Walking out your freelance success means finding what ignites your creative spirit and then pursuing it with boldness. No matter what direction you take, you have to take it. And right now is the greatest time ever to begin understanding what makes you come alive and then preparing to make it happen.
In this article, we are talking about how the changing market has paved a way for freelancers and how you can set a foundation to grow up your freelance success.
The last several years have put freelancing in a new light. Working from home, contract workers, and gig workers has become more of a normal situation. PowerPublish shared a story about the change in the freelance market, pointing out that companies are starting to recognize the strength in hiring freelancers.
Companies may be returning to the offices, but not all jobs are returning to the office. Freelancing has long provided the flexibility to work from home or to work on your own schedule, and the last several months have allowed traditional office workers to see the benefit of freelancing.
The Los Angeles Times ran an article about the shift in focus to the freelance arena (and included some great tips for living out a freelance life). Now is the time to move to freelance or to expand your freelancing focus because of the shift in understanding.
Ask yourself what makes you come alive and go do that because what the world needs is people who have come alive. – Howard Thurman
How to Get Started in Freelance
- Networking: “Getting out from behind my computer to attend community events, to learn, teach, and connect with others,” says Apps. “Not only does this help build my network, but also continually improves my skill set and my mental health.”
- Consistency: “The most important thing I did to establish myself was consistently showing up,” says Schulp. “I firmly believe there is no better path to success: show up, help out, be genuine, be knowledgeable, and be honest.”
- Systems and process: “My projects became more successful and seamless when I set up systems and workflows on how my company delivers websites from start to finish,” says Mwangi. “Now I have automated almost all the steps on what happens from the time I get an email inquiry about my services to the date I publish a client’s project. My team and I now have more time to be creative because we’re not lost in a sea of unorganized client emails or performing redundant tasks.”
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- Explaining your why: “Storytelling is the number one tool that increased awareness of my company,” says Mwangi. “In today’s digital space, people literally have millions of choices when deciding who to hire for web design. I realized quickly that doing great design work isn’t enough.”
Haven’t yet defined your why? These seven questions can help you hone in on your uniqueness.
- Make new friends: “Surrounding yourself with people who can help you formulate clear ideas around your business helps,” says McFarlin. For him, that’s been a mastermind group—something he was initially hesitant to join.
- Keep the old: “Hands down the best and most important decision was not going down this journey alone,” says Atchison about finding success with a product. “Specifically, choosing a business partner that compliments your own skillset.”
What Does Freelancing Look Like?
In 2005, I moved from an office job to freelancing (and I didn’t even know what it meant to be a freelancer). I had started my family and with baby two in the mix, I decided that I needed to stay home, but I wanted to continue to contribute to the family income.
Working as a freelance writer allowed me to use nap time and time after the boys went to bed to get work done.
In 2018, I began working more in freelance event organizing. It required me to do more out-of-the-house work and also pushed me to work hours that aligned with regular office hours.
The point is that freelance work looks like something that wraps around your life. Sometimes it will be late night or all night projects. Other times it will be nine-to-fiveish type projects.
What do you think of or imagine when you think about freelancing?
Build Your Freelance Confidence
Confidence can be a major challenge for freelancers. It’s easy to think freelancers are full of guts and bravado, stepping out on their own ready to be their own boss. But the reality is freelancers aren’t always so confident.
A lack of confidence is one of the top things that can stop freelancers from succeeding. But the painful reality is that nearly every freelancer struggles with confidence. Too often freelancers suffer from imposter syndrome.
Imposter Syndrome is an inability to internalize your accomplishments and a persistent fear of being exposed as a fraud.
For example, if you’ve ever balked at raising your rates, worried that you can’t possibly charge that much—you’re dealing with Imposter Syndrome. More signs? If you secretly compare your abilities to those around you, and it’s hard for you to accept compliments about your work, you’re probably dealing with Imposter Syndrome.
Grow Confidence to Live Your Passion
1. Identify the Stumbling Blocks
Identify what’s undermining your confidence, and address it. This can vary wildly depending on the individual and what works or doesn’t work for them. Maybe you don’t have the experience or you lack the skills or you don’t have the business sense. Whatever is holding you back, identify it, and figure out how to neutralize it.
- Don’t have the experience you think you need? Nothing like learning on the job.
- Do you lack the skills you need? Take some classes.
- Don’t know anything about business? Find a mentor. Hire an accountant. Take a class.
2. Face Your Finances
Every freelancer struggles with finances. Finances are a common stressor, and worrying about them can seriously undermine your confidence. Even veteran freelancers can be shaken by the feast or famine cycle of freelancing. So shoring up that bank account can go a long way.
Freelance money management is actually really simple. You don’t need to know a lot, you just need to do it.
Money management is 5% knowledge, 95% behavior.
Here’s the complicated financial knowledge you need to get your head around: Spend less than you make.
That’s obvious. There’s no secret knowledge here. You just have to make simple, smart decisions and follow through. That’s the hard part.
So get your expenses under control and stabilize your income. Recognize those two sides to freelance money management and you’ll be in good shape:
- Recurring income strengthens your business.
- Recurring expenses weaken your business.
4 Steps for Stable Freelance Money Management
Let’s cover four basic steps to manage your money. Remember: It’s all about behavior. We’re not dropping earth-shattering knowledge here.
Step 1: What Are Your Business Finances?
The first step to any progress in freelance money management is to know your situation. What’s your income? What are your expenses? Get a handle on where things are at. (See? It’s not rocket science.)
Step 2: Create a Budget
Next, you need a budget. A lot of people groan at the idea of a budget, but it’s simply a plan for your money. Figure out how you’re going to spend every dollar. Reduce expenses wherever you can. This is crucial to creating financial stability.
You should also give yourself a steady paycheck. Actually, pay yourself the same amount each month. This is important for stability in your personal finances and in your business. This can help you avoid either of the two extremes: vastly underpaying yourself or spending all your business profit on personal expenses.
Step 3: Build a Buffer
Save two to three months’ salary in your business account as a buffer. This creates stability in lean months. If you have that much saved, work toward five to six months.
You never know what’s going to happen—when a client may fall through or a project gets dropped. You need some margin to weather those storms, so build a buffer to keep your business safe.
Step 4: Get Out of Debt
The best way to keep your freelance money management on track is to avoid debt. Some debt is necessary, such as a home mortgage, but try to minimize or completely avoid consumer debt like credit cards.
If you do have debt, work to pay it off quickly. Reduce your expenses to free up money to pay down your debt faster. Use the debt snowball approach where you pay off your small loans first and then snowball those payments to the larger loans so you gain momentum.
If you have a business credit card, always pay it off each month. If you can’t pay it off, trade it in for a debit card. And don’t fall for the “free rewards” trick.
3. Don’t Go it Alone
Sometimes freelancing can be a lonely business. You often work alone in a home office or alone in a crowded coffee shop. Especially for an extrovert, all that alone time can be draining.
Find people to connect with. But not just folks to hang out with—be intentional. Find mentors who can help and challenge you. Find fellow strugglers who understand what it’s like and hold each other accountable.
When you have people to talk to who understand the freelance world, things won’t seem quite so strange and alien. You’ll have more confidence moving in this world when you know you’re not alone.
Check out our Freelance Leap Year course to get the help you need to grow your business and join a community of fellow freelancers.
4. Celebrate Wins
Since freelancing can be a lonely business, even when you win big there’s often no one there to exchange high-fives with (except maybe your fellow coffee shop patrons; hey, high-fives with strangers is better than nothing). Sometimes you have to pat yourself on the back.
Take time to reflect on and celebrate your wins. Treat yourself to lunch. Reward yourself with a walk in the park. Take that vacation you’ve been pining for—even if it’s just a weekend away.
Taking time to celebrate a win and focus on the positive is actually a proven way to overcome the mind-numbing busyness that can ruin your work.
“We have to reward ourselves once in a while. It’s easy to feel guilty for doing this, but if you never reward yourself, you’ll burn out.” -Patrick Neve
5. Confront Your Fears
Often a lack of confidence is about a specific challenge that’s holding you back. More than something you just don’t know, it’s something you’re afraid of. The only way forward is to confront your fears.
If you’re afraid of public speaking, start doing it.
If you don’t like giving pitches, give pitches.
If you struggle with talking on the phone, force yourself to make more calls.
The only way to overcome these things is to do them and get better at them.
6. Focus on Your Strengths
Yes, some of this advice has talked about addressing your weaknesses, and that’s important. But it’s also good to lean into your strengths. Often your strengths are where you can have the greatest advantage as a freelancer.
Narrowing in on a freelance niche is always an effective strategy, and when it’s a strength, it’s one where you’ll excel. It’s a good way to be known for something, and that’s a major confidence builder.
7. Never Stop Learning
Growing, learning, and stretching your skills are good ways to build confidence. There’s always something new out there, and rather than be overwhelmed and intimidated by it, devour it. Learn it. Apply it. Then charge for it.
“Never stop learning and never stop trying new things.” -Brian Casel
8. Embrace Failure
Everybody makes mistakes. The important thing is to learn from those mistakes and get better. Don’t obsess over a mistake and allow it to undermine your confidence. Learn from failure, change your process, and use it to become better.
Don’t let failure stop you. Use it to move you forward.
9. Don’t Compare
It’s tempting to compare yourself to others in the freelance world. That’s a losing game. There’s always someone who’s more put together, doing better work, making more money, taking more vacation—making you feel less than. But they’ve also been doing it longer, are in a different niche, have different skills, and have different priorities. Be your own person. Learn from other people, sure, but don’t get dragged into the comparison game.
If you’re going to compare yourself to anyone, compare yourself to your clients. In their eyes, you’re a magician. You can do things they have no idea how to do, and they’re happy to pay you to do them.
10. Control What You Can
Shonda Rhimes runs a multi-million dollar TV empire (Grey’s Anatomy, Scandal—that’s her), yet she also struggled with confidence. She overcame it by saying yes and embracing a whole series of things. What’s most compelling about her story is many of those things had little to do with work. Being confident in your personal life, where you can control some things, can bleed into your professional life, where you often have less control.
There’s a lot that’s out of your hands as a freelancer. So being on top of the things you can control is one way to build confidence. Dress for success. Exercise. Eat well. Get sleep. If you take care of yourself, you’ll lower stress, you’ll have more energy, you’ll feel better. That won’t fix every challenge you face as a freelancer, but it will make you better able to tackle them.
More Freelance Success Support
Let’s be honest: A lot of days you’re going to feel a lack of confidence. Even if you do all of the above, you’re still going to have those days. The key is to carry forward.
Eventually, you’ll realize you’ve had fewer of those days and more days when you actually can do it all. You never see the progress in building confidence because it’s not a wall in front of you, it’s a foundation below you. You’re often so busy doing the work that you don’t realize the ground has shifted from shaky to solid.
That’s how you become confident as a freelancer. It’s slow and it happens one day at a time. But you can do it.
Investing in learning more, connecting more, and more accountability will help you grow your freelance success and iThemes Training provides all of the above and so much more.
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Challenge: Think about your uniquenesses. Come up with five to ten ways you can utilize those to launch your freelance success. Now determine to take one step towards your success in the next week. Be sure to share your journey to encourage others and to get encouragement for your next step.
Are you ready to build your awesome life? We’re here to help.
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Kathryn Lang believes it is simple, and as an award-winning author and natural-born hopesmith, she shares tips on how to find your why, pursue your purpose, and live a bold, intentional life – always with a dash of twisted encouragement.