Ever since I’ve started freelancing, many people have asked me how to be a freelancer.
For most, the thought of getting out of the rat race is attractive. I mean, who wouldn’t want to travel, do what you love and still get paid? I admit it’s one of the attractive perks of being a freelancer.
In my three years as one, I’ve had my fair share of success. But there are also many failures I had to work through to get to this point.
So what does it take to be a freelancer? Here’s what I think.
1. You must have guts.
New experiences can be exciting, but it can also be terrifying. This is definitely true when your finances are on the line.
Uncertainty is scary, but come to think of it, isn’t life uncertain too? Even if you plan every detail, there will always be something to disrupt that flow. So if you want to be successful at anything, you must learn how to take calculated risks.
Freelancing has a lot of uncertainties. This is especially true if you are a newcomer trying to get hired online. It might take months and even years before you land your first gig. You will get rejected and dejected, and it might even cause you to ask yourself why you wanted to do it in the first place.
But trust me, the rewards are worth it!
Having the guts to weather every hurdle that life throws at you will make you stronger and smarter. It will also help you land the right clients you want to work with and attract the right people in your circle.
That is if you’re willing to try.
2. You must have a growth mindset.
What is a growth mindset? It means acknowledging that your abilities and skills can be developed. It’s kind of thinking that pushes you to learn more and be more. At one point, it can be described as a hunger to be a better version of yourself.
Unfortunately, most of us have developed a fixed mindset. We’re stuck with the thought that we suck and there’s nothing else we can do about it. It also tells us to stop when we fail on the first attempt.
Having a growth mindset gives us the opposite of that. It teaches us that failures are part of the learning process. It gives us opportunities to see what we could improve on, and try again.
So why is a growth mindset indispensable when it comes to freelancing? It’s because freelancing has such a fast paced environment, that if you don’t adapt, you’ll get kicked off the course. As entrepreneurs, freelancers encounter problems that are gargantuan at first glance. But if you learn how to adapt the growth mindset, you will see that these challenges can be cut and digested until you resolve them.
3. You must have initiative.
You must learn how to be a self-starter when you’re in freelancing.
In the corporate world, there are managers and supervisors who look over your shoulder to make sure you get things done. But when you go into freelancing, it’s totally different.
First, there are no company-funded training that will help motivate you to do your work. There is also no product training that will give you a step-by-step guide on how to answer concerns or approach your problems.
From time to time, your client might give you tips and instructions on how to do things. They will also give you materials to read and learn to help you do the tasks. But beyond that, it’s all up to you.
4. You must have patience.
Patience is a virtue that you need to have if you want to be successful at freelancing.
It’s easy to feel frustrated when you don’t get things your way. There are also tasks that need time to do, and you have no choice but to do it.
I’m a writer. I like taking on challenges where I create stuff, research, and read. But as a freelancer, I also need to take care of the tedious jobs involving data. And to be totally honest, it bores me.
But since it’s part of the deal, I get on with it and learn along the way. Because of doing the uncomfortable tasks, it helped me grow as a freelancer and as a person. I chose to persevere, and because of it, I am now better at handling different contracts better.
Patience teaches you that while it is easier to give up, pushing through difficulty makes all the fruits of your labor much sweeter.
5. You must have skills.
I started attending meet-ups locally and talked to individuals who want to get into freelancing. And I was surprised to hear from them that they don’t have the skills to start.
The fact that they were able to get into jobs means that you have the skills to negotiate. Maintaining a job for years also mean that you have management skills. It may not be at its best yet, but it’s already there. The question is, what will you do to improve those skills and have someone hire you for it?
When I was starting freelancing, I only accepted jobs because I needed it, not because it was something I wanted to do. Because of this mindset, it backfired on me real bad. I ended up making a lot of mistakes and costing the business. It was a lesson I learned the hard way.
Luckily, my client gave me another chance when he learned that I could write. While he trained me to write press releases, I also did my part and revisited the skills I got writing for the college newspaper. On top of that, I started attending workshops, getting mentors and growing my local network. I can say that I now have the skills to get paid to write, but I know that I still have a lot to learn.
Becoming a freelancer means you must have all of these skills plus more. But beyond that, freelancing allows you to rediscover yourself and follow your passions. Call it overrated, but most freelancers I know go for projects that fuel their fires. And this helps them pursue their projects, even when the going gets tough.
Freelancing isn’t for the faint-hearted. You must be mentally, emotionally, physically and financially prepared to take on the hurdles head on. But in the end, the rewards are absolutely worth it.
So, do you have what it takes to become a freelancer?
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