This is a post from a member of the Freelancers Union community. If you’re interested in sharing your expertise, your story, or some advice you think will help a fellow freelancer out, feel free to send your blog post to us here.
Working as a freelancer is hugely rewarding, but it’s also not for the faint of heart.
Freelancers are able to define their own working hours, to choose where to work from and to be their own boss, but as with most things in life, it’s a trade-off.
One of the biggest downsides to freelancing is the inherent instability that comes when you’re making a living from the work you can get from your reputation. Many people worry that they won’t be able to balance the books or to take enough work on, but while that fear might never fully go away, there’s plenty you can do to reduce it.
Here’s how to get started.
Be prepared for droughts
There will always be times when the work dries up. At the same time, there will also be times when you’re offered so much work that you can’t possibly take it all on. The key to a successful work/life balance as a freelancer is to keep a close eye on how much work you’re taking on and to have a plan in place for when you’re not as busy.
Remember that if the work dries up, that’s no excuse to take a little time off. Instead, you can use the time to proactively chase new clients and to do some of the admin that you don’t usually get time to work on. Every cloud has a silver lining, and this particular cloud will allow you to sort out your record-keeping and infrastructure.
Planning is everything – and if you fail to prepare, you prepare to fail. That’s why it’s so important for freelancers to plan wisely and to make a schedule that allocates enough time for them to get the work done.
Remember that when you work for an employer, they usually do the hard work for you – you just show up to work, check your planner and do whatever you’re told to do. When you work for yourself, you need to take a more active role in your own schedule, effectively acting as your own PA to make sure that you have enough time to get everything done without sacrificing quality.
Maintain strong relationships
In business, relationships are everything. This is even more relevant for freelancers, who are basically tapping in to those relationships to rake in enough money to make a living. That’s why it’s so important to build strong relationships with your clients and to go out of your way to make their lives easier. They’ll remember it, and that means that they’ll go from being a one-off client to a repeat client who simply can’t get enough of you.
This will help to create a good reputation and to encourage people to keep on coming back – effectively increasing both your one-off workload and your retained workload at the same time. That’ll make your position and your income more stable.
Make an emergency fund
When I was working for AussieWritings.com, I used to put away my freelance income to one side so that when I started freelancing full-time, I had my savings to keep myself going. It’s an attitude that I’ve stuck to in the years since, so now I always keep enough in the bank to keep me going for at least three months without any new work coming in.
But different people find themselves in different positions. If you can’t put aside large chunks of your income, just squirrel away 5-10% each month. You’ll barely notice it at the time, but it’ll come in useful if you lose a major client or don’t have any new work coming in. The key is to crunch the numbers and to save as much as you can without it interrupting your day-to-day operations or your overall cost of living.
Freelancing is scary. Worse still, there will always be a certain level of fear and uncertainty, even after you’ve been freelancing for years and you’ve established yourself in the market.
The key is to familiarize yourself with both the risks and the rewards. Accept that the uncertainty will be there and push past it. Like anything else in life, if you want to reap the rewards of the freelance life, you’ll need to put the work in.
Just make a plan for success and follow through with it. You’ll be making a living as a freelancer in no time.
Olivia is a journalist who always tries to see the bright side of things. She likes to inspire people in her writings and enjoy a mysterious beauty of twilight. Connect with her on Twitter.