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I’ll be honest: When I started freelancing in 2012, I had no idea what I was doing. Fake it until you make it, I told myself.
Along the way — and really, by nothing more than trial and error — here are the 10 lessons that allowed me to go from an entry-level freelancer, working with local businesses in Los Angeles, to an lifestyle entrepreneur, working with brands across the USA, Europe, the Middle East, and Asia.
1. Don’t underestimate your current skills.
Think about skills the same way we think about businesses: small, medium, big. If you have “small” set of skills, or a “small” amount of experience, you’d be a great fit to work with small businesses that have small budgets. If you have a “bigger” set of skills, or a “bigger” amount of experience, you’d be a great fit to work with bigger businesses that have bigger budgets.
You just have to match your skill set and experience to the right type of client.
2. The moment you become uncomfortable is the moment you start to grow.
Identify your comfort zone (mental or physical), and force yourself out of it. This could mean moving to a new city or country; waking up earlier so you have more time to work on your business, even though you prefer to sleep in; quitting your job; or getting out of a relationship that’s holding you back, just to list a few examples.
3. Word-of-mouth, on its own, is not a marketing strategy.
While word-of-mouth is the strongest form of marketing, it’s also an unpredictable roller coaster ride. A real marketing strategy creates a streamlined approach to consistently generate relevant, quality leads — so you don’t have to worry about when your next potential client will arrive at your doorstep. For starters, dive into LinkedIn and email marketing.
4. “…people of accomplishment rarely sat back and let things happen to them. They went out and happened to things.” — Leonardo da Vinci
Revisit lessons two and three.
5. If you want to manage and grow a successful freelance business over the long run, you have to reinvent yourself, your services, and your vision.
What got you here won’t get you there. ABR: always be reinventing.
6. The first step of change is to become aware of your own BS.
As it pertains to your skills and developing expertise, realize what you’re good at (your strengths) and what you enjoy (your passions). Also realize what you’re not so good at (your weaknesses) and what you don’t enjoy (your pains). Then, craft a set of services that intersect at your strengths and passions, and disregard any services that have to do with your weaknesses and pains.
7. Masters do not do 4,000 things. They do a few things 4,000 times.
Less (services) is more (money). Focus on a few core services, and then get really good at these services until you become great at them. Freelancers who are great at a few services always out-compete (charge more money and attract better opportunities) than those who are good at a lot of services.
8. “Success is doing what you want, where you want, when you want and with whom you want, as much as you want.” — Tony Robbins
Don’t measure success by how much money you make, or how many clients you have. Measure success by how much day-to-day freedom you have to do what you want to do in and outside of your business.
9. Understand your most valuable asset: time.
No matter what services you provide, it takes time to provide them. Therefore, time is really what freelancers sell. This is exactly why every freelancer should have an hourly rate from which they base their prices. (Whether or not you actually charge a client per hour should depend on the scope and definition of each project.)
10. Failure is just feedback.
If you’re failing, it means you’re trying. If you’re trying, it means you’re giving yourself more opportunities to succeed. If you’re giving yourself more opportunities to succeed, it’s only a matter of time before you will succeed.
Josh Hoffman runs Epic Freelancing, where he teaches people how to combine financial success, creative freedom and lifestyle design. Get his exclusive video training: $570,000 Worth of Freelance Lessons.