Thinking about going freelance? Here's what I've learned in 6 months of freelance life.
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Can you believe that today marks exactly 6 months of freelancing? Yeah, I can't believe it either. I have no idea where the time has gone or that I'm actually still freelancing and loving it.
A year ago, there were zero thoughts in my head about freelancing. I was loving life at my dream job, and knew it was where I wanted to be for several years. All that changed about 7 months ago when my entire team in NYC was laid off. To say I was devastated was an understatement—I cried as I packed up my desk.
I thought I'd take some time off and adjust to the shock that had just happened, but if you know me, I was updating my resume the very next day, applying to jobs, and reaching out to almost everyone I know. I was in panic mode, mainly because living in NYC is so expensive and I have a ton of student loans.
I had a pretty clear idea of the type of job I wanted to be in, which was like my dream job: involving social media, influencers, and possibly food (I'm obsessed). Unfortunately, it didn't seem like there were a lot of options for me in that space at the time. It was also about to be the holidays aka the worst time for getting a job, if you're unlucky. I just knew I didn't want to take any job because I've done that before.
The mental anguish I felt when I took just any job was pretty unbearable, and included a lot of reoccurring nightmares. I wanted to be selective with my next job. I wanted to feel the same way I felt about my dream job from reading the job description to meeting my managers at my interviews to being excited about going to work. I realized, at the time, there just wasn't an opportunity available that would make me feel the same way, and maybe no place will be like my dream job again. Who knows.
So I took the plunge into freelancing. Here are the things I've learned in 6 months' time.
1. Networking is key.
I would 100% not be surviving without networking. From the urging of my former manager, I reached out to fellow food bloggers that I'd become closer to because of work. I asked them if they or other food bloggers they knew needed help with social, working with brands, etc. They were so kind to refer me to friends of theirs, and I actually got a lot of leads and clients!
This has also been the case with my other freelance work as well, and I'm so grateful to everyone that has helped me along the way.
No matter how embarrassed you might feel to reach out to people for help, you should always try. There's a lot of opportunities within your own network that you might not know about at all. The worst they can do is say no.
2. Turning down a client is 100% okay.
When you start to see the leads rolling in, it's important to be selective. With freelancing, you're the one that has to deal with every single client for every little detail. If you're getting negative vibes from someone or a project, put your foot down and say no.
It's not worth the stress and time to work with a client that you don't think is a fit for you and your services. Your time is better suited to working with clients that you vibe with and also with the ones you think you can make a real change with.
3. Loneliness can be really tough, even as an introvert.
Last time I checked, I'm an INTJ, but I can also be described as an extroverted introvert or even an extrovert if you see me at parties. I like my private time at home a lot, so working from home feels natural to me. But that doesn't mean I don't get lonely.
When I was working in an office, I always had a work bestie aka my work wife. I wouldn't consider myself a Chatty Cathy that wouldn't shut up, but I liked talking with my coworkers and desk-mates to bond with them. It broke up the day really nicely too.
Now, I've noticed that I sometimes get word vomit when I meet up with people in person or video chat with them. I think this is just a product of being at home alone all day, which is something everyone needs to consider when thinking about going freelance. I still think everything would be solved if we got a dog *cough* Michael.
There are a lot of co-working spaces and coffee shops in the city, but for me, I actually don't get as much done because of so much going on! It's a balance I'm still trying to figure out.
4. Having a dedicated workspace is key to productivity.
When I first started freelancing, Michael had just moved into my studio apartment. It wasn't terribly small, but it wasn't big enough for me to have a dedicated workspace of my own. I found myself working on the couch or sometimes in bed, binge watching Friends. It was draining.
It wasn't until we moved into a 1 bedroom that I was finally able to have a dedicated workspace, not just the kitchen table. I find myself so much more productive sitting at a desk instead of on the couch. There are barely any days where I turn on the tv now, which I think is a win! I will sometimes treat myself to a show when I have lunch though.
5. There will be good days and bad days.
You will definitely feel the ups and downs as a freelancer. I sometimes have days where I can't bring myself to work, and will just take a mental health day. But that's the beauty of freelancing. You decide the rules.
Some days, I can't bring myself to sit at my desk all day. I'll end up working on the couch, which I know isn't as productive, but at least I'm doing something that day. Again, it's about balance and about listening to yourself and how you're feeling. You're the one that's putting pressure on yourself, and you have to realize when it's needed and when you should ease off.
6. MANAGING YOUR FINANCES IS A HUGE PRIORITY.
From being in the blogging world and chatting with others, I knew managing my finances would be a huge pain. Because I'm not paying taxes on the income I'm making, I save 30% of everything I make and transfer it to another account for tax time. It can be really depressing to see that much disappear, but you need to make sure you set your prices so that you don't feel regret afterward.
Getting paid can also be stressful too. Depending on your contract, you could be paid 30 days after you submit an invoice! When I decided to go freelance, I invested in Dubsado (use code ANNA for 20% off), which is a platform that allows you to capture leads, send contracts, communicate with clients, send invoices, track income, track your hours, and so much more. You can start a forever free trial up to 3 clients to get started. I also can't say enough about their customer service. They even have a Facebook Group!
I would probably be a hot mess without it. Dubsado even helped me organize all my income to prove to my current landlord that, combined with Michael's salary, we'd be able to pay for our apartment.