Are you looking at freelance fulltime but not sure where your focus should be? There’s a lot of courses and information, websites and wonder to behold. And yes, what a designer needs may be different to a copywriter. However, there are always some common issues that plague early-stage freelancers that really don’t have to.
Here are some of the most commonly overlooked areas of freelance life. And what you can do to be ahead of the curve if you decide to freelance fulltime
There’s no such thing as a good client
The mythical belief that there are good clients and bad clients tends to lead all kinds of freelancers into hot water. Sure, different businesses know how to work with freelancers more effectively. And some have been trained bad habits and weird ideas along the way.
But… (and there is a but) your clients are only as good as your client management.
Even the loveliest client can turn into a problem if you don’t manage them well enough. And you can also tame someone else’s (or your own) problem client if you need to.
Poor client management also becomes a massive sink hole of time and brainpower when you freelance fulltime.
What does good client management entail? Two simple things:
Anyone who has ever lived with a toddler or trained a dog knows that without consistent, applied effort and a strong routine is what makes and breaks the situation. And even then, you can’t get everything right 100% of the time.
How do you set yourself up for good client management if you want to freelance fulltime?
- Have a strong terms and conditions. Take the time to think about the common issues you face and articulate them in a usable, visible document
- And use them! Don’t set payment terms and then ignore it when the invoice is late. Or tell your client to only email you during working hours and then start taking calls at 8am on a Saturday
- Be proactive. Waiting for the client to call the shots is a recipe for being at the client beck and call. When you freelance fulltime, part of that time will be spent on communicating with, overcoming objections and making a case for the work with your clients. Schedule time to speak to clients instead of hiding behind email. It’s called client management for a reason
- Protect your delivery timelines. When you freelance fulltime, it’s up to you to estimate how long the project will take and when it will be delivered. If your client runs late with assets or you have something impact your workflow, you will need to renegotiate.
In summary, freelancing isn’t passive. Clients aren’t going to jump in the boat at a moment’s notice, hand you money and a brief, and then disappear until you deliver the project. It’s important to make sure you make enough time to manage your clients. And to charge enough money that time spent doing it won’t impact your bottom line too much.
Resilience is your best asset
There’s a lot of talk in freelancing circles about university degrees, agency backgrounds and what kinds of life experience makes for a successful freelance career. In truth, most of this stuff (as valuable as it can be) is window dressing.
The real proof of whether you will cope as you freelance fulltime is how much resilience you have.
It’s resilience that gets you through the lean times or the moments where clients or projects go wrong. Resilience is what underpins your ability to cope with negative feedback. When a competitor acts oddly towards you, it’s this capacity to get over that situation that sets the tone with relationships going forward. And when situations outside your control such as pandemics, economic downturns, complete dissolution of industries and contract loss happens, it’s that core strength that allows you to find the strength to keep going.
When you freelance fulltime, it’s resilience that drives the ability to pivot under pressure. And that makes it easier for you to be self-aware enough to leave other people’s garbage behind.
But that doesn’t mean you have to be iron strong to freelance.
Resilience in freelancing is fostered through:
- Believing in your abilities and that you have enough power over your situation to shift it or move out from underneath it eventually. Telling yourself you can, even if at that particular point in time you feel as though you can’t, is incredibly powerful. You can achieve this by looking for opportunities to challenge yourself in healthy ways with creative projects, marketing campaigns, accountability pods or study. And once you have a few runs on the board, asking for testimonials, writing up retrospectives and case studies
- Building strong networks and communities. Having others who freelance fulltime or on the side makes a massive difference. Make it your business to find freelancers that can help you improve your craft, learn the art of freelancing, who understand the challenge of self-employment and more. Look for them online and in person
- Sharing your freelance experiences with others. A lot of people come into freelancing assuming they will end up with competitors when instead, they discover friends. And unlike traditional workplace settings, you can choose the workmates and running mates you have! This is part of the magic. Take advantage of it.
- The opportunity to help others. We definitely focus on sharing knowledge in the Freelance Jungle because it helps the newbie freelancers learn and/or avoid mistakes. What doesn’t often get the same coverage is the joy helping and mentoring gives to more seasoned professionals. Teaching and supporting others helps make as better at critical thinking and strengths our resilience in the process
- Finding the friendly resources of good quality. Knowing where you can go for advice on finances or tax, where to seek tips on copywriting, find places that help with stress reduction, get your legal works sorted, specific forums that address needs- all these situations take away some of the mental drain through intellectual labour. There is nothing worse than having a lot of questions and no idea where to get any of them answered. The more you know, the more resilient you become because you realise there is greater opportunity to find out even more information
- Maintaining a sense of humour. The minute you start taking yourself too seriously in freelancing is the minute you’ve lost the game. Have pride in your work and don’t think you have to stand for truly negative crap that sometimes gets flung your way. But also, don’t suck the joy out of freelancing by assuming that professional means stiff as a sailboard or that it’s all work all the time.
Freelancing fulltime means a healthy dose of resilience to go with the harsh and delightful realities.
Staying true to your values matters
It’s not woo-woo to design a working life you are proud of. There are so many risks and impacts you face when you freelance fulltime, you may as well decide incredibly early on what kind of working life you want freelancing to give you.
One of the common issues stressed out freelancers’ face is when they start recreating the difficulties of their previous working lives. This usually takes the most toll when someone starts a freelance fulltime career with their values at the centre only to sacrifice them through self-sabotage.
It’s easy to fall into the same patterns of behaviour if you let money, clients and peer pressure dictate the terms.
However, as grant writer Martina Donkers says it’s your responsibility to be your best boss.
Some of the ways that freelancers help themselves become better bosses include:
- Surrounding your workstation with reminders of why you got into freelancing in the first place
- Writing up goals and inventing your own version of leveling up to aim for
- Working to study more as you freelance fulltime to stay engaged and ahead of the curve
- Joining accountability pods or mastermind groups
- Undertaking leadership training or attending workshops that boost confidence
- Watching what other people do and treating them as unofficial competitors
- Setting yourself goals with giving back and community engagement
- Aiming to enhancing the qualities you possess as a person through the business experience
Whatever reminds you of the reason you got into freelancing in the first instance coupled with the values you hold dear can help keep you on track for longer.