6 Lessons from 6 months of freelancing


My freelance life: Free as a bird

I had not realized it until my good friend KC brought it up last week: “You’ve been working freelance for more than six months!” she exclaimed. “You’re now a regular! What do you get?”

(Over here, a new employee is usually given a probation period of six months, before she is “regularized,” as we call it. Regularization has its perks: a possible increase, health benefits, allowances, etc. )

Wow, it’s been six months. How time flies. It hasn’t been easy–I think nothing is really easy when you’re starting independently. Things can be unpredictable, and you simply have to be ready for the next surprise. Looking back at the last six months, here are six lessons that have stayed with me:

  1. Be brave. One needs courage to stick around. An old college classmate was amazed when I told her I was consulting and doing  freelance writing and editing work, “That’s very brave!” I smiled. I didn’t tell her it took years of building up my freelance portfolio before I knew I could make it independently.
  2. Trust. There’s a kind of security that comes with being an employee, and that’s knowing that at the end of the month, you’ll be paid–unless your employer goes under. In my case, there’s no one else to pin my hopes on, except God. I admit there are months when I feel doubtful that I’ll last till the next, but God has always delivered. I am amazed that whenever a bill comes up, there’s always money coming in from a client. I can say now that God is really my partner in all this.
  3. Save.  I wasn’t a big saver when I was an office worker, because I knew that at a certain date every month, my employer would pay me. Today, I’ve learned to always set aside a portion of my freelance income in bank accounts that I don’t touch. It’s not a lot, but it’s growing, and I feel mighty proud of myself that I’m learning how to save now. I hope, by the end of the year, it can actually finance a big trip. Who knows? As lesson #4 goes . .  .
  4. Be open to possibilities. Would you believe me if I told you I’m earning more now than what I used to back when I was a full-time employee? Yes (and I say this without bragging), and I don’t even work 8 hours a day. I didn’t think that was possible until I actually sat down and counted how much money was coming in (yes, I do my books now, although I have an accountant who does all my taxes) and monitored the hours I worked. It’s true, I often work six days a week, but I don’t work all day. I try to get a whole day off when I can, and still be able to go to my yoga class at least three times a week, but when it gets too busy, I’d be happy to work an entire day.
  5. Don’t sell yourself short. I’ve learned that it’s okay to say no to prospective clients who balk at my asking price. But I’ve also learned to meet halfway and found ways to cut corners. Because I worked hard with every job that came my way, some clients have realized that I am worth every cent I ask for.
  6. I’d do something for a penny if I really loved it. That said, I’ve accepted writing jobs that paid less than what I’d usually make, only because I loved the work and it helped me improve as a writer.

With six months of freelance work behind me, I’m a grateful child. I still don’t know where I’ll be six months from now (come back in March 2013, and I’ll tell you), but I have a lot of trust in my partner up there.

If you’re an independent professional like me, I’d love to hear some of your freelance lessons. Please do share! (Or e-mail privately.)

Image credit: “Kite Bird” by Debbiewaum

About Karla

I am an e-mail marketer, editor, and writer. My passions are yoga, food, and Filipino arts and culture.

4 responses to “6 Lessons from 6 months of freelancing”

  1. lemonsito says :

    I’d do copy editing for a penny, Kar. I already told you that job was the best I ever had. But I’m glad you’re sticking around–and you’re becoming braver. :) I haven’t thought of that, really, that courage thing.

  2. Karla says :

    Hello, Lem! You’re an inspiration to me, please know that. I always think that if I’m having it hard, I’m sure you did too, at first, so I want to see this through. I see now it’s a matter of perspective. Care to share your own lessons? (When you get around to it.) That would be a great blog post!

  3. H.E. Saunders says :

    Just started freelancing as an editor and found that I whole-heartedly agree with #5. Clients who understand the process don’t balk at the price, but clients who don’t understrand not only bulk at the price, but don’t have realistic expectations for the process itself. Thanks for sharing!

  4. Karla says :

    Hi, H.E., thanks for dropping by and sharing your thoughts. I think it’s right to be firm about one’s rates, but be flexible too. It helps protect the rest of us editors and writers from getting underpaid, if you know what I mean.

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