How to Freelance Full-Time
By Alyssa Goldman
Not too long ago, I was a full-time freelancer — not by choice but by necessity and passion. After graduation, I moved from Chicago to New York City — the center of the universe for all aspiring journalists. I was optimistically naïve, thinking for sure I’d land my dream magazine job within a month. Three months passed, then six, and before I knew it, I had been in NYC for a year without a full-time job.
What I did have, however, were lots of freelance writing gigs. And I wasn’t alone — we live in the “gig” economy — fully a third of the American workforce is freelance today. But that doesn’t mean it’s easy — freelancing takes initiative, dedication and a ton of self-discipline. If you’re considering joining the freelance economy, here are five tips to help you succeed and keep your sanity intact:
1. Get out of bed and look professional. With an office job, you have no choice but to look presentable. As a freelancer, you can go all day without seeing a soul. It’s too easy to fall into the habit of spending every waking moment in your PJs. No one knows if you’re working at a desk or in bed alongside your puppy. Don’t fall into the trap. Take off the PJs and put on real clothing — it will make you feel better and lead to a more productive workday. When I looked the part of a put-together young professional, I felt like one — and found myself more focused, motivated and productive.
2. Get the heck out of the house. If your business is taking off and you can afford it, rent an office or find a desk within a co-working space. If not, head to the nearest Starbucks. While freelance gives you freedom, it’s also very isolating. It was comforting and inspiring to be around – and occasionally strike up a conversation — with other creative individuals. If you do stay home, at the very least go on walks and get some fresh air. Stuck in a rut? A change of environment might be just what you need. And while you’re at it…
3. Create a schedule. The days I acted as if I had a traditional full-time job were the days I was most productive. I set my alarm and had a goal for when I wanted to leave the apartment. Once I hit the café, I would decide how much progress I needed to make before going home. Creating a work schedule helps you manage your time. Block off a lunch hour and an exercise break — do whatever you need to keep yourself on task and engaged.
4. Communicate with your clients. Since you probably don’t have face-to-face interaction with your clients everyday, it’s easy to get lost in translation via email. Stop that by setting clear expectations. Get clarification early. Talk via Skype. Don’t wait until the night before an assignment is due to ask for clarification. Brainstorm ideas for the project and determine what the challenges are in advance. Set a timeline, get their input or feedback along the way and schedule regular check in points along the way to make sure you’re moving in the right direction.
5. Stop wasting time. Too often I’d have an assignment to complete and find myself scrambling the night before. Facebook. Gchat. Texting. Phone calls. Twitter. Web surfing. Name a distraction and I found it. It’s easy to suggest avoiding social media and Gilt.com, but if you don’t have extreme self-control, that’s not going to happen. Lucky for you, there are plenty of time-management apps that prevent falling into the black hole that is the Internet. SelfControl lets you blacklist specific websites during your designated work time; Concentrate gives you access only to select tools based on your activity.
Are you a full-time freelancer? Share your tips and tricks in the comments section. We’d love to hear from you!