It's been a few months since I decided to start freelancing, and it has definitely been a rollercoaster ride! The journey has been amazing to frustrating, from rewarding to stressful, and everything else in between.
Earlier this month, I saw that The New Yorker published a set of "Freelance Achievement Stickers" by Jeremy Nguyen. I received so much joy out of these because they summed up perfectly how my freelance life has been. It's been a complete 180 from my previous routine. And because of my crazy amount of traveling, every day, week, and month is different. I had to observe what I liked and didn't like, and essentially see what routine was sustainable for me. It's more difficult to wake up at 5am to workout when there is a deadline for early in the morning. Getting my 10K steps a day is more of a struggle. I cook way more now. I found myself working when most people were going to sleep. Discussing money still feels weird. When I had breaks, I'd go out of town. And then occasionally, I dealt with those periods of self-doubt.
Yet, I have never felt more rewarded about my work. I had the chance to design various local and out-of-state publications. And I had the one-on-one relationships with my clients that I desired. It was important to often remind myself why I started this journey to begin with. In return, I controlled my own schedule and had more freedom to travel.
A few tips I've learned so far, for those that might be thinking of freelancing full-time or on the side:
- Find balance. This statement can seem really impossible at first. I still struggle with it to this day. There were so many moments I told myself I couldn't work out, eat, or sleep yet because I had to finish this project on time. I handled it the best I could, but now I know that there is always a way for things to be adjusted to create balance.
- Know your worth. I was in a situation where I enjoyed the creative work I was doing for a client, but the client didn't want to pay me fairly for my services. Temporarily, I took the pay cut but I felt taken advantage of. There are clients out there who just don't want to pay for good work. I learned to recognize those red flags. Even though the work was a great fit, it was unfair to my other paying clients. So in this situation, I had to graciously leave.
- Prioritize your clients. It doesn't make sense to give your lowest paying client the most hours out of your week. Time is money. So time-manage that fairly among your clients based on their needs and how long it takes you to get a task done!
- Take a break. For an hour, a day, or a week. That's the perks of freelance life: you set your breaks however you like! With a deadline-filled June and July, I knew August was going to be a little slower, so I decided to go to Seattle for a week. Not only did I use that time to visit friends and family, but I continued to look for inspiration and observe the art & design scene in that particular city.
- Don't compare yourself to other people's successes. When you see your friends' accomplishments on Facebook, LinkedIn, or Instagram, it's very easy to start comparing yourself to their levels of achievement. I'm sure we're all guilty of this. But you just have to remember we are all on our own journeys. And things happen for us in our own time. (Plus, social media doesn't always portray the truth!)
- Don't give up. When things aren't going smoothly and you start second-guessing yourself, it's the easy thing to want to give up. When this happens, keep your mind mentally strong on the goal and refocus. I was tested a few times, but that's when I had to remind myself that this is just a bump in the road towards my goal. Don't let that mistake or obstacle define you. Ask yourself, Am I doing the best I can? Whether it's yes or no... keep going!