What I've Learned in My First Six Months Freelancing

Can this journey really have been six months already? It's hard for me to believe, but I am happy and thankful for the chance to reflect on where I am now. In the last six months, I have failed a few times, succeeded hopefully more than that, and learned even more. Below is a summary of what I've learned so far...bring on the new challenges! 

Ride the wave.
In the month or so that I transitioned from full-time employment to full-time freelancing, I consumed as many articles giving advice on freelancing as I could find. I found that so many of the articles suggested keeping a routine, trying to keep regular hours, 9-5 can work for you sort of advice. That is all good and fine.

But here’s my honest truth… some days you are more efficient and driven than others. So I’m not going to do that thing where I give advice and tell you that keeping a rigid schedule works best and will result in maximum efficiency. I have found that I thrive on variety, even within my routines. Is this an excuse for missing deadlines or feeling sluggish for days on end? Absolutely not. While you have to remain attentive to your work, for me, I have learned to listen to my intuition. And upon further research of freelance professionals, I have found it works well for others too. Some days I wake up ready to conquer the world. Give me a task, any task. I am ready. On those days, I will work late into the night simply because I can. Simply because I don’t. want. to. stop. Those are the best. Ride the motivation wave when you have it. Take full advantage.

On the other hand, there are some days when I am not feeling as creative. The harder I fight it the more frustrated I become. If I can tell it is going to be one of those days, I make a list of administrative tasks that I know I can accomplish, make sure to get those done, then give myself a break. Sometimes when you are self-employed – and I know it’s hard to listen to that voice telling you – you deserve a break! Maybe you are a routine person, and that is perfectly ok, but I think at a general level this concept of “ultra-motivated days” is true for most of us. When you have that kick of inspiration or motivation, go with it…leading me to my next point.

The freedom is fantastic. And should be handled with care.
So far, I love the freedom a freelancing career has introduced to my life. The above reasons are a large part of why I feel it has been a beneficial change for me. It can be stifling to sit in an office just because you are supposed to, when maybe a walk or yoga class would recharge your batteries. However, it is important to take the freedom seriously and handle it with care. You and you alone are responsible for your well-being, as well as your client’s satisfaction. You must continuously remain motivated enough to handle your workload. Maybe you got to take off those couple of hours on a Tuesday afternoon, but maybe it was only to keep your sanity because you know you are about to put in a few 12-hour days. Sometimes freelancing feels as glamorous as it sounds. Sometimes you’re tired and feel overworked for a few too many days in a row. You have to take the good with the bad, do your best to balance them out, and know there will always be some of both.

Systems are important.
Creating systems for work tends to create less work in the long run, so it has been important for me to pay attention and streamline along the way. It is helpful for a couple of reasons.

  • Potential clients want to have a thorough understanding of what you will be providing them before they pay you for it. Having a system in place and being able to explain it in detail will increase their trust in you and their understanding of your services. They won’t be left wondering what they should expect, making them more likely to want to do business with you.
  • You don’t have to make it up every time you talk with a new client. If you imagine an ideal scenario, you are in control and confident because you know what to describe to clients. You know how much time it will take. Perhaps most importantly, because pricing tends to be awkward and tricky, you know how much you charge. Without knowing that beforehand, you will feel like you are fumbling to answer questions and need to remember the specifics you’ve told each person. I know because I have done it both ways. The second way always leads to more stress, a loss of time, a loss of profits, and often more miscommunications with clients.
  • Your system will keep you in check. You are far less likely to forget a step, even the small things like sending the thank you card, if you have a step-by-step system.

While there is a learning curve involved to creating systems for yourself, make sure you are paying attention to what can be systematized along the way because it will benefit both you and your clients in the long run.

Taxes.
Actually…that’s all on that for now. No one can be perfect. We’ll get back to that one soon!

You end up writing - A LOT.
This blog post. Emails. Proposals. Content for your website. Emails. Social media posts. Did I mention emails?
I would never have imagined the time that it takes out of the day and how much that amounts to every week. Finding a way to feel confident in your writing will make your life much easier. If possible, it is invaluable to have someone who can read the more important things. I am eternally grateful to my husband for proofreading each of these blogs posts. At the same time, I couldn’t possibly expect him to be there to consult every time I am second-guessing an email. When I first started regularly emailing clients, I would obsess over each one, scrutinizing the language, professionalism, length…on and on and on. But with each passing week, it has become more comfortable and become a normal task. If you have had similar feelings, it will get better! Part of your branding is the voice you are using, so it is a good thing to pay attention to but it will become more natural all the time.

Last but not least...Always keep your eyes open.
When I started Good Day Design Co., I don't think I knew what I was looking for (or that I was looking for something in my career at all). I never really intended to be a freelance designer or own my own business. Did I ever think that I would be setting aside time to coordinate invoicing systems and write blog posts? Blog posts that I actually hope will reach a lot of people? No, absolutely not. That sounded like the furthest thing from what I wanted. But then as I got started and kept going, I realized how much I enjoy it, and then how much of my heart and soul I have been putting into it, so how could I not want to share that?

Until recently, I would have said I didn't have an interest in any of it. But then, my day job changed - and really fast. Even though I hadn't considered freelancing much before, I never considered applying for another job when I left my previous position and decided to give this a go. Giving my self that space over the past 6 months has allowed me to uncover and discover my own interests which I have been able to focus on and develop, leading to a stronger and more exciting business for myself and for my clients. The point is, once I started to look for what I wanted to do, I found it - brand strategy and development - a specialized version of my craft. So, it seems, when you look for things, you're more likely to find them.

I have relied on a lot of people in the past six months. I have also been given a lot of opportunities. For all of that, and so much more that would be impossible to acknowledge in a blog post, I thank those individuals, and I thank everyone who has supported me. You have made Good Day Design Co. a reality.