Tips for Succeeding as a Full-Time Freelancer

A man at a table with measuring tape and rulers

The start of my career as a full-time writer, ghostwriter and content creator was unintentional. I was 21 years old when I found myself simultaneously graduating from college and being my grandmother’s primary caretaker.

At the time, I felt like I had the rug pulled out from under me. Up until that point, I’d lived most of my adult life as if both roles were meant to be my future. I saw myself taking my resume and pivoting to a full-time role as a magazine editor, all the while still working to keep my grandma alive and healthy as she continued to grow older. 

A life as a freelancer was never in the plans. Yet, on the heels of a new chapter, it was the only part of my life that made sense. Taking on self-employment full time gave me the opportunity to grieve my grandmother’s loss at my own pace. The flexible schedule made tending to my mental health a possibility. The excitement of being responsible for bringing on new clients and working on projects I loved helped remind me that I had a say on where and how my life unfolded. 

A life as a freelancer was never in the plans.

Now, almost eight years since that first client, it’s easier to know what makes my life as a full-time writer and content creator fulfilling, less stressful and more manageable. Here are a few tips I have found to be helpful for finding success as a full-time freelancer:

Create your “A team.” 

I’ll start with the lesson that I’ve had to learn time and time again: schedule intentional time to workshop or to simply chat with people who are on similar paths. You will never regret having a mastermind group of people who just “get it.”

These people will understand the ins and outs of trying to grow and scale your career. They get the nuances of figuring out contracts or negotiating rates. They get it. They support you, and they help you become better at your craft.

They get it. They support you, and they help you become better at your craft.

Whether you come from a traditional work environment where you were surrounded by coworkers or you have been a solo-preneur since day one, the freelance path can get lonely. Having a built-in support system helps keep you on track. 

Play to your strengths.

The best part about being a full-time freelancer is that you get to cater your work to play to your strengths. This also happens to be one of the hardest parts about being a freelancer. Oftentimes, we’re our own worst enemies and playing to our strengths turns into a hard task because we don’t believe we have any strengths to begin with.

Take some time at the beginning of every quarter (or month, especially at the beginning of your freelance career) to list on paper all your strengths, what you do well and when you work best. This will set you up for success. It will also give you a tangible reminder whenever you’re feeling down because of work. 

The best part about being a full-time freelancer is that you get to cater your work to play to your strengths. 

Build routines and skills.

A big mistake I made early on in my career was to focus solely on building routines. I am constantly working on my morning routine or on setting boundaries at home so that my work time is protected. While those routines have been beneficial and I recommend anyone who is self-employed to dedicate time to building them, it’s also important to pour into your skillset.

A gap is born the minute you go freelance because unlike those who work under a manager and are learning from higher ups, you are now (mostly) working solo. In order to fill that gap, build your skills by attending seminars, listening in on panels or participating in courses. 

Define success for yourself.

When you’re freelance, you choose whether you’ll inherit society’s definition of success or whether you’ll pave your own. Success used to mean solely climbing the corporate ladder. Now, however, it can mean whatever you want it to mean. Lately success for me as a self-employed individual has meant scaling my business so that I don’t have to exchange time for money in a 1:1 transactional way. I set goals based on what makes sense, both for my career and my life. 

Whether you call yourself a freelancer, self-employed, a solo-preneur or a small business owner, we’re all on the same path to pursuing a career that’s meant to wrap around our lives. It’s a good journey to be on!

What tricks or hacks have helped streamline your day-to-day as a freelancer? What advice would you give to someone who is new to self-employment?

Image via Tony Li, Darling Issue No. 17

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