Being a freelancer these days isn’t easy. If you decide to give it a whirl, be prepared for some bumps and falls along the way. Or, you could just learn from someone else’s mistakes, like mine.
I started out as a hobby blogger. But as time went on, I began to consider my work as something more professional. Before I even advertised my writing services on my blog, people were asking if I could do projects for them, and my blog became the storefront for the freelance services I had to offer as a writer.
As a freelancer, I’ve had many accomplishments, but I’ve also made a lot of mistakes along the way. From finding my voice as a freelancer to dealing with clients and establishing a proper work ethic, I can say that I have fallen many times; however, I’ve also learned a great deal from these mistakes.
Here are just a few freelancing lessons I've learned along the way.
1. Freelancing Isn’t a “Do As You Please” Operation
You have to treat it like a business. Writing is something I’ve done for my own pleasure, ever since I was a child. But, when I started writing as a means to create my own income, I didn’t know where to draw the lines between what was personal and what was professional. For instance, I learned that I had to be selective about what I put out on my blog since it was becoming a vehicle for my business. This meant professionalizing these things:
- Establishing hours for writing
- Coming up with contracts for clients
- Imbibing basic business ethics and propriety
I still have a lot to learn, but that’s the nature of business: It’s a learning game, too.
2. Don’t Set Your Foot in Two Places at One Time
This is mainly about ethics as a freelancer. I once got into dealings with two competing brands. Though I was doing two different types of work (in terms of tasks) for these companies, the fact that I was working for two competitors was erroneous on my part. This kind of business dealing had the potential to ruin my credibility as a service provider! And when you are a freelancer, your credibility and reputation is yours alone to uphold.
When you’re providing freelance services, be discerning about the brands and companies you want to be aligned with. Make sure that you fulfill obligations on your contracts clearly, and that you don’t overstep policies. Your reputation as a freelancer – your integrity – depends on it.
3. Be Yourself
One of the things I’ve learned the hard way, especially as a blogger, is how to find my unique voice and brand. Since the online world has made the real world “smaller,” so to speak, people can sniff a copycat or a mimic from anywhere on the Web, whether it’s through social media, blogs, or online communities. What’s more, people can talk about you, and social chatter can either make or break your credibility as an online entrepreneur (or in my case, solopreneur).
One action step I took towards getting out of my “unoriginality” rut was to seek professional help so that I could grasp the bigger picture of my freelance work. In my case, I hired a consultant to help me define my blog, my freelancing business, and my objectives as an online work-at-home woman.
I also hired a specialist to help me with keyword research and blog-building strategies, because I needed help in coming up with good, original content on my blog, content that wasn’t merely a recycled version of someone else’s thoughts.
Consultations like these do require an investment. However, the price you pay for coaching or consulting will be worth it, because you will really be investing in you: your brand, your voice, your integrity as a unique service provider.
4. Don’t Accept or Apply for Every Job Out There
When you’re a freelancer like me, you’re in need of client projects, and so you’re always “on the lookout” for the next potential client. Naturally, your reaction would be to jump into a project right away, whether it’s an inquiry or a job that you want to apply for.
The fact is, not every project will be a good fit for you.
As I mentioned in point #2 earlier, you have to be discerning about who you work for. Sometimes, you may get excited and absent-mindedly sign on to work for two similar projects or brands that would place you in a sticky situation of conflict of interest. This is a mistake that I have made as a freelancer, but, I learned quickly from a few bad situations that I needed to be more discerning.
Before taking on a project, assess if you can (1) manage that project alongside your current commitments, and (2) determine whether there would be any competing parties you are working for.
Related Content: Why Saying No to Clients Could Mean Saying Yes to Your Business
5. Accept, Learn, and Move On
“For every failure, there is an alternative course of action.” – Mary Kay Ash
Some of the best entrepreneurs in the world are who they are because they experienced failure and mistakes, yet they learned from them and rose above them. It can be a discouraging experience to go through failures, especially when you’re a freelancer. The key to turning that failure into success though is to accept you’ve made a mistake, learn not to commit the same mistakes again, and move on.
Being a freelancer can be a dream, but there is a steep learning curve. But by reviewing my mistakes, you'll be ahead of the game.
What lessons have you learned as a freelancer? Drop us a note; we'd love to hear from you!