Written By: Tony Logan
Being a freelancer is hard work. Waking up whenever you want, getting to hang out in cool cafes during the day, and having the freedom to drop everything to go shopping. I don’t know why anyone thinks being a freelancer is easy!? Ok, in case you didn’t realize I am being sarcastic, but from the outside looking in, this is the image that’s portrayed of being a freelancer, and it couldn’t be further from the truth. Being a freelancer has its challenges, just like working a 9-5, except when you’re a freelancer, there are no guarantees! You eat what you kill, and for the first few months, it can be brutal and lonely. And while there are many upsides of being a freelancer, there are a few stresses that come along with it. So, whether you’re thinking about becoming a full-time freelancer or you’re new to the game, these pointers can help give you a real perspective of what being a freelancer entail. Grab your coffee, pull up your notes app and let’s get started.
You have to build a structure
Once you leave the comforts of your 9-5, you are free! Free to do whatever you want whenever you want! Unfortunately, the downside is that you can do whatever you want, whenever you want, which leaves no room for structure. The hardest part about leaving a job is learning how to build a structure for the considerable amount of available time you now have. At your last job, you were told when to clock in, when to eat, and when to clock out. Now, that responsibility falls on you. This can be tricky at first, but you can use this opportunity as a way to create the ideal schedule that works for you. If your previous job started early in the morning, but you find yourself doing your best work in the afternoons, change your schedule to accommodate that. Don’t feel guilty about taking more breaks if you need them or doing work on the weekends if you feel like it. The goal is to create a structure that will allow you to get work done, and that can be as simple as just creating a checklist of just five things and knocking them out. Don’t be unrealistic in this approach and allow yourself some time to adapt. Your structure creates the foundation you need to be successful.
What’s your worth?
A question that is intimidating to any new freelancer can be found in these five words, “How much do you charge?” How you answer that question will set the tone and foundation for that client. If you charge too much, the client might bail, while if you charge too little, you’ll hate yourself, so where’s the middle ground? I hate to say it, but there’s no straight answer for this. However, the first step should be to research what’s the going rate for someone in your industry. This will help you figure what ballpark you should aim for. The better goal is to find a starting rate; this will give you a base. One tool that can assist with this is a questionnaire form for clients to fill-out. A questionnaire will help you to determine a fair price based on the client’s needs, from which you can determine your starting price. As a freelancer, your prices are never written in stone. As you become busier and take on more clients, your time will become more expensive. The opposite can be true in slow seasons–and there will be slow seasons. So, price accordingly and always be open to change, but always know your worth!
How to get paid on time?
There’s nothing more frustrating and annoying than working with a client who doesn’t pay you on time. It happens quite often, unfortunately, but one way to combat this issue is to provide a contract of agreement before you start anything. Even if the client tries to pressure you to start working immediately because the deadline is urgent, always have your paperwork ready! Normally when we think about contracts, we assume that the paperwork has to be the size of a high school textbook, which is far from the truth. The agreement should simply layout the work that is being performed, the cost of your service, the deadline, and how the payment will be paid. At the end, you can also mention anything that might void this agreement. For example, if the client decides to change a service that’s not mentioned in the original agreement or if the client decides to abandon the project altogether, they are still held accountable. In this agreement, you can request half up front and the rest once the client approves the work, or you can ask for it all upfront. Either way, the point of the contract is to build trust and to hold you and the client accountable to agreed terms. Even with a contract, the client may still pay you late or try to avoid paying you at all, but at least you have a written and signed agreement to take legal actions. Hopefully, it doesn’t have to go this far.
Burnout is real!
With coffee, anything is possible! But not even a venti latte can stop the inevitable burnout! How we experience and deal with burnout is different for everybody, but the cause of it is pretty common: Taking on too much at one time. For example, at first, juggling two assignments doesn’t interfere with your work because you set times during the day to break up the assignments. But then you take up dog walking for extra cash in the morning, and soon you sign up for a personal trainer at your gym for two days a week, and then you take on a freelance gig for quick cash and now you’re swamped! It can really happen that fast. The best way to avoid a full-blown burnout goes back to one of my initial points of creating structure. In addition to that, decide how much work you are willing to take on per month. If taking on more projects for extra cash is interfering with the quality of your work and is causing you to stress out, it may not be worth it. And that’s ok! Of course, you may lose some extra spending money, but you will walk away with a piece a mind and more control of your time. I know its cliché, but a “peace of mind is priceless.”
Now that we addressed some of the challenges of a freelancer, I want to end by saying being a freelancer isn’t a lifestyle for everybody. With so many false narratives only showing the lifestyle through a rosy filter, it’s easy to fall for the allure. But, by being mindful of the stressors and challenges that come with being a freelancer you will be better equipped to decide if it’s a lifestyle suitable for you! Remember to give yourself structure, understand your worth and what you bring to the table and always have plenty of coffee on hand. You got this!
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About Tony Logan
Where should I begin? How about I give you the brief version? I started my writing career in 2008 from blogging and contributing to several men’s fashion blogs. Gaining experience and small notoriety through my writing later created an opportunity for me to become a fashion contributor for The Stndrd magazine. I had my own column titled “Stndrd Style” that profiled fashion-forward celebrities for print and online. Once I stepped-down from The Stndrd, writing was still a big part of my life, so I decided to focus on it full-time. I currently run a book publishing company with my sister called Lift Bridge Publishing, and I also curate content for brands and companies. Aside from writing, I’m a personal stylist, working with clients for editorial shoots, for public appearances and for rebranding purposes. When I’m not working, you can catch me in a local café sipping a white mocha and stealing Wi-Fi.