If you're reading this, it probably means you're currently a freelancer or at the very least interested in freelancing. Just thinking about freelancing and making the jump is one of the biggest steps that you can make. It's a scary decision to make, but definitely can lead to a great experience, career, and lifestyle!
This year marks my fifth year of freelancing full-time, which has truly been a wild ride. Thinking back, there are definitely a lot of mistakes that I could have avoided, starting with having the right mindset.
Coming to the conclusion that you want to start your own freelance business is not an easy task. It's one of the most unknown and unpredictable career choices, so it definitely takes a bit of risk to even get to this point.
The good news is that as a freelancer you have a lot more autonomy than you would working in any other profession. The freedom of picking your own hours, working from where you want, and being picky on who you work with is a huge reason why so many people want to become freelancers.
While these are all great perks of freelancing, a lot of people don’t talk about the real time commitment that you need to have and the mindset and mentality that you need to possess in order to become a successful freelancer.
When I first started freelancing in 2015, I was going through a real tough time in life. I just lost my mum to cancer a few months back and I needed to do something new in my life. I felt very stuck and unsure of where I was headed, so I made the change to quit my job and start freelancing.
Now, I don’t fully endorse just quitting without a plan or savings like I did (fortunately, it worked out), but I desperately needed a new change of pace in my life.
I had two things that I knew I was good at: building websites in Squarespace and running digital advertising campaigns for artists and small businesses.
Other than that, I knew nothing of the freelance world, but I figured I would give it a shot. I always told myself that if it didn’t work out, I would just go look for another job.
I wanted to work for myself and be able to travel when I wanted to without having to worry about taking PTO. This was a big focus and motivator for me to get started and I always came back to it when I struggled with hard days.
For new freelancers, it's important to come to the realization of why you want to freelance in the first place. What is your motivation? What is your main drive? There isn’t a right or wrong answer here as many people have different motivations, but it's always good to know why you want to get started in the first place, especially on the hard days because trust me, there will be some.
Knowing your motivation will help recenter you when you might feel like throwing in the towel.
Beyond just having that motivation, being able to create a mindset shift from being an employee to being your own boss is a big undertaking. A lot of new freelancers skip this step and go straight to wanting to find clients, but that's a mistake.
If you don’t treat your business like a real business, it will doomed to fail from the jump.
As an employee, you can get away with certain things that you won’t be able to as your own boss. For example, you might've been able to coast or not put in that much effort and still get by, but if you want to be a freelancer running your own business, that mentality won’t work.
Everything you do from day one falls on your shoulders.
While it may seem scary and intimidating, it's actually liberating that you have so much control and say of where you want to go and what you want to focus on.
You’ll also notice quite quickly that you have to take full ownership of your work and every aspect of your business. Freelancing is more than the actual work that you do; it's also handling everything in your business from accounting, business development, and marketing.
No one is going to be checking up on you to make sure that you are following your goals and plans, so you have to be responsible for that.
This is not to say that freelancing is always overwhelming, because in truth, it’s not. But it does take a certain determination and mindset shift in order for you to continue to grow and stick around in the game.
The good news is that you don’t always need to do it alone. Another perk is being able to build your own community.
When people think of freelancing, they often think of it as a lonely journey (which sometimes it is), but you also have the control to network and collaborate with so many others in your field. While you might not have co-workers in the traditional sense anymore, there's still a huge community out there of other freelancers who are looking to connect and foster partnerships.
When I first started out, I struggled because I missed having co-workers to bounce ideas off of. It wasn’t until a couple of months into starting freelancing that I felt determined enough to start connecting with other freelancers to just introduce myself.
I realized that if I wanted to have my own community, I had to build it myself. After a few months of doing this, I have been able to build my network that I have always envisioned.
Now after 5 years, I've made some real genuine friends and am always working on continuing to build my own community. Leveraging tools like Linkedin, Twitter, and other social networks has made it pretty easy to search for freelancers in your field with whom you want to connect with. It took a bit of courage when I first started, but after a few times of putting myself out there, it became a lot more natural.
When you’re freelancing, having a community is fundamental not only for your business but also for your mental health.
There are going to be hard days where you question what you’re doing, why you’re freelancing, etc. and having people in your network that you can connect with, vent, and bounce ideas off of each other is going to help with your overall sanity.
Freelancing doesn’t have to be a lonely adventure.
Before anything else, shifting your mindset from employee to owner when you become a freelancer is going to help tremendously on your journey. Beyond just doing the work, having the right mentality and focus on your business will make it easier for you on the hard days. Lastly, having a community to help hold you accountable and be there for you when you need it will have a long-lasting effect on your business and mental health.
Max Pete is a freelance Squarespace designer and advertising specialist. He has been freelancing for over 5 years and works with small businesses, consultants, and e-commerce brands. Currently, Max is starting a new venture into business coaching for freelancers/solopreneurs and is offering free 30-minute consultations.