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:
- 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.
- 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.
- 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 . . .
- 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.
- 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.
- 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