Being your own boss, deciding who you want to work with, taking days off whenever you want, working from any place on this planet… The life of a freelancer is a bliss! But why there are still people working in large corporations, with strict guidelines and schedules? Because freelancing is not for everyone and it requires the right freelance mindset.
Of course, the best way to know whether being self-employed is the right occupation for you is to try. Such an experiment can cost you a lot of time and money. Furthermore, it would be a pity if you quit your comfortable well-paid 9 to 5 job and only a couple of months later you realize you made the biggest mistake in your life (seriously, has this ever happened to anyone?!).
In any case, it’s better if you make an informed decision. Today I’ll help you discover what is the necessary mindset to become a successful (and zen!) freelancer. This way you can decide whether you have what it takes!
There’s no magical potion which will make you suitable for the freelancing lifestyle. But if there were, it would have contained exactly two ingredients: commitment and patience.
Freelance Mindset Ingredient №1: Commitment
No matter how big your network is and how experienced you are, there’s one painful truth which you have to accept.
No one cares about what you do.
“Why are you so negative, Marina?!”, I hear you saying. I’m not negative but realistic. At the beginning of your freelancing career, you have to put a lot of effort into finding your place. This happens gradually and also requires both time and patience. But if you’re not committed to what you do, you won’t succeed even if you have a decade. Which, I’m sure, you don’t.
Day after day you’ll have to get up, set your own goals, work overtime to get all the necessary things done and live without a stable income. During the first week, this might be fun. The second week you’ll say to your friends that it’s difficult, but you love challenges. After the third week, it will be exhausting. And bear in mind that most probably you’ll need at least six months to make it work…
How to stay focused?
Focus is an elusive concept. No one knows how it comes, but we all know how easy it is to lose it. You should observe yourself and become aware of your focus’s features. Do you have a short attention span followed by an irresistible desire to do something fun? Or maybe you’re a talented multitasker, but you can focus only after sunset. Whatever it is, recognize and embrace it. This is a crucial part of switching to the right freelance mindset.
For example, when working from home, I don’t really need a special trick to stay focused. But as I’m not an early bird when it comes to creative productivity, I work out in the morning. Doing sports helps me clear my mind and gives me the energy to spend the rest of the day dealing with my assignments.
From time to time I also need help with retaining my focus. In such cases, I listen to music which boosts both my concentration and creativity. If you explore your inner world, you’ll be able to notice what works best for you.
Writing down your long-term goals or having a business plan would also help you see the big picture. Being a freelancer includes so many small tasks that we eventually forget what it was all about. Getting back on track is possible only in case you actually know where you’re going.
How to be productive?
I like to say that I have so many to-do lists that I also need a list with all of them. This helps me not only to stay focused but also to get more done faster.
Writing down my tasks makes them somehow more pressing which motivates me to overcome procrastination. Furthermore, tracking my progress within each project daily makes me satisfied and excited.
The most crucial thing is to keep an overview of all the things you want to do. In my case, I develop The Zen Freelancer, but I’m also busy with writing for clients, managing social media channels, conducting marketing campaigns, studying Dutch and doing research for a new business idea I have. I’d neglect half of these endeavors if I don’t apply the necessary project management approach.
Being productive is something you can learn but only if you have the right freelance mindset. Set your priorities and don’t get distracted by the potential small bumps on this road.
Related: 6 Tips for Writing a To-Do List That Will Boost Your Productivity
How much time do you need?
It’s quite apparent that you need time to become successful in any aspect of life. When speaking about freelancing, there are multiple time-related issues you have to deal with:
- If you have savings: how long can you survive without any income?
- If you don’t have savings: how much time do you have for a side hustle?
- How much time you’re willing to spend on this endeavor a.k.a “Are you focused and productive?”
- How do you manage your time?
Time, together with money, is the usual suspect in every freelancing failure case. If you don’t plan enough time to grow in your niche, you’ll fail. In case you don’t put enough time in your business’s development, you’ll fail. Furthermore, if you fail to manage your time correctly, you’ll…
Oh, well, you get my point.
While you could work on your time management skills on the go, you should definitely consider all the other time-consuming factors before you begin freelancing.
Once you’ve decided to consider the possibility of making this career turn, create an action plan. It will help you clearly see all of the potential risks of being self-employed, including the lack of time.
Most probably, your freelancing adventure will be solo. You have to prepare for it. The first, most essential step is to start saving money. You must have a buffer which will allow you to take the time and build your career as a freelancer properly. Some of the other steps in your action plan might be:
- Determine what skills and experience you can use.
- Decide upon your niche.
- Research your potential customers and competitors.
- Set your short- and long-term goals.
- Estimate your one-time startup and monthly costs.
- Think about the tasks you have to perform on a daily, weekly or monthly basis.
If you want to get more serious, you can even write a whole business plan. Whatever its layout, its goal is to help you see whether your idea is realistic and applicable.
As an attempt to help you find zen in the chaos of everyday freelance life, I started “Freelance Tips With…” – a series of interviews with freelancers who have somehow inspired me. They all share their story and give useful advice on various topics related to achieving success as a self-employed and switching to the right freelance mindset.
Freelance Mindset Ingredient №2: Patience
Building a freelancing career is like an Olympic Marathon. You can’t win it if you sprint and the fact that you’re participating is already a great achievement.
Your success can be influenced by external factors over which you don’t have control. But whether you have the right freelance mindset also plays a role.
Once you’ve started running in the freelancing race, you should be patient. If you invest enough time into working toward your goals, you’ll most probably make it but with one condition. You’ve got to be patient.
Here are a couple of things that you should be patient with. Form realistic expectations ever since the first day so that you can accept the freelancing struggles in a more relaxed manner. For all of the topics, I’ve already written detailed articles. I’ll list them in case you feel like reading some more on the matter.
When you start freelancing, you might earn a couple of thousands during the first month. But most probably you won’t. What you will get for sure though is your bills.
The feeling is unpleasant, to say the least. Being without a steady income and having steady expenses. But this is why you have to be prepared before making the decision to take the leap. This is why you need the right freelance mindset related to your financial situation.
Once you’ve made this decision, following it with patience is crucial. Don’t let this situation bring you down, focus instead on your job. If you allow the money-related pressure in your life, you’ll most probably end up making a decision or a compromise that will ruin the whole enterprise.
You’ll probably accept any freelance job, even if you hate it or if it’s low-paid. But then you’ll have no mental energy and time left to invest in applying for cool projects or finding a decent client. Earning less than you need is a vicious circle.
You don’t earn enough ===> You make a compromise and work on a lousy project ===> You don’t earn enough
At the end of the day, you might give up while the wheels are turning, without giving yourself enough time to reveal your freelance potential.
You can prevent this from happening with solid planning and conscious spending.
Read more in the article What No One Tells You About Being a Freelancer.
When working as a freelancer, you’re on your own. You’ll deal with a lot of things you have no experience whatsoever with. I can assure you that you will make mistakes. Tens, hundreds of mistakes.
The earlier you accept this, the better.
What you will do with those mistakes is what will make the difference. You should…
- Learn from your mistakes.
- Never make the same mistake twice.
- Learn from others’ mistakes.
Now that you have this basic but precious knowledge, you can read the article The Biggest Mistakes You Can Make as a Freelancer. Getting to know the most common freelancing mistakes might actually help you avoid them.
Whatever your niche, you can’t ignore your clients. And even though the client might not always be right, they’re a source of your income.
If your freelancing path takes you to a difficult client, don’t become too desperate. Think of them as a necessary evil. Suppress the impulse to ditch them and learn how to approach them instead. A good start would be to check out the article 7 Types of Difficult Clients and How to Deal With Them.
Even the most fabulous idea might fail. But you can never know before you try to make it work. Now you know what the right freelance mindset is, ask yourself whether you want such risk. Sometimes it’s best to leave all the what-ifs and just jump into the unknown. Maybe you’ll start flying instead of falling…
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