Starting out as a freelancer, when work is just coming in, maintaining a calm focus on your goals can be difficult. You’re likely to split your time, about 5% for paid work, 5% searching for paid work, and about 90% trying to cope with the mind-numbing feeling of dread that the uncertainty of freelancing forces on you. At least, that’s how it can seem. A lot of your fears will never be realised, but you still need to take measures to keep calm. Here’s a few simple tips to keep those nagging demons at bay:
1. Be prepared
Embarking on a freelance career takes time. You need to know where you’re going and how you’re going to do it. Read as much as you can about freelancing in general, marketing yourself, and your specialist skills. There are countless blogs out there to help you with this, for instance (for copywriting tips) the mammoth Copyblogger. A fantastic book covering the business of being a freelancer is Andy Maslen’s Write Copy, Make Money – valuable whether you’re writing copy or not.
You must be financially prepared, too. You need enough savings to take you through the rough patches. That security will give you a level head. The quickest route to panic is thinking about what will happen if your time runs out. Keep calm by providing yourself enough resources for a realistic timeframe, then you can set a time to consider panicking when you hit a certain threshold. Hopefully that time will never come.
2. Be flexible
Whilst building up a reputation and a client-base, you may need to take on additional work. Be open to opportunities for alternative revenue streams. Sometimes taking on a different job will benefit your overall goal. In addition, be willing to negotiate on prices. You might want to work to set pay-rates and with only the most positive of clients, but you have to bend to where the business is. Give yourself options. Adapt to the challenges you face.
3. Take small steps every day
If you set goals every day, and complete them without fail, you’ll get ever closer to your goal. Sometimes days (weeks, months, if you want to be pessimistic!) may go by without any paying work, but if you complete goals that will improve your business you can ensure eventual productivity. These goals must be realistic – you must achieve something each working day. Even when there’s no money coming in, you can rest assured you are moving forward.
4. Know you’re not alone
Just as you can find a wealth of advice to get prepared, you can find a wealth of support from fellow freelancers. It’s important to become an active member of communities. You’ll find valuable advice and business contacts, and keep sane at the same time! Freelancers are generally friendly and helpful – just because you are working as an individual does not mean you should be isolated. If you ever do feel the fear of freelancing, look to others to help you through it. Try freelance websites, blogs and Twitter.
For some extra reading, relating to some of the specific freelancing fears you may face before even starting out, I recommend this article from The Professional Copywriters Network. For advice down the road, for what to do in freelance famine periods.