The Empowered Freelancer

Jan 16, 2014

What kind of freelancer are you? Network-rich or house-bound? Business suit or PJ’s? Enjoying your freedom or longing for the 9-5?

This week, we unveiled your new roadmap to freelance nirvana: The Freelancers Pyramid of Self-Actualization, a semi-serious name for your super-serious path from pawn to Project Killer, Client Czar, and Director of Gig Domination, to someone who gives back and builds what’s good.

Find where you are on the Pyramid and look up to see where you’re headed as each level of the Pyramid is unveiled in the coming week. You’ll get tips on how to rise up the ranks and become your best freelance self through wit, guts, and heart. Tell us where you fit and share your freelance goals in the comments below.

Level 3: Empowered Freelancer

You have an active network of clients and partnerships. You know people, you have (mostly) consistent work, your income is stabilized, and you’ve set aside some savings. You’ve hustled your way to the point where clients come back to you.

However, you still suffer from a bit of post-hustle insecurity: Am I doing this right? Do my clients appreciate me? How do I grow my business from here? You’re mainly thinking about short or mid-term goals (“what can get me more work in the next month?”) than expanding your skills. But you feel safe in your career, and grateful for the clients you have.

“Content to be a freelancer”: As you feel more comfortable and secure, you begin to acknowledge your own skills and feel glad that freelancing has given you an opportunity to express them fully. This sense of acceptance may help you expand your network; you can become good at social media and regularly market yourself in a way that gets you new clients regularly. However, you still compare yourself to others “more successful than you” and may still believe success = money, power, or influence.

Being there for your family and yourself: Life without health insurance may have been OK for a short period of time, but you’re relieved to finally have a comprehensive health care plan for yourself and your family. Plus, now that you’re no longer hustling night and day, you can allow an hour or two a day for yourself. That might mean a jog around the block, a yoga class, or just some quiet time with a book you’re dying to read. You’re able to take short vacations from time to time, though it’s still a bit difficult to “turn off” entirely.

Engaging in your community: You’ve been working long enough to establish a network, which has led you to become more involved in the community. As a result, you may become interested in spending some time volunteering your skills. You might start contributing towards some short-term community goals that directly affect yourself, your friends and your family.

What’s Next? You know your community. You have clients, friends, and fellow freelancers. Now that you have a solid network and are no longer spending every second of your days hustling, it’s time to move on the next stage of the pyramid: The Influential Freelancer.

  • Become a regular presence at networking events and other events specific to your field. Chances are you’ll already know many of the people in attendance and just as they’ll recognize you as an active, engaged freelancer, they’ll see you as the same.
  • You’ve been in the game long enough to know who the Influential Freelancers in your field are. Focus on remaining in touch with them in order to become a part of their network. You’ve networked before, so this shouldn’t be new to you.
  • Work at developing a greater sense of self-worth. You're not working for a client, your client is commissioning your expertise for their project. Recognize that you’re now an established independent worker, and as such you have marketable skills and expertise.
  • However, just because you have the skills doesn’t mean that you can take it easy. Make sure that you’re active in keeping those skills sharp and staying up to date regarding developments in your industry. When the market changes, you should be able to pivot seamlessly in a way that will ensure that you’re never out of work. Keep learning!
  • You’ve made your way through the most stressful of circumstances. In that way, the hardest part is over. That’s not to say that there will be no stressful moments on the horizon (there certainly will be), but at this point you should be familiar with stress, and therefore able to use it to your advantage (or at least have proven methods for dealing with it).
  • You should start going beyond a simple marketing strategy in order to focus more intensely on developing a brand strategy.