It’s fairly easy to get started as a freelancer.
But it takes a lot of hard work, dedication, and motivation to survive and be a successful freelancer.
This is why most new freelancers give up on their dreams of working from home after a few months.
And it’s also why only a handful of freelancers become successful and find financial freedom.
It took me more than 6 years of hard work as a full-time freelancer to get there. To finally find financial freedom.
As I’ve explained in my book, it didn’t happen overnight. I worked 100-hour workweeks and went through 20-hour workdays to get here. And learned a lot of lessons along the way.
These are some of the most important factors that helped me to be where I am today.
What It Means To Be A Successful Freelancer
Success can mean many things to different people.
For some, it could be earning a lot of money so they can retire early. For others, it’s to pay off their debts or even buy a cool new car.
Whatever it is that you want, it’s up to you to define what success is to you.
Having said that, I’d encourage you to be realistic when setting goals for your freelance career. Because it’s easier to progress when you set multiple small goals instead of one giant goal that’s so far away.
For me, I never even thought I’d find any success as a freelancer. I just loved doing the work I did and I worked hard at it. The success was simply a side-effect of my efforts.
Enjoy the process and you’ll find success.
Now, let’s get into the details.
1. Don’t Get Comfortable
“You always have to think in the back of your mind that someone’s working harder than you, someone’s getting better than you. That’s what drives me every day. I always think there’s someone out there working harder.”– Malcolm Brogdon
My life hasn’t been the same ever since I saw this quote. It literally changed the way I work and how I plan for my future.
Once I reached a certain point in my freelance career, I started to get comfortable.
I had two good clients who paid well. And I didn’t even have to work hard. I had plenty of time to watch movies and play video games.
Then I saw this quote. If I remember correctly, I read about it on a blog post by Seth Godin. It’s as if he was talking to me directly.
From that day, I vowed to myself to never get comfortable.
It’s this thought of someone replacing me that kept me working harder than anyone else.
I also used it as a motivation to provide a more valuable service to my clients. Because I wanted to be memorable for doing great work.
For example, I put in extra effort to deliver a high-quality service to each client I’ve worked with. I even added something extra with each article or eBook that I delivered. Like writing extra 100 words or including free images.
Make it your mission to please your client. Deliver a great service. And work harder than anyone else to be irreplaceable.
2. Know That You Know Nothing
“The only true wisdom is in knowing you know nothing.”– Socrates
I have this quote poster up on the wall right above my work desk. To constantly remind myself that I’m not better than anyone else.
As the author Ryan Holiday points out in his book Ego Is The Enemy, having too much ego can be one of the most toxic habits a person could have.
Having a bit of confidence in your skills and abilities is one thing. But believing you know everything and better than everyone could mean the end of your career.
Never assume or claim to be the expert of this or that. Always be willing to learn, even from someone beneath you.
This is the key to being relevant and gaining more experience as a freelancer.
Even the best doctors in the world have to learn about new diseases and new treatments all the time.
So keep learning and improving yourself.
As a result of this concept, I kept learning new things using online courses. About subjects relevant to industries I work in as well as other unrelated topics.
This will keep you always one step ahead of your competition.
3. Forget About The Money
I know for a fact that most people start freelancing to earn money quickly.
Somehow they seem to think that getting an office job is hard but making money from home is as easy as pressing the keys on a keyboard.
I always say that freelancing is more difficult than having an office job. Because freelancing is like running a business. You manage your own clients and juggle projects. You also have to promote yourself and services as well.
If you start freelancing thinking of money as your main goal, you won’t survive long.
In the first few months as a freelancer, you’ll only earn a very small amount of money. You need to be prepared to survive these harsh times.
If you’re struggling financially, get a job. Save enough money to survive at least 6 months. And then think about starting freelancing.
So forget about the money for a moment. Think about ways to provide value in your services. And come up with ways to deliver an amazing experience to your clients.
And guess what, the money will then come flowing right at you.
4. Learn To Be Polite
Learning how to talk to your clients and write a professional email is the key to building long-term relationships.
But that’s not enough, you also need to learn how to be polite.
Not all clients are kind and generous. Sometimes you have to deal with tough and aggressive clients. Those who criticize your work and ask for revisions.
When dealing with such situations, you need to be able to stay calm and respond politely.
If a client says your work needs to be improved, don’t start defending yourself or complain. Don’t even think about coming up with excuses. Politely apologize and get back to work and start from scratch.
The client will not only respect you for honoring their request but they’ll also see you as a true professional.
Complain less and be polite when talking to clients.
5. Keep An Address Book
Every business keeps an address book full of phone numbers and addresses of their potential clients. This applies to freelancers as well.
Every time I get an email from someone asking about my services and even when I complete a project for a client, I add that client’s email address to my address book.
This is my backup plan. Whenever I need to find a new gig or running low on client projects, I turn to my address book to find my next gig.
Start making your own address book of clients. You’ll never have to complain about finding freelancing jobs ever again.
6. Be A Master Of Resilience
If you want to survive longer than six months as a freelancer, you’ve got to toughen yourself up.
Freelancing involves dealing with a lot of rejection.
You will have to wait for days to get a response from clients. You will get rejected from most of the jobs you apply. Your work will often be criticized. Some clients will take forever to pay you. Some will even ignore you.
You have to be a master of resilience to be calm during these times. And not react with panic and anger.
Meditation has been really helpful for me to build up my resilience. I usually meditate about ten minutes a day. And it helps calm my nerves and quiet my thoughts. It even gives me a small energy boost.
Also, building up confidence in your skills is another way to boost your resilience. So keep learning new skills.
7. Start A Side-Project
Starting a side project is one of the best things you can do to advance your career as a freelancer.
It’s a great way to not just promote your skills but also to build your reputation.
This blog was my side project for a while now. And I was contacted by many clients after they saw my articles here.
But that’s just a side-effect of the side projects. The main benefit of having a side project is being able to practice your craft.
While developing this blog I learned to write better, learned about new SEO techniques, and marketing strategies. Something I wouldn’t be able to learn anywhere else.
Plus, it also helped make an extra income stream as well.
It’s always nice to earn a little money from your own side projects.
Bonus: Find A Mentor
Having someone to guide you through difficult times and help you figure out how to advance your career can be very helpful.
I didn’t have a mentor to help me with freelancing. But, I had heroes. Like Seth Godin, Ryan Holiday, Elon Musk, and many more.
By reading their books, biographies, watching their lectures and YouTube videos, I learned from them. And I used those lessons to shape my life and the way I work.
Find yourself a mentor. If you can hire someone to coach and mentor you, go right ahead. It’ll be worth it. If you can’t, then find yourself a few heroes and learn from them.
Freelancing is not just about finding work and making money. It’s almost like a game of survival. But don’t let it be just about finding the next client or the next gig.
Make it about finding your financial freedom. And plan accordingly to work towards achieving it.
Images via Freepik.com