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Freelancing Isn’t Easy

Freelancing Isn’t Easy

Freelancing can be the most rewarding experience of your life. You get to decide when you work and who you work for. You can take vacations whenever you want. If you’re sick, you can simply take the day off. Have something to do in the middle of the day? Do it. You are your own boss with no one to answer to! Those are the benefits of freelancing and some of what drew all of us into this lifestyle.

You have no idea how many close friends and family members have seen how “easy” I have it with freelancing and ask how they too, can do what I do. Well, if you’ve read just a handful of my articles, you know this is what I love doing the most – helping others become successful freelancers! Do you know how many of these friends and family members are freelancing today? Zero. Not a single one. That’s because…

Freelancing Is Hard Work

Getting that level of freedom in freelancing doesn’t come easy. It doesn’t happen overnight. It takes a shit load of hard work and dedication to get there! A lot of people aren’t willing to put that work in. A lot of people are looking for a “lottery ticket”, if you will – some tip or trick that lets them instantly have the life they want. Well, that isn’t how freelancing works. Hell, that isn’t how anything I know of in life works. You get out of it what you are willing to put in. There are trade-offs with everything!

First of all, it isn’t good enough to just have a skill. Even if you are a rock star with whatever skill you want to offer to the world, you are going to need clients. You are a freelancer so this means you are going it alone. It is up to you to do everything. You are a marketer. You are a salesperson. You are an accountant. You are the entire HR department. You are everything in your business.

You Wear Many Hats as a Freelancer

Look, I’m not trying to scare you off from freelancing. Like I said before, this can be the most rewarding decision you’ve ever made. It can provide a level of freedom most folks only dream of. It will take a lot of work to get there, however. You won’t have many of these luxuries right out of the gate.

All of the glamorous things you see written about freelancing can be true. I feel a lot of the stuff you read about it often brushes over the truth in hopes of selling you a course or book about freelancing. They don’t want to risk scaring you away. Well, I’m not trying to sell you anything here. I have no motivation to lie to you or sugar coat anything. Freelancing is fucking hard! A lot of people don’t make it. That’s the truth.

Self Discipline is Key

Maintaining a successful freelancing business requires a lot of self discipline. You are the boss. You make your schedule and there is no one to answer to but yourself. It’s very easy to fuck off on days you’re just not feeling it. If you make this a habit though, your business will suffer!

It’s not as simple as creating a gig and watching the orders roll in. Especially starting out, it might take weeks or even months to get your first gig.

You’re going to have to work long hours. To reach the level of freedom that first drew you to the world of freelancing, you are going to have to bust your ass for a while. I’m not one of these guys that wears their burnout as a badge of honor. I understand we all need breaks and our mental and physical health is very important. But, starting out, it’s more than likely going to require you putting in a lot more time than you signed up for.

Difficult roads lead to beautiful destinations

Not only do you have to spend time learning new tasks to help you run your business, but you are probably going to be doing some work for much less than you’d like to be paid. There is no shame in that. We’ve all done it and it’s kind of a right of passage. If we have no portfolio to speak of, we sometimes have to do some low paid or even free work to build a bad ass portfolio.

Always Do Your Best Work

I’m going to tell you a quick story about when I was probably 14 or 15 years old. There was a small, country church a few miles from my house. You could find probably 20-30 people there on any given Sunday or Wednesday, when they had their services.

Churches like this don’t have a lot of money to operate so it’s usually the congregation that helps take care of everything. While we weren’t members of this church, my Dad knew some folks that attended it through people at our church. He volunteered to cut their grass since we lived fairly close to it. Every Saturday I would go with him and it would take the two of us around an hour to get the job done.

This church sat on a fairly steep hill. Dad was able to get the majority of it cut with the riding mower and my job was to use the weed eater around the church and a few of the steeper spots that the riding mower couldn’t get.

I remember this particular Saturday, I had plans with some friends. Dad wouldn’t give me permission to go until I’d helped him knock this out. I hurried around, getting my part done. We loaded everything up and were ready to leave. Before we made a trip around the driveway (it was a loop that went completely around the perimeter of the hill so you could see the entire property) he asked me if I’d gotten everything. I responded, “Yes”, in a rush to get home and shower so I could go out. (And I honestly thought I had gotten it all.)

As we drove around, there was a small patch of a steep, rocky area, probably 10ft by 4ft where some grass was sticking up. He stopped the truck and pointed it out to me, asking me to grab the weed eater to knock it down real quick.

I said, “It’s just one small spot. They don’t even pay us to do this so they will appreciate anything we do. It doesn’t look that bad. Let’s just grab it next week.”

Not The Exact Church From my Story

I’ll never forget the look of total disappointment on his face as he said, “Son, it doesn’t matter what they are or aren’t paying us to do the job. I put my name on this. I’m responsible for making sure it looks nice. Everyone knows I’m the one that cuts this grass. I don’t want to be known as someone who half way does something. That is what everyone will think if we leave this until next week. You should always do any job, no matter what you’re getting paid, to the best of your abilities or people will think that’s the type of person you are.”

For some reason, that always stuck with me. It was one of those profound learning moments in life and it helped shape the person I am today. Maybe it was the look on his face that made it stick with me. I mean TOTAL disappointment! Whatever the reason, I’m thankful for that moment.

I can honestly say, since that day, I don’t think I’ve ever half-assed anything! He was right! I don’t want to be known as a person that half-asses things. I want to be known as a guy that if he is hired to do something, it will be done correctly and to the best of my abilities and you should too!

Not only do you want something awesome to put in your portfolio but this sets the stage for your freelancing career. Even if you agree to do work at a discounted rate or even for free for your local non-profit, it should be treated as if you’re getting a million bucks for it. You want to be proud of it. If you approach every gig you get like this, I promise you will be able to enjoy those perks of freelancing much sooner because your schedule will fill up quicker than ever.

Freelancing Can Be Stressful

Freelancing can be very stressful at times. I recently ran across a great post on LinkedIn by a freelance copywriter that had some great points and kind of inspired this article. She points out all of the things that are stressful about starting a freelancing business and from personal experience, I can say she is spot on!

When we are doing it all (usually totally by ourselves) and having to work so hard, it’s very important to be aware of our stress levels. None of us got into freelancing to have a nervous freaking breakdown so don’t allow that to happen to you. If you find you are getting too stressed out, take a step back. Examine what is stressing you out the most and come up with a plan to relieve some of that stress.

If it is a certain task that is stressing you out about running your business, you might look into outsourcing that to another freelancer, someone that specializes in just that. Not only will they probably do a better job than you, but you’re now free to concentrate on all the other things in your business.

Avoid Burnout

Like I said before, I am not crazy about how a lot of people wear their burnout as a badge of honor. I see a lot of posts bragging about the 80+ hours someone has put in this week, in an effort to somehow attempt to make you feel less if you’ve only put in 40 hours.

While it can take working a lot of hours, especially when starting out, we must be careful to avoid burnout. You don’t want to grow to hate what you love just because you are working too much. Know your limits. If you start feeling burnout setting in, take a break. There is absolutely nothing wrong with that!

I truly don’t advocate for folks being overworked. Hell, that is about as anti-freelancing as I can think. None of us chose this life to work more

What are some tips you’d give to folks just starting out in freelancing? Let’s continue the conversation in the comments below.

About The Author

JD Simpkins

JD Simpkins is the creator and founder of GroLancer, The Freelancer's Growth Platform. As a web developer, he fell in love with freelancing back in 2005. He has mentored many up-and-coming freelancers over the years and developed a passion for helping others work towards their dreams. He used a lot of tools to run his freelancing business and remembers how expensive this became. That's when he decided to build GroLancer, not only to share information with aspiring and established freelancers but wanted to offer all of the tools a freelancer needs to run their business and make it affordable to everyone, no matter what level they are at in their career!

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