A few years ago, the only thing the student-on-a-budget in me wanted was this: financial security. In fact, I may have shuddered at the thought of not having a ‘place’ to go to work, paid benefits, or being in a space where I could ‘grow’ and rise through the ranks.
That was 2014. This year, I’m making the leap into freelancing full-time — and I’ve long left that worried student behind. If you’re interested in joining the gig economy, you might be curious to learn how I got here.
This is how it came to be.
1. My skill set became applicable to, well, almost every business.
Over time, I became a specialist in three key things that happened to be on the rise: content marketing, social media strategy and graphic design. Nowadays, many businesses are looking to take on contractors to fill these gaps rather than take on full-time employees — and it makes sense. I realized quickly that I didn’t feel passionate performing all these roles for one organization or department on a daily basis, and by contracting these key services out, I’ve been able to build a strong roster of clientele that require them on a monthly basis.
The bottom line: Know your strengths, and sell them! Sometimes, you really do have to ‘fake it ’till you make it’. Self-doubt in my abilities and specializations has clouded my willingness to sell myself (it’s a work in progress), but it will be your detriment if you don’t believe that you are truly great at what you do. Trust me: once the word is out there, you’ll be surprised to learn how many people were looking for someone just like you.
Know your strengths, and sell them.
2. Being my own boss was pretty neat.
My first attempt at being a full-time freelancer was right out of university — I had no idea what to charge for my work, how to structure my time or seek out new clients. The result is as you might expect: my days were being spent in pj’s on the couch, and seeing my partner at the end of the day became the only human contact I had — as he would tell you, it wasn’t pretty.
Like anything, there are pros and cons to be being your own manager. However, I’ve learned from succumbing to the cons that I needed to focus on amplifying the pros instead. Simple things like setting boundaries with clients and designating specific days for meetings, work and play have made a significant impact on my health and wellbeing, and the main thing I’d been struggling to achieve: balance. Yes, you can watch Netflix in the middle of the day — but with no commute time, you start to realize how much of your day was being taken up just by travelling and office chatter before.
The bottom line: You’re in control — so make sure you’re honest with yourself in designing your own system of working. Want to work from 11AM — 9PM or 7AM — 3PM? It doesn’t matter! It’s all about identifying the optimal time and space for you.
Be honest with yourself.
3. Experimenting helped me achieve balance.
Freelancing full-time in the beginning clearly did not work. Moving on to working a full-time job, and freelancing as my ‘side hustle’ also continued to drive me bananas. Clearly, I was having a tug-of-war between the two roles, and there’s no one to tell you how to have the stability you need and grow your teeny-tiny business at the same time.
In 2016, I decided to take on a part-time communications role. I hadn’t fully built up my business yet, and I knew I wanted more time working in an ‘office’ in my field. This way, I’d have the best of two worlds, right?
Absolutely. One year later, I used that extra bit of time to take on new clients, help my old ones by offering more time and services, and figured out the nitty-gritty bookkeeping stuff: taxes, finances and budget — all the stuff freelancers don’t usually like to talk about. Accounting isn’t sexy, but it is important — and you should always be prepared to seek out the help you need and discuss it point-blank with your peers if you want to hop onto the gig economy. (More on this to come in future posts!)
The bottom line: If you want to make the jump into freelancing, trying out different job arrangements may do you some good, and bring you greater clarity on what you’re looking for.
P.S. Don’t forget to find yourself a good bookkeeper.
Accounting isn’t sexy, but it is important.
4. I wanted to be challenged constantly.
My colleagues and friends will have heard me say this at some point: it’s time for a change when you start feeling too comfortable. Working a full-time, or part-time job that you love may be the best fit for you, but I found delight in extending my reach to more than just one business or client, which still keeps me on my toes. Each client brings a new opportunity or problem to solve to the table, and I realized that being uncomfortable often leads to finding and implementing creative solutions.
The bottom line: What drives you? Take moments throughout your day to pause and dissect those moments that bring you joy — and discomfort — in your work.
It’s time for a change when you start feeling too comfortable.
5. Time is precious. Freelancing kept it that way.
Millennials like myself will often tell you that having more time and purpose in their work is more important than having more money. Have you ever found yourself looking at the clock, twiddling your thumbs because you finished your work for the day but you can’t ‘clock out’ until you’re supposed to? I firmly believe that the 9–5 workday is dead, and freelancing was my opportunity to take the value of my time into my own hands.
Maximizing every hour of my day allows me to be more efficient (no more afternoon slumps), eliminates commute time, ensures all communications are only what’s necessary (your colleagues and clients have to think twice before reaching out, because you are not always physically present) and most of all: allows me to spend more time doing what I love, with the people that I love. While trends like unlimited vacations and the flexibility to work from home haven’t extended to every business just yet, knowing that my time is in my hands right now is a true joy, and a gift.
The bottom line: Even if freelancing might not be for you, always challenge the value of your time and your contribution. I felt I wasn’t making the impact I wanted to have by checking off task after task at one place — what will bring value into your life? Whether it’s redefining your role or truly understanding what fulfills you, always question how you can use those 40 hours a week even better.
Knowing that my time is in my hands right now is a true joy, and a gift.
This year will be yet another experiment on the freelancing path for me, but something feels different this time. I am fortunate enough to not have any dependents, and sought out a lot of advice on how to financially prepare in the event that freelancing full-time didn’t yield the results I wanted. I had to weave in and out of these a-ha moments to truly realize I was ready, and I made sure I was prepared to jump off into the deep end.
The bottom line: Be honest with yourself. Know your worth. Question your daily impact. If you have nothing to lose, what is stopping you?
Have you ever wanted to make the switch to freelancing? What lifestyle change would make you say "YES please!" in an instant? Let me know in the comments!