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The Secret to Being A Successful Freelancer

Feminism is not the only movement that came into vogue in the 21st Century. Another movement is starting- a movement called Individualism. Okay, I just made it up. But although the movement doesn’t really have a name yet, it has started.

What is the “Individualism” movement?

This movement is being brought about by people who don’t want to be restricted by 9-5 jobs. Yes, I am talking about the dreamers, and more specifically, the freelancers. Not many things are taboo in today’s modern society. As a result, more and more people are opting out of desk jobs to follow their passion and do what they love. Where some people become entrepreneurs, own businesses and employ other people, others just go their own way and become Successful Freelancer.

Difference between entrepreneurs and Successful Freelancer

The Secret to Being A Successful Freelancer

Before I point out some obvious differences, I’ll state one, even more, obvious similarity between the two. That is, both entrepreneurs and successful freelancers work on their own terms.

Imagine a Venn diagram with two circles, one inside another. Let the small circle be entrepreneurs and the big circle freelancers. Okay, so we know that both entrepreneurs and freelancers work on their own terms. However, where an entrepreneur employs other people and doesn’t have any boss, a freelancer does have bosses. The difference between an employee and a freelancer is- an employee cannot choose his boss, or his work timings, or the kind of work he is given. A freelancer, CAN.

Freelancing is pretty much like working for oneself only. If you are not doing work for someone else, but doing your own thing and letting people approach you, you lie in the entrepreneur part. But if you are working for someone, only at your own T&C, then you lie in the outer part of the freelancer circle.

Why become a freelancer?

Well, there are some obvious perks to being a freelancer. Freelancing gives you a great deal of freedom to live your life the way you want to. You get to decide your bosses, the kind of work you want to do and your work hours/days. A freelancer can do multiple jobs requiring completely different skill sets, just because they want to and can. They can earn doing whatever they want. All they need is a good skill set appropriate for the work they are after. And as more and more organizations are outsourcing employees from amongst the freelancer crowd for cost-effectiveness, work is plenty.

The Secret to Being A Successful Freelancer

I myself am a freelancer, and I am a college student at the same time. Freelancing allows me to do what I love (content writing) and earn extra pocket money without having to compromise on anything. You can wake up whenever you want, go on long vacations, and have a good social life.

Why not be a Successful Freelancer?

Ah, I wish freelancing was one of those things which didn’t have any cons to it. Unfortunately, it isn’t. Freelancing has its own share of disadvantages. For one, there is no certainty about when you will get work and when you won’t. Your living standards are dependent on how much you are earning at the time; freelancing makes this aspect quite a volatile thing. You never know when work (hence money) will be flooding in like water, and when you will find yourself struggling to make ends meet.

The Secret to Being A Successful Freelancer

This is especially true during times like recession when people with secure jobs also find themselves unemployed. Freelancing works for people who have some backup for situations like these. People whose lives are entirely dependent on their freelance work, well, they will feel the pain of these disadvantages more.

Now coming back to the question of the day-

How to be a successful freelancer?

So, I have curated a list of to-dos based on my personal experience and those of some freelancers who I personally know are doing better than any full-time employee. All successful freelancers have a few things in common, and this list enlists those similarities-

Have a backup plan

The Secret to Being A Successful Freelancer

Don’t be completely dependent on our freelancing job. It always helps to have a steady backup plan for when you are out of work. Your backup plan could be anything- a savings bank account for emergencies, a part/full-time job, or your parents (only valid for students). Now, you may be wondering why I mentioned a full-time job here. Look, if you can guarantee that there is a place vacant for you somewhere for when you’re in need, take it. Or if you feel that your freelance work doesn’t earn you much money, do a full-time job till you can save up enough to quit.

If you are a student and freelancing, don’t think of your hard-earned money as extra cash you can spend lavishly. Save some money, so that even if you decide not to work after graduating, you won’t have to beg if you’re short of work. Long story short, make sure that you can live comfortably and have a source of income when you aren’t getting work.

Don’t be too choosy

The Secret to Being A Successful Freelancer

In the initial days of your freelance work, you may be extremely selective about the kind of work you want. This way, you will only volunteer or apply for certain jobs and reject others. Never do that, at least at the beginning of your freelance career. Apply for the smaller, less-paying jobs too. They may seem unsatisfying, but there is always scope for growth everywhere. And you will never know where you will strike gold.

Signing up for all kinds of assignments and jobs will teach you a lot about how the real world works. You will encounter all kinds of people, and learn how to handle pressure. Not just that, this also gives you an opportunity to network, and maybe get people to recommend you for other better jobs.

Learn how to say “no” too

The Secret to Being A Successful Freelancer

“Take it as it comes” doesn’t mean that you should compromise too much either. Make sure that the compromise is made on both sides. You are freelancing for a reason– to work on your own terms. If a job is way too demanding for very less pay, and you aren’t desperate, say no.

Again, if you are being told to do something that is not in your job description or your skill-set, don’t do it. State your reasons very clearly, and ask them to compromise. If they don’t, pack your skills and your smile up, take your payment, and leave. Never agree to do something that is irrelevant to the work or if you have zero profit in it.

Develop a versatile skill-set

The Secret to Being A Successful Freelancer

The advantage of being a freelancer is that you can work in just about any field that you want to. When you are working as a full-time employee in a software company, you can’t be a photographer at the same time. With freelancing, you have so much freedom and so much more time on hand. So use it to your advantage, and develop a versatile skill set.

If you are a graphic designer, learn some basic video editing and VFX. Or you could learn a new language alongside whatever it is that you do. This will keep you occupied, make you an all-rounder, and also help you land better assignments and hence more money.

Work on your multitasking skills

The Secret to Being A Successful Freelancer

Freelancing can sometimes be a pain in the neck if you aren’t a good multitasker. The trouble with having multiple assignments from different sources is that there’s too much hustle involved. You have to balance the deadlines, ensure quality and quantity in all, and not mix up the assignments. All of this without losing your sanity. So do work on your time management and multitasking skills. They are your weapons if you want to be a successful freelancer and not go insane in the process.

Schedule your time and assign a time slot to every assignment. Or if two assignments are similar, be smart and modify one of them for the other. But remember, don’t do this for every assignment that you get. Plagiarism is heavily looked down upon in the world of freelancers.

Learn how to communicate and network

The Secret to Being A Successful Freelancer

If you want to grow, you need to build connections. You must’ve seen YouTubers collaborating with each other on videos, and attending YouTube fan fests. These are ways to network and build relationships with other people like them. This helps you grow and learn. You will get to know new people, new tips and tricks of the trade, and make new friends too. This will also help you build a rapport in your freelancing community, and get you better jobs and more money.

If you want to be successful, you need to be known. Oblivion and being introverted won’t get you anywhere. You need to get out there, and build connections. Networking is a surefire way to be a successful freelancer fast.

Don’t sit idly

The Secret to Being A Successful Freelancer

Even if you’re short on work, don’t sit idle. Work on skill building, and keep building your resume. If you’re a writer, write articles, poems, or short stories that you can show clients as work samples. Similarly, if you are a graphic designer, work on new templates or logos to make your resume stronger. You can also use the free time to teach yourself a new skill, and get work related to that new skill. Whatever you do, don’t sit idle.

Use the freedom that freelancing gives you for your own good. Don’t use it to while away time and be a couch potato. That won’t get you anywhere. Successful freelancers never sit still. They are always hustling to reach the heights they want to achieve. So always keep yourself busy. After all, you know what they say, “An idle brain is the devil’s workshop.”

Freelancing gives you the freedom to express yourself. It gives you a way to showcase your talents and live your passion, your dreams. But freedom makes us lazy, and greedy. The road to success is the same for everyone, whether you’re a freelancer or a corporate employee. Give your dreams all that you have got, and you’ll be amazed at what you can do. Don’t be afraid of hustling. If you are passionate about something, give it all that you can. Trust me, no one will be able to stop you from becoming successful.

Shubhi Srivastava
Shubhi Srivastava
A pen is my mightiest sword.


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