Over my 10 years as a freelance developer, many fellow freelancers have asked me for advice. How can they make freelancing work for them?
So I'm compiling some of the tips that have worked for me, right here in this guide for you.
? In short:
- Love being an entrepreneur.
- Sell, sell, and sell.
- Learn to live with ups and downs.
- Get used to being a lone wolf.
- Dedicate your life to constant learning.
Some of these tips may seem pretty obvious. But I can tell you that, over the past years and the many, many clients, they have proven their value. My career is living proof that these tips work.
I've also worked with a lot of freelancers and hired them myself, so I can say these are attributes I look for when recruiting as well.
Love being an entrepreneur
I think many people miss this point. I've seen a lot of people who want to become a freelancer to be "free" or to "be their own".
And to be honest those were also things that motivated me. I love the freedom and the ability to create my own life and have more control over it. But there's more to it. Freelancing is also a lot of hard work. But it's fun work! ?
I've always loved creating stuff. And I've always wanted to have my own company (not just be a freelancer).
The hard truth is that when your'e freelancing you will likely need to run your own company. There are services you can use to send invoices but I don't recommend it. They will take part of your profit!
Instead, learn to love running a company and caring for it like it's your most valuable client. I know that logistical responsibilities like invoicing, accounting and more can be really boring and can kill the joy in what you really want to do. But I've actually started to like it.
For example it's fun sending a new invoice for something that you've put hours of hard work into. Hours that you yourself have sold and worked for that someone else didn't give you. That income has always been more valuable to me than a pay check I would've gotten each month being an employee. Even if it's less money in the end.
So start loving those aspects of running a company – they can be fun!
Sell, sell and sell. ?
I've always hated selling and think of it as a bad word. In reality we sell ourselves all the time – when we communicate, work on projects, and live our lives. Everyone is a salesperson for themselves. How we talk, how we look, and how we express ourselves. When we talk about things we've done that we're proud of, and so on.
Accept the fact that when you're a freelancer you're also a sales person. You constantly need to sell yourself and convince clients of your value and what you can bring to the table. And that's logical. But I know that this can intimidate many people. I've been there too.
It's easy to loose confidence when sales are slow. The fear of selling actually delayed my decision to start as a freelancer. I was afraid of not making enough sales to get a decent income. But I eventually started my company and there was no going back, even if sales are sometimes slow. Face your fears!
I wish I had a better answer for you, but selling is a vital part of being a freelancer. Sometimes I sell 100 percent of the time. Other times, 0 percent. That leads us directly into the next part
Learn to live with ups and downs
When dedicating yourself to a freelance lifestyle, you need to know that there will be periods of time when you don't have a project. That means no income!
This can be frightening and I often speak to people that can't imagine living like that. They want their pay check each month so there's always money going into their bank accounts.
Well, I totally understand that. But this is actually something that also can be good. I've learned how to value money more. I constantly save more money to be prepared for when those leaner times.
I've also developed a different view of the value of money. For me the income I make as a freelancer actually feels more valuable than a regular pay check. Just because I know how easy I can lose it.
I also know that I've worked harder to get that income than I would've for a regular monthly paycheck. That makes that money more valuable to me. It also helps compensate for the fear of not having any money.
So, you have to learn to live with the ups and downs. ↕️
Get used to being a lone wolf ?
This is actually a good thing. For me, at least. As a freelancer you might not be included in every aspect of a project as a full-time employee would be. Some freelancers get frustrated over this but I think it's good – most of the time. Sometimes it's bad if you actually needed to be involved in the processes of the project.
A freelancer usually gets hired as a "last resort" meaning that you join the project quite late in the process. So you kind of miss the beginning of the project. But this can be quite good, actually, because you don't have to attend all the meetings and do all the administrative stuff. And for me at least, that's a win!
There will, of course, be projects that span long periods of time. For these projects, you will probably get treated as a regular employee. My projects are often not that extensive, though. I like to be flexible and not stay too long in the same place.
Dedicate your life to constant learning
I believe in learning new things every day of my life. So even if I wasn't freelancing I would still learn all the time. But it's more important as a freelancer.
If you constantly learn new things you can take on a broader range of assignments. As a regular employee you can often get away with not learning new stuff for a long time before anything happens. You can sit and do your job as you always do from day to day.
But a freelancer often gets hired for their expertise in some narrow field. For example I'm often hired as a React developer – but of course I wouldn't get hired if I didn't know React.
Constantly learning new stuff makes sure that you will be attractive to any potential recruiter.
And learning is also fun. I started creating courses and sharing things on my YouTube channel because it also helps me learn. Teaching is actually a great way to learn new things – but that's another story.
Thank you for reading. Hope this article has given you some insights into life as a freelancer.
I'm Thomas Weibenfalk from Sweden ??. I make premium courses on React and Gatsby. I also have a Youtube channel where I publish weekly free tutorials:
Premium Courses: https://www.weibenfalk.com/