4 November 2022 marked the 13th month since quitting my job, and going fulltime into writing.
I’m not a pro.
Some context might help you. I didn’t train in media. What’s more, I don’t even have social media accounts on LinkedIn, instagram and Facebook. It might seem that I’m the classic ‘un-creator’. After all, how would I be found as a freelancer if I weren’t actively posting on these social media platforms, letting other professionals know about my services?
But today, I earn more than I did in my fulltime job as a social worker, where I was getting $3690 a month.
Sure, that wasn’t much.
But to move from $0 in freelance earning to crossing $3690, that is a big jump.
Whenever I go for networking sessions and meet others, they always ask me,
how did you make it work?
Should I take the plunge?
This article seeks to share my journey, but also share some contrarian insights to what helped me as a freelancer.
More than that, over the past few months, I’ve also worked with freelancers in different fields such as
- Personal training for fitness
- Yoga teachers
- Business Consultants
There are many differences that we want to cover, so that you’re sufficiently put off, before we share the tricks that helped us to make it.
You didn’t read that wrong.
I want to put you off.
Because if you think freelancing is freedom, then you better think again. It’s not.
Freelancing is earning money, in hard mode
If you don’t work, you don’t get money.
Compare that to the typical employee, who gets money in and out, every month, whether or not they do a good job.
The buck stops at you.
That’s why most people can’t handle the responsibility of working for themselves.
As a freelancer you’re responsible for every part of the business, from:
Freelancing is that slimy salesman you would rather avoid
If you’re a freelancer, you’re constantly selling. Everyone you meet is a potential customer, or referrer.
As I look back at my own journey, the work that has come has been because of two things.
- I asked people in my circle, such as acquaintances (but not friends), whether they would need training or writing services
- If they didn’t, I would ask ‘Do you know of anyone who might benefit from such a service?”
You have to ask.
If you’re shy about your services, don’t do it.
I have to admit. I hate networking sessions because I think people there are constantly looking over my shoulder, trying to figure out who else in the room they should speak to.
But I’ve come to see that if you’re a shy introvert, one way might be for you to connect 1 on 1 with another new person, rather than constantly trying to work the room.
Freelancers earn less initially
I ate out of tuna cans for 2 straight weeks. 7 days a week, 2 meals a day. I skipped breakfast.
Because tuna cans were the cheapest, and easiest to prepare.
Being frugal helped me initially.
When I started, all I earned in my first month was a paltry $710. It was miserly.
If you want your fulltime pay, keep waiting. It won’t come that fast.
But if you’re willing to put in the work, you will start to earn.
How do you make it work?
Many people ask how I’ve managed to earn as a freelancer.
Here are some contrarian tips that have worked for me.
Quit first, think later
When people ask me whether they should quit their job, and do something they love, what they are really asking me is,
Can you guarantee that I will succeed?
Nope. I don’t even want to try.
But what I can say is that there never is a right point to quit.
It’s more of an intention to make something happen for yourself, than a well-weighted and thought through decision to quit.
You must want to. And everything else will fall into place.
This sounds like mambo-jumbo bullshit. Hold on before you throw your mouse at me.
After all, if you think about it, being a freelancer is crazy.
You’re quitting the safety of a comfortable job, your comfortable chair with air-conditioning, with retirement benefits, to… work for yourself?
To work for yourself?
Is it worth it?
3 months ago, it was 3pm in the afternoon. Feeling bored, I started watching a movie.
At the end of the movie, I laughed. Like a crazy madman.
I wouldn’t have imagined a boss being very happy at me watching a movie in the middle of work.
But as a freelancer then, I could do it.
That doesn’t mean you should or can slack. But it means you have the freedom to do so.
Why I recommend you to quit is because with a fulltime job, you would always have backup. you know that you can always retreat to your job, even if you failed. But alone, you have nowhere to go. You have to make it work, or risk eating grass.
You don’t want that?
Then you need to work.
Ask for the money
In July 2022, I was speaking to a potential client. When I told them,
To be clear, we will charge for this service.
The conversation stopped.
They wanted us to do things for free.
If you want to make it as a freelancer, simply asking,
What is the remuneration for this?
This can go a long way towards helping you to make things sustainable.
But as freelancers, some of us may be scared of charging too high for our services, because you’re afraid people will be scared away.
Alan Stevens, my previous speaking coach once told me,
If you don’t value yourself, no one will.
This is so important that I’m going to repeat it again.
If you don’t value yourself, no one will.
You need to value yourself.
When you first start, getting paid, however little, ensures that there’s a cost to the customer. It helps people to value you too.
Tom Abbott, one of my mentors, and one of the top sales speakers in the region, once told me,
If you’re closing 70% of your deals, that means you’re charging too low.
That makes sense.
It has helped me to raise my fees. You can try that too.
One thing you can do is to have a yearly meeting with your client, to discuss a bigger package, rather than just a once-off meeting.
Ask for the referral too
But even if someone doesn’t need your service at that time, you can ask,
do you know someone else who might benefit from this?
Referrals can help you to build greater credibility, as businesses are more likely to buy from someone else’s recommendations, rather than someone whom they don’t know.
Clients as friends
Some people say that clients shouldn’t be friends. My advice?
Be friendly, without being a friend.
People like to do business with people whom they like.
Freelancing, as a choice
Freelancing is a choice.
More importantly, it is a chance.
In October 2021, I quit my job without a job lined up.
But I did it because I had gotten tired of pretending that I liked my work, clocking in and out, within a toxic environment. I realised that I had nothing to lose. I had no dependents, no major liabilities I had to pay, and I knew that this was one of the few chances I had.
I was 26.
You can too, wherever you are.
You won’t regret your journey.
After all, in life, it’s not that you try and fail.
It’s that you fail to try.