Surviving as a Freelancer
Anyone who says freelancing is easy has probably either gotten very lucky or hasn’t actually tried it. If it was easy, everyone would be doing it.
Freelancing comes with its fair share of struggles. From financial planning to staying motivated while you work, there is a lot you need to keep in mind when you are your own boss. We’ve compiled this list of tips for how to survive as a freelancer for anyone looking for more ways to keep their head above water as they transition from traditional work to full-time freelancing.
Build a Safety Net
Not every freelancer knocks it out of the park when they first get started. If you find a way to bring hundreds of orders in every week from the get-go, that is awesome. But, it’s worth being realistic about the growth of your business, as well as the potential for lulls and emergencies.
So, to be prepared, the smart financial planning decision is to build a safety net of savings, and keep it full. A good minimum goal is to set aside enough money to cover your living expenses for three months. While this might seem like a big chunk of money all at once, you can build it slowly by setting up automatic transfers to a savings account on a regular basis.
Don’t Forget The Hidden Costs
Savings aren’t the only important financial consideration when it comes to how to survive as a freelancer. When you work a traditional job, a lot of things like taxes and healthcare are already taken care of for you. Keep in mind these hidden costs that you’ll need to factor in to your budget:
- Taxes: A common recommendation is to set aside 25% of your profit to pay Uncle Sam.
- Healthcare: The average cost of self-paid healthcare in the U.S. was just under $400 per month, as of 2017.
- Retirement: Regular wisdom is to invest at least 10% of your income into your retirement fund.
Make Sure You Get Paid
A steady job comes with a steady paycheck. Unfortunately, this is not always the case for freelancers. Almost every freelancer can share a story of how they learned this the hard way. They did 30 hours of work and never got paid. Or they spent weeks pestering a client before they actually got the money.
Your paycheck is your livelihood, so getting paid is a key part of learning how to survive as a freelancer. The easiest way is to use a secure platform like Legiit, which will hold funds in escrow so that you always get paid if you deliver what was promised.
Learn How To Manage Your Time
If you can’t manage your own schedule, you are going to flounder as a freelancer. When orders keep coming in, how can you ensure that you’ll get them all done on time without sacrificing quality?
There is no one-size-fits-all solution for everyone. But here are some general principles to adhere to when learning to manage your own time:
Set aside time for work. If you just plan to “get it all done”, you’ll be more likely to procrastinate, and you’ll never have a clear idea of what your productivity really looks like.
Set aside time for play. Scheduling in a night out once a week or some relaxation time every day is key to avoiding burn out. You might feel like a super man today, but everyone needs a chance to recharge their batteries.
Remember to sleep. While the occasional all-nighter may be a necessary evil, you can’t survive long term on inadequate sleep. It will affect your health, your mindset, and the quality of your work. So, as odd as it may sound, remember to schedule in time to catch your Zs every night.
Know How To Motivate Yourself
Understanding the art of motivation is another key aspect when it comes to learning how to survive as a freelancer. Whether you feel like giving up completely or simply can’t muster the energy to get down to business today, maintaining your motivation will keep you energized and engaged in your work.
Science has already proven that, among other benefits, staying motivated increases productivity and makes us learn better. So consider taking some time to figure out your own personal strategies for getting motivated. Whether it’s a playlist that gets you pumped for work or a rousing speech you give yourself every morning, do whatever it takes to keep yourself loving what you do.
Even more important than staying motivated is developing self-discipline. Discipline is the virtue that will keep you going strong even when your energy is lacking and your mind is preoccupied.
You can’t really trick yourself into becoming more disciplined any more than you can trick your body into becoming more muscular. It’s a habit that is developed over time with patience and practice. You can take simple steps to build your self-discipline by finding ways to work it into your daily routine, like this:
- Commit to rising at the same time every morning.
- Create a checklist of common work tasks that you have to get done every single day.
- Make a habit of getting exercise, in some form, every day.
Find Your Support Network
With a traditional office job, some level of social interaction is usually inherent in the business. Even if it’s just on a surface level, this human touch does a lot to keep you grounded. Unfortunately, it’s easy to let it go to the wayside when you’re a freelancer who spends most of your time alone huddled over your laptop.
One way to build a better support network is to find a freelance workspace that will let you see more people. Renting co-work space with other like-minded entrepreneurs, for example, will mean that you will get regular interaction with others who can help keep you on track for success.
Another way is by joining online groups like the Legiit Facebook Group. Here, you’ll have the chance to network with both other freelancers just like you and the clients who need your services. It’s a vibrant, positive community that is loaded with success-minded entrepreneurs.