• Advice

The Hustling Freelancer

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 4: Hustling Freelancer

As a Hustling Freelancer, you may have regular clients, but you’re always scrambling to find new clients and fill in gaps. Everything seems to take a lot of effort and it’s wearing you out. You start to crave safety and stability.

You need more gigs now! You’ve had some regular gigs, but there are still gaps that can make you extremely stressed. Instead of marketing constantly, you wait until your last gig ends, which means you can’t save and you’re constantly scrambling.

Safe gigs > Learning: Your gigs match your skills but can underuse higher level skills and don’t encourage you to learn new things. You play it safe and only apply to gigs you could do easily.

Stressed and flighty: You’re so busy getting and keeping gigs that you don’t have time to relax either alone or with friends and family. This poses risks to your physical and mental health, but without adequate health insurance (you may have a catastrophe plan, but little else!), you’re also stressed about your health and the financial risk of getting sick.

This still isn’t a real job…. While you’re beginning to be more confident in your skills, you work very hard to make clients accept you so that they’ll return and refer, or may overpromise during the negotiating phase, which means you’re frequently working hard, fast, and accepting less money for it. You still feel like freelancing is not quite a “real job,” and so clients and family members are more likely to undervalue you. You may let clients misuse you, either by signing away Intellectual Property rights you could keep, letting them dictate how you work, or “sucking it up” when they ask for 20 revisions or make other inappropriate demands.

How do you move beyond the Hustling Freelancer? Become an Empowered Freelancer by:

  • Attending a networking event in your industry. Over time, this will lead you to understand the value of a well-developed network, so that gigs come more easily and you don’t have to scramble each time you have a gap.
  • Attend networking events with other freelancers, so that you have many models for how to advance your freelance career and you get advice from others who have been “in the trenches.” If you live in Portland or NYC, come to one of ours.
  • Set aside defined time to spend with your family and friends. Although it seems at first that this threatens your ability to make money, you’ll find that greater relaxation and better relationships improve your mood and your health, so that you’re better able to work creatively and return to work with a fresh mind.
  • Apply to gigs that stretch your skills, as well as “safe” gigs.
  • Start saving for dry periods. Even if it’s just $30 a week, a small amount can make a big difference to your peace of mind.
  • Learn how other freelancers are finding gigs with social media or email marketing. Set up online profiles and start planning for how you’ll use these tools to expand your network (or reinforce the network of people you met at networking events & out with friends).