- I used to freelance, but after three years I was overworked and burnt out.
- When I decided to leave my full-time job to try freelancing again, I knew I had to do things differently.
- This time, I'm working with a financial advisor, tracking my money, and being proactive about setting rates.
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Leaving big city life behind and taking the leap from renting to home ownership during the pandemic helped lay the groundwork for another big life change: resigning from my permanent, full-time, salaried job in the non-profit sector to return to the world of freelancing.
I'm no stranger to the hustle or the gig economy. In my first freelancing career I worked long hours, but made less than a living wage. Although I was never short on passion or motivation, I was left feeling totally burnt out after three years of full-time freelancing.
I didn't take the decision to go freelance and leave the security of full-time employment lightly. The transition took nearly six months of list-making, conducting informational interviews, and reflecting on how I might do the freelance thing differently this time around. My increased financial literacy and healthier boundaries around how much and how often I'm willing to work are supporting a fresh start.
These three strategies for successful freelancing are helping me build my business, get the freedom I crave, and avoid slipping back into old patterns of scarcity and overwork.
1. I talked to my financial advisor before making the leap
Whenever I'm considering a big life change, my first phone call is to my financial advisor. I booked a meeting with Liz at the New School of Finance when I first started entertaining the exciting and scary idea of starting yet another career. My main question was: Can I afford to do this?
My advisor ran a few different scenarios for me and showed me that it was in fact possible. Our meeting gave me a clear idea of the spectrum between the worst and best case scenarios of going fully freelance. Now, six months into my new career, I have another session booked where I'll get an up-to-date snapshot of how things are going, where I need to pivot, and what new strategies I need to put in place to grow my business in the coming year.
2. I track my finances closely without being obsessive
Since buying my first home in 2020, I've kept an extra close eye on my finances. I have a money date with myself at the beginning of each month to review where I hunker down with a pot of green tea and my Google Sheets and begin plugging in the numbers.
When I made the shift from salaried to freelance work in the summer of 2021, these money dates became that much more important … and complicated. Tracking multiple sources of income that fluctuate month to month, with clients issuing payment via different methods and on different time lines, has been a real puzzle for me. The biggest piece has been managing my own anxiety around whether I'm making enough money through the feast or famine fluctuations typical of freelancing.
Setting aside dedicated time each month to get a clear picture of my money is essential. It's empowering and it helps to ease my anxiety. I'm working toward finding a balance between staying informed and staying away from obsessive behaviours around my money. I'm learning to trust that if I need to earn a little more one month, I'll make that happen.
3. I figured out what my time was worth in order to set my rates
In my first career, I accepted whatever rates clients were willing to pay. Now I set my own rates. But that doesn't mean that each of my clients always pays the same rate. I'm learning to be firm but flexible when it comes to my rates.
For me, the most important thing has been knowing how much to ask for. In some cases, especially for longer-term projects, I've accepted a lower rate, banking on the potential to grow the relationship and secure future contracts, for which I plan to negotiate a rate that more closely aligns with my base rate.
One of the most important shifts I'm making as I re-establish myself in the freelance world is changing my mindset from one of scarcity to one of abundance. I used to have an avoidant attitude toward money. I resented needing it, and yet, I worked super long days and took any opportunity to earn. Now, I'm intimately familiar with my financial situation, have a clearer sense of how much I actually need to work in order to afford my life, and actively seek out clients I want to work with.
While I may not be as comfortable financially as I was when I worked a salaried job (yet!) I'm basing my feelings of abundance on my proven track record of earning potential, not on the amount of money in my checking account at a given time. This mindset, combined with the strategies I've put into place, are setting me up for success as a freelancer this time around.