
“Have many key contacts. And don’t be dependent on one client!”
One contributor summed it up well, illustrating the key difference between freelancing and “working for the man.”
“Define freelancing as not to work for someone, but rather to enter into partnerships.”
The Importance of Loving What you Do
If we’re going to spend our working lives doing work we dislike, we may as well remain an employee and collect a monthly pay check. As such, it was unsurprising that passion for what we do was part of the freelance wisdom many respondents imparted.
“Discover what you love to do and make it into a career.”
“Believe in yourself! Believe that you can succeed, and you’ll find ways through different obstacles. If you don’t, you’ll just find excuses.” Ruben Sequeira.
Ask a group of freelancers why they decided to take the leap into this way of life and chances are the answers will include things like “flexibility,” “freedom,” and “work / life balance.”
This was not lost on so many of our participants. They emphasised the importance of finding joy in your work, and remembering why you started doing it in the first place!
“Make the most of being able to work flexibly and at your own pace. Don’t be ruled by the clock.” ideostone.
“If you want to be successful, you really have to like what you’re doing. If it doesn’t make you happy, you won’t be self-disciplined enough to stick with it consistently. On the other hand, if you love your work, the sky is the limit – even during a pandemic!” Heather Ryerson.
“Learn from your failures, take corrective measures, and keep your eyes on the prize, not on the obstacles. Walk tall with an air of confidence and face your fears to clear them out of your path. Find a cheerleader and reward yourself in the small victories.” Daniel Scott, Automation Specialist, RoboReply.com.
And as one responder so succinctly put it:
“Give yourself the chance to fall in awe with your immense source of abilities. Trust YOU!” Maria Luz Polit.
We are very grateful to all the individuals who took the time to respond to our survey.
The information gives us a priceless insight into the world of freelancing. Freelancers supporting each other is often key to success, so reading through all the advice offered has been inspirational and invaluable.
The overriding message that came through from so many of contributions was a reminder to other freelancers to have confidence and faith in themselves, trust their abilities, and to work hard to achieve their aims. That’s some freelance wisdom we agree with wholeheartedly.
Amy Edye is a freelance Social Media Manager for small businesses and charities. She also provides policy and operational support for local charities, alongside her part-time role at a national charity.