When I started out as an online freelancer in 2006, I felt like I was on cloud nine with my newfound freedom. In my mind, I have now become my own boss. No one could ever tell me what to do again.
But I was wrong. Months into my freelancing stint, I realized that, yes, freelancing gives me the flexibility of time and place to work, but I was still working. Just like my old office job, I still had deadlines.
Being a freelancer doesn’t mean you can do anything. You might have gotten rid of your boss, but you gained a client. Your client may not be like your annoying micromanaging boss, but their expectations are high – in fact, most of the time, higher than what your old boss expects you to do.
Once you become a freelancer, you are on your own. You are now your own brand. Anything you do or do not do will affect your brand. And it will make or break your career.
If you are new to freelancing, here are some tips I learned that may help you with your journey:
1. Don’t accept too many jobs that you can’t handle
Freelancing gives you the opportunity to earn much, much more than you used to earn from your office days. This I realized during the early days of my freelancing career. After my first client, I began receiving offers which paid more than the first one. I was overwhelmed… and became a little greedy. I took the opportunity to earn more. When I computed the time I needed to do the required tasks, I was left with only a few hours of rest everyday. There was no time to linger and relax. Still, I told myself, opportunities like this come only once. I can sacrifice a few of my sleeping hours.
Months after, everything boomeranged on me. Yes, I had the opportunity to earn more money – but I was tired and burned out. I lost my focus and passion for work. My quality suffered and I started losing my clients.
2. Learn the art of time management
One thing I wished I possessed during my early freelancing career is the art of time management. In fact, my lack of skills in this area is one of the main reasons of my failure. I didn’t set clear goals and timelines at the time. I was inefficient. I didn’t know what to prioritize. If I knew how to manage my time well, I could have survived. It’s a hard lesson to learn but I learned it very well.
3. Discipline yourself
Discipline goes hand-in-hand with time management. Even if I set a schedule to do a certain task, if I don’t have the discipline to do it on that specific time frame, I will never finish it.
That’s practically what happened to me. Sometimes, even if I know that I was already swamped, I would reason to myself that I needed a bit of time to relax. I would start going to Facebook or I would work on my personal blog instead of doing an important task that I need to finish. At the end of the day, when the time comes for me to take my much needed rest, I would still be working on the task that I was supposed to have finished long ago if I didn’t waste my time chatting on Facebook.
4. Set daily goals and follow through
If your client doesn’t have daily goals set for you, try setting them yourself. It helps with productivity. It helps you know which task you should prioritize. Ever experienced that pride in yourself whenever you cross out a certain task in your list? Whenever I was able to do that, I had this renewed hope that I will be finishing soon. It gives me a sense of achievement and fulfillment. It inspires me to get more things done. If I don’t set my daily goals as a guide, I am like a lost sheep running around, not knowing what to do.
5. Respect your deadlines
For a client, deadlines are very important. That’s exactly why they hired you – so that you can help them meet their deadlines. Now, some clients are very nice and would give you extensions from time to time. But remember that if you’re always asking for extensions, in the long run, your clients will lose their trust in you.
I had struggled with meeting deadlines when I was going through the burnout stage. My focus was gone. And because I have to juggle three different jobs, I didn’t know what to prioritize. I felt like I was not providing quality service anymore. That’s when I decided I needed to take a break from freelancing.
Freelancing is often compared to having a vacation while working. Ever seen those pictures of people working on the beach or somewhere very relaxing? That’s what often comes to mind when people think about freelancing. Some don’t even consider it as a real job. But when you’re a freelancer, you know this is not true. Yes, you get to work anywhere you want, and sometimes, anytime you want, but it doesn’t remove the fact that you are still working. You are expected to follow a very high standard, which means, you have to work very hard as well.
Freelancing requires hard work, dedication, discipline, and commitment – just like any other job.