The world of freelance is extremely fast-paced which is an intense mix of excitement, but also truly grueling. As a new freelancer, I’ve realized I’ve worked damn near every day since I’ve jumped into freelancing. So, when someone tells you freelancing is easy and you have lots of free time, you really don’t. You have a lot more responsibilities as a freelancer compared to the average employee.
However, these past couple of months have been the most rewarding and fulfilling times of my quarter-of-a-century life.
Here are the top 5 lessons I’ve learned so far:
1. Time Management for Freelancing
When you’re an employee of the company, you don’t fully realize the importance of time management. You also don’t realize how much time is required to work ON your business versus working IN your business.
This is tough, especially if you are looking to grow exponentially. When I left my 9-5 job, I already had plenty of contract work lined up to cover my expenses.
However, my goal is to eventually give up the contractor work and be able to fully manage digital marketing campaigns.
Being able to manage my time to work on my personal brand, my business, as well as completing all my contractor hours is something I’m still trying to figure out.
My process for time management is constantly changing, but I feel like I’ve found something effective that you will be able to implement into your schedule.
Every Sunday, I look to outline the week ahead and implement Ed Mylett’s “21-Day Week” method.
If you’re not familiar with this concept, here’s a quick breakdown:
Instead of scheduling your days on the 24-hour span, you break it up to every six hours.
My days are broken down by:
- 6am – 12pm
- 12pm – 6pm
- 6pm – 12am
Each ‘day’ is for a specific responsibility.
The First Day: 6am – 12pm
I’ve noticed my mid-mornings are when my mind is really effective and focused. (At times)
So, this is for “deep work” and knocking out tasks. As well as my morning routines and breakfast.
I usually just take a quick glance through my inboxes to make sure there is nothing pressing that needs to be done. If nothing is pressing, then I get started on my work.
I typically try to hold off on responding to texts and emails until 12pm. This allows me to completely immerse myself into my work.
The Second Day:12pm – 6pm
The “second day” is for meetings, administrative responsibilities, responding to emails, and continued work.
I understand waiting to respond to emails until 12pm may not work for some. But for me, I found that strictly focusing on client work on the “first day,” helps me clear my anxiety by chopping down my task lists before getting more tossed on top.
I also schedule any client/sales meetings during this time, but there are some instances where my meetings need to be put into the first day.
Then at 5 o’clock, I go to the gym until 6pm and head home. On the days I don’t gym, I usually end the day at 5pm to give myself a mental break.
The Third Day: 6pm – 12am
This last portion is for my side projects, additional learning, reviewing my day, as well as any plans with friends and family.
With a few other web projects I’ve started and my goal to be a more efficient web developer, I spend a lot of time learning.
I also try to keep up with industry news and trends throughout this time.
Although I have a lot on my plate, I try to spend some time away from the computer to get my mind off things. However, this is something that I need to improve on. I still catch myself thinking about work ALL THE TIME, even when I’m away.
I try to stick to this schedule as much as possible, but life happens and you have to adapt. Being able to change your schedule when a task is taking longer than expected or if a client has an immediate request, you have to be able to prioritize what needs to be done.
The Importance Of Prioritizing Responsibilities
Remember how I mentioned, working ON your business versus IN your business?
Well, this is something you have to learn when you’re new to freelancing.
As an employee, all you have to worry about is your job responsibilities.
Now that you’re a freelancer, you have to wear multiple hats (I’m sure you’ve heard this saying before, but it’s true!)
You’re the employee, you’re the salesperson, you’re the accountant, you’re the account manager. You’re multiple jobs bundled into one person.
So, you have to be able to know when to work on what part of the business.
Focusing on too many sales and not enough on completing the tasks is going to put you into a never-ending loop.
But you also have to be able to bring in the work… So, what do you do?
The way I typically prioritize my responsibilities goes hand-in-hand with time management.
Throughout my first couple of weeks, I would schedule time each day to send out cold-emails and connecting with people within my network.
The rest of the day is left for daily tasks and client work.
This allowed me to make sure I had sent out my sales emails, as well as making sure my clients are taken care of.
As a freelancer, it is easy to feel overwhelmed and stressed the hell out, but prioritizing your responsibilities will be a big help for your mental health.
Managing My Finances
At the end of the day, bills have to get paid.
Many get into the freelance because they think they can make a lot of money. And that is definitely a possibility.
But, one thing most people don’t realize, is how much of your money goes to taxes.
When you were an employee, these were deducted in your paycheck and you were taxed less.
As a freelancer, you have to make sure to pay taxes and you get deducted more than an employee.
You also have to pay for all the tools and subscriptions necessary for your business.
As an SEO freelancer, we need multiple software subscriptions. Here is my full-tech stack I use as a freelancer:
- SEMRush (SEO + Content)
- Screaming Frog (Site Crawler)
- Ubersuggest (Keyword Research)
- Bonsai (Accounting for Freelancers)
- VS Code (Web Development + Code)
- Adobe (Photoshop, Illustrator, Dreamweaver, XD)
- G-Suite (GDocs + Gmail)
Mine is pretty basic compared to most, but as a business, I’m trying to keep expenses low.
Remember when you were a kid and wanted a certain toy, but your parents said you don’t need it?
It definitely feels like that, as a freelancer you need to be able to decide which tool is a need versus a want.
Becoming a Salesperson, Without Being Sleazy
This skill is essential to anything in life.
Trying to convince your significant other to go to the place you want to eat.
Getting your teacher to extend the deadline on an assignment.
Enticing your friends to come out to grab a drink.
Having someone agree with your point of view can be considered selling.
However, I’ve underestimated how hard sales really can be.
There’s a lot of cold shoulders, rejection, and a lot of self-doubts.
One thing I’ve learned about sales is, it’s not about you (the seller).
It’s about them (your prospect/lead).
It’s about their problems, their needs, their expectations, it’s all about them.
I still have a lot of refining to do in my sales process and sales pitch, so this will be an ongoing topic for my freelancer check-in posts.
Freelancing is TOUGH
Being a freelancer has been a continuous learning process and I wouldn’t want it any other way.
However, it has also been one of the toughest times. Even tougher than when I was working full-time in college and a full-time job at the same time.
Most people glorify the freelance life, but it really is an ongoing battle between self-discipline, commitment, failures, self-doubt, and many other setbacks, while looking to achieve just any form of accomplishment.
As a bonus tip, I highly recommend celebrating any small wins that you’ve accomplished. You’ll need to remember that the freelance game has loads of losses, so you can’t dwell on the L’s and need to remember that you are growing and winning.