10 Lessons for Profitable Freelancers
For five years, I’ve managed to maintain a comfortable revenue while supporting my single-income family with my writing. Along the way, while it’s been mostly up, there have been a few downs. Some were financial, most were emotional.
Through it all, I’ve learned 10 important lessons that I’d like to share with you.
1. Find a way to stay excited. Every career becomes a slogfest if you can’t get excited about it. This enthusiasm is easy to maintain during the first year, that magical twelve months when working from home is still a treat filled with leather-smelling newness, but it can get harder. New projects, partnerships, skills and adventures, both related and unrelated to your writing, will help you regain that sense of wonder in the future.
2. You are your own person and that’s a GREAT thing. Sounds pretty obvious, I guess, but you’d be surprised how many writers don’t realize their own awesome originality. Focus on those things that make you, YOU and use them to your benefit—because your youness is the one thing you’ve got that no one else does.
3. Others around you may fail while you succeed. Feel no guilt over your success, even when others are failing. Don’t be a jerk or anything, but be proud of yourself.
4. Criticism is opinion, not fact. There are some things you can legit mess up—and then there are artistic choices you can make that people don’t like. When someone corrects you, you’ve made a mistake. When they criticize you, it isn’t a ruling, it’s an opinion.
5. Mistakes don’t matter as much as you think. OH NO YOU DIDN’T FORMAT THAT FILE RIGHT AND NOW THE ‘LOOK INSIDE’ IS ALL MESSED UP! YOUR CAREER IS OVER! Or, YOUR CLIENT DIDN’T LIKE THE ARTICLE YOU WROTE AND IS TERMINATING THE CONTRACT! YOUR CAREER IS OVER! If you react to every single mistake you make like Chicken Little, you’re going to be one unhappy ball of fail. There are big mistakes and little mistakes, and while the big mistakes suck hard, very few of them will completely ruin your career. Chill out, apologize, make up for the mistakes, and learn how to not repeat them.
6. Greed isn’t good. Listen, you don’t need to be the king of the self-publishing or freelance writing mountain in order to make a comfortable living and profit for your business. There’s plenty of room for everyone to make money and build a career. You don’t need to have the one ring to rule all the readers and clients. It’s good to struggle sometimes. It’s even better to have goals you’re constantly striving for. The only thing that happens when you’re on top is that you must wait to see what (or who) eventually knocks you down. Instead, enjoy your time climbing.
7. Fear is good. If you aren’t a little bit afraid of what’s going to happen with your next project, then it’s very possible that you aren’t pushing yourself to see how far you can take your career. When you take on something new and feel those little prickles of fear, revel in them—they’re the first sign of progress.
8. Use your voice. Your voice is your sword and your shield. It’s your friend and your source of power. It’s that little piece of you that you put into every project you take part in, like a tiny trail of invisible breadcrumbs to your soul. If you don’t use it, you’re selling the experience of your life short.
9. Do more, think less. Sometimes, you have to think about stuff, for sure. But if you spend all your time thinking, then you’re not doing. If you want to be a thing, you have to do a thing. You want to be a writer, you have to write. You want to be profitable, you have to charge enough money, and earn it. You want to have clients, you have to get clients.
10. There is no easy way and no guarantees. You hold the keys to your success. I’m not going to lie—getting there’s gonna take hard work, time, and patience. If you want to have an amazing career, it’ll take courage and some creativity. Even with all that, you may still fail … but it’s a fun ride on the way.