Can you believe that I began my career as a freelance designer almost 10 years ago? That’s pretty much the length of my entire career! It feels like so long considering 10 years is about a third of my life! ????????
When I started at the age of 20 I wasn’t sure I was even ready or willing to put together my own business. But because I was presented with an opportunity, I had to take it.
Turning my dream of working for myself into a reality, one fetus step at a time
For the longest time I’ve wanted to work for myself. I shackled myself to a job I contained myself in for years. But I managed to break the chains and take a leap onto the other side. I’m not quite there yet… been floating in and out of inertia for a little. But I’m taking some major baby steps into getting there.
My business was on and off for most of the years it’s been in operation. It began with awareness, then doubt, and then a few shitty gigs, and then more and and off.
But in the past months I managed to propel myself away from inertia and onto some better things.
Realizing I could be my own boss
When I was 20 and my boss told me to buy my own business licence I didn’t know what that could’ve meant for me at the time. I just wanted to keep making money while being in school.
Soon after, I learned the company was treating me kind of like an employee and not as a contractor (me slowly learning the definition of a contractor and what my rights are as one). And that’s when I began looking into things a bit more.
I realized as a contractor I wasn’t required to commute into the office to do my work. I was my own business and should have been allowed to work wherever I wanted. This would have been a huge benefit to me working while studying at the same time.
I had to commute for about an hour each way to wherever I wanted to go. And this was the case for most of my life as soon as I started high school.
So I decided that in my career, I wanted to work at a place where I didn’t need to commute very far for work. An option with full-time remote work would have been the ideal choice.
The doubts in starting my own freelance business
Do you have doubts about the instability of freelance? I get that too. And it was the next hurdle I stumbled upon once I realized freelance is what I wanted to do.
There are no added benefits involved like a regular full-time job has.
- RSP contributions
- Health benefit plan, dental coverage
- Job security
Those all go down the drain once you decide you’re living the business owner life. It’s kind of why I’m still a sucker on the side of full-time employment, slaving away for some person I barely even know.
But! There are benefits to appreciate from freelance work
Many, in fact! First of all, you can always purchase your own insurance for these types of things. And, there are upsides to freelance work. To me, they are actually quite worth the trade-off.
- Not working with the same people. Unless you hired employees, you don’t need to work with the same people all the time anymore. YAY! It’s a benefit for me, at least… ¯\_(ツ)_/¯
- Different projects all the time. I love this about freelance work. I’m never working on the same god damn thing
- You’re accountable for all your work. There’s no looking around for help on this one. You are responsible for delivering to your client. Having freelance clients has helped me grow tremendously in this way. I’ve learned how to handle jobs and deliver A+ work to people without asking a boss or colleague how to do something.
- Making a lot more money. Yep. People pay the big bucks for contractors, because they’re contractors. They’re hired for a specific project. Then they leave. So when I was contracting for my first job while I was still a little student at the age of 20, I was charging $25 CAD per hour.
- Claiming business expenses. That means I get money back from what I spend. Who knew I could save on spending a bunch on my laptop for having a business and collecting taxes off my work?
- Working from home, duh. To me this is the biggest catch. It’s because I have a dog and a home and I want to be able to enjoy my life with both of them. I consider the ability to work from home as freedom to work where I want, when I want. And because I know I work my ass off, I don’t feel bad about it.
Should I stay or should I go?
Would you rather slave away at someone else’s feet for most of your waking hours, like most of the world does? Or do you want to be working for yourself, make more money, where you want, and when you want?
It’s like renting versus owning a house. You wanna pay someone else’s mortgage? Or you wanna invest in your own equity?
Especially in the times of this global pandemic (I’m sorry, I had to mention it). Now is better than ever to start thinking about turning your side hustle into the real thing. We have so much extra time since we’re not allowed to go outside and spend all our earnings on restaurants and shopping.
A note on the speed of your career successes…
There are unicorns out there who became instant successes as YouTubers or bloggers. But most of the time that’s not a standard to expect for success. This is especially the case for popular markets like web design. Today, everyone needs a web designer, but a lot of people are also web designers.
Realize that as long as you have the skills and the drive, you will get there with time.
Slow is smooth. Smooth is fast.
If you’re that rushed with getting success, try entering into unsaturated markets. When I say that I mean it in every way possible. Do the tasks nobody else is willing to do.
- Provide a discount on your services.
- Offer something to prospects for free before they decide to do business with you. Be generous.
- Follow up with your clients as soon as possible. Don’t give it a day, don’t play hard to get. If you can get things done in a timely manner, that means the world to clients.
- Clients appreciate convenience. In every step of your projects, have your client in mind and ask yourself “will this be easy for my client to use or access?” If it’s not, make it so.
These are just a few examples of how you can stand out in the beginning of your freelance career.
This is like people who are training for a marathon. Dedicated runners run regardless of the weather, in the rain, snow, or sleet. Because on marathon day, only the ones who are willing to run in bad weather.
Hey, I just said freelancing was worth it; never said it was easy! ????
Getting the first few jobs in your freelance gig
Are you able to go into a contract position with your current job? That’s how I started. When I was 20, I had the opportunity to dive into the world of contracting. My boss at the time couldn’t afford to create a job position, so he wanted to hire me on as a consultant instead.
I was young. Bleary-eyed from lack of sleep, and studying Interactive Multimedia Design at Carleton University. But I took the job and at the ripe age of 20 I created my own Master Business Licence from Service Ontario.
You don’t have to start this way if this kind of opportunity hasn’t presented itself to you yet. I started out this way but the only thing it gave me a leg up in was paperwork. I learned how to draw up contracts, PO’s and SOW’s like it was the back of my hand.
Work your ass off, especially in the beginning
This is the most important thing you will need to get out of this post. And it doesn’t just relate to your career, but it branches out into your personal life too. No matter how creative you are, or great your ideas are, your talents don’t mean anything. Until you put the work in day in and day out.
No matter how well-intentioned you are, how much you think about starting that hobby, or improving your relationships. It won’t matter until you put the work in required to do so.
What sets people apart is not their talent. It’s how they use their talent to serve their customers day after day, and prove to be worth it to pay the big dollars. And if you care about your customer, you will work your little booty off to make them happy.
To sum this big ramble up, I wrote this to share with you my feelings up until now about my career decisions. The more I read about, listen to others, and talk with people about being my own boss, the more I want it.
I gave a couple of tips on starting out and ensuring early successes in a budding freelance career.
Is this the case for you too? Life is way too short not to do something you’ve wanted to do forever. Join me in my journey!