Before anyone steps out on their own to take work into their own hands and become a freelancer, they think they are about to “live the dream.” And in many ways, this can be true. As a freelancer, you answer to yourself. You decide when you wake up, when your day is done. If you can work solely from your laptop then you can travel. You can accept and decline work on your own accord. You are, after all, working for yourself.
However, the joy of freelancing is not immediate. Sure, there is that “rush” that comes with stepping out on your own—and then that rush is quickly replaced by a feeling of anxiety, and the very serious realizing that all of those things you were so excited for (freedom, travel, etc.) are all double-edged swords. If you don’t get up and get to work each day, you will fall behind. If you travel too much, you’ll go broke and end up right back at an office job. You have freedom, but in order to be a successful freelancer, you also need to cultivate a certain level of discipline.
Here are 7 habits every freelancer absolutely need to live by:
1. Stay Organized
From the get-go, you want to be as organized as possible. For some people, this is a real challenge, in the beginning it can be extremely easy to assume you’ll “remember” where each and every file is. You won’t. A few months from now, you’ll be wondering, “Where did I put that one logo file? Where did I save that proposal?” And you’ll waste so much time searching for files simply because you didn’t stay organized from the beginning.
2. Document Your Cash Flow
As a freelancer, you are now one-half worker, one-half accountant. And in order to be financially successful, it’s imperative that you document and predict accordingly. In a spreadsheet, keep a note of all your projects, and then create tabs for each month. Every 30 days, you should go back and review what you ended up making that month, and then also predict (based on the projects in your pipeline) what you are anticipating to make the following month(s). This will help you get a better sense of how much work you have on your plate, and if you need to start turning down work (so you don’t overextend yourself) or if you need to start hustling and getting more clients for next month.
3. Create Partnerships
One of the best ways freelancers can get work is by creating mutual partnerships with other freelancers, firms, or agencies that offer similar or complementary products or services to you. For example: If you are a copywriter, it would make sense for you to create partnerships with digital agencies since they are often in need of copywriting. Or if you’re a designer, you can look for copywriters and partner up to offer both services as a joint offering. Collaboration is a fantastic way to get clients you would otherwise be unable to get by yourself.
4. Form A Daily Routine
Going back to the freedom of being a freelancer, freedom can also work against you if you get lazy. It is extremely advantageous of you to create a daily routine. Push yourself to be in front of your laptop working at the same time every day. End your day around the same time as well. Create cadences and rhythm in your work habits so that you can find a consistent schedule. Otherwise, you’ll start to find yourself up until 3:00 a.m. the night before something is due, and that’s not good for you or the client.
5. Create Your Own Community
One of the primary benefits of working within an agency or a company is the fact that you are surrounded by people you can learn from. When you go off on your own to freelance, you no longer have that—which means it’s on you to create it for yourself. Don’t forget the importance of learning from others. Make the effort to find people who will teach you (and who you can teach as well) and spend time around them.
6. Study Your Craft
As a freelancer, it can also be very easy to go into pure “I need to pay my bills” mode and focus 100% on paid projects. In the beginning, this may be inevitable, but don’t forget the importance of studying your craft. After all, if your skills falter then nobody is going to want to work with you anyway. Make time to read and learn and refine your skill sets outside of whatever projects you’re working on.
7. Save, Save, Save
And finally, make sure you always have some runway just incase everything starts to go wrong. If you have a really great month, don’t go spending your nest egg. Save money along the way because not every month is going to be net positive. You’re going to have some great months, and some not-so-great months. And if you get to zero, then the show stops. Make sure you plan for the worst, and always have some ground to stand on.
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Featured image: kit8