Freelance Survival: How to Make The Flexible Lifestyle Work For You

Regardless of your age and current rung on the career ladder, you may have noticed that the culture of work is slowly changing.

In just a few decades, our career spans have altered dramatically from that of our parents and grandparents. The “job for life” adage seems almost archaic nowadays. More of us change career paths, face unemployment, or freelance on the side while working as an employee. But notably, more us than ever are choosing to make freelancing our main job – not something to do as a stop gap in between “real” jobs.  

It has never been easier to market yourself as a “freelancer for hire” and carve out your own niche, brand, and flexible lifestyle.

At the same time, going freelance is challenging as well — you could end up working long hours in order to meet deadlines and make ends meet.

Here are some ways to make the flexible freelance lifestyle as enjoyable and risk-free as possible.

Finding Your Skillset

If you have already worked in a creative profession (such as writing or graphic design), you already have a good idea of the skills and services to provide if you go self-employed. It’s easy to start to imagine taking on your own clients and projects, instead of relying on the agency for work.

It’s a good idea to start to specialize early on so that you have a strong unique selling proposition (USP). This could be in terms of channel, tactic, industry or style. There are many copywriters who have found their calling in a clear niche.

However, if your career thus far has been varied; you may not immediately be able to think of a freelancing skill to advertise. Don’t despair — there are plenty of tasks, jobs, and at-home businesses that you could test out to see what sticks. Organizational and time management skills could set you up for pretty much any business freelance role. Things like administration, data entry, business management, and consultancy are all relatively easy to get into.

Using Freelance Sites [With Caution]

Freelance sites get a bad rep, but they can be an important stop gap or backup when you first start. If nothing else, they will give you a good idea of the roles available in your area, and guideline prices on what people are willing to pay.

Freelancing sites, like Upwork and PeoplePerHour, have a wide range of remote working positions. Have a browse to see how others are positioning and marketing themselves.

If you already know what you want to do, just go ahead and create a profile on a couple of the biggest sites, but know that some targeted outreach to existing clients and contacts is also probably needed. It’s better to start with a few guaranteed sources of income, than end up having to scramble around with ‘odds and ends’. At the same time, having a positive track record on these sites can be a powerful asset.

Up-Skill Yourself

Regardless of your years of experience, there is always room to learn new skills.

You can find many free training resources online to help you brush up on your skills. Alternatively, you could look to signing up for a paid online training course. Many of these offer flexible payment plans, as well as work schedules. If you are currently employed, these can be useful for building confidence in the discipline, before you attempt to start your own freelancing business.

Udemy is a great place to take online courses, and they cover a wide range of skills and industries — perfect for the flexible freelancer. In fact, continuous learning and personal development are probably two of the most important perks of going freelance.

Courses in business management, accounting, marketing, UX and web design will also be very worthwhile for small business owners. You should be looking for ways to learn and diversify your offerings, as well as keeping up with the latest developments within your industry.

If you are low on time, map out an hour a week for your professional development. Using the stopwatch app on your phone, give yourself an hour of reading in your subject area every week. If you need to make this easier still, listen to audiobooks during your commute, or while you are cooking dinner.

The more you keep taking on and learning, the more skilled you will become as a freelancer and the higher rates you will be able to charge.

Document Your Journey

If things are slow, or you are just feeling creative — why not start a blog that documents your freelancer lifestyle? There are already dozens out there, but that doesn’t mean that your experiences haven’t got something valuable to offer.

MyWifeQuitHerJob.com is a great example of a family documenting their journey as they go from a corporate to flexible lifestyle. A memorable brand like this can become your USP, bring in clients, and eventually even become your whole business!

Make Use Of Automated Tools

In the hectic world of freelance work, you should always be looking for ways to make tasks more error-proof and easy.

If you are looking for help in your written work, Grammarly can be added onto your word processor and internet browser. Use it to check your spelling and grammar as you type. It’s just ONE of the many many essential tools you’ll need. Choosing the right ones can be a matter of personal choice, so it’s hard to come up with a definitive list.

Invoicing apps, CRMs, chatbots, time tracking software, project management tools — there are literally thousands of options out there that can help your freelance business scale. It’s now possible for one person to manage a small business all by themselves with the help of these tools.

Become A Productivity Fiend

You need to make sure your working day is timed to perfection and that you are being productive when you work. The flexible lifestyle won’t work for you unless you make it work.

  1. Productivity apps can help you work better — have you heard of the Pomodoro technique? Simple task time-boxing can make all the difference to your day.
  2. Apps like Focus Booster can help you log your hours. Use it to eliminate distractions during your concentration intervals.

Sell Products, Not Time

Whether you are looking to launch a freelancing career full-time, or you’re just looking for a way to make money with your skills as a side gig, ecommerce can be a great boost to your working capital.

By setting up an online store, you can sell drop-shipped goods and forgo the initial inventory and shipping costs. Setting up a retail brand will teach you all you need to know about marketing and business. Automated apps can help you collect sales tax, generate marketing ideas, and highlight keyword suggestions to help your business grow.

At the same time, packaging your freelance services and skills up as a product, rather than selling your time, is also advised. People are used to the ecommerce model and will find you more professional and valuable if you have a system that’s mature enough to be considered a product. Coaching calls, audits, masterminds — the web is full of people who have done just that.

Once you have started making money, you can outsource the task of running your webstore to a freelancer. Play your part in the booming freelancing economy and pass off some of the mundane tasks to a side-hustler like you.

The Buck Stops… At You

The important thing to remember about the freelance flexible lifestyle is that you will only succeed if you are willing to put the effort in. You need to commit to designing a lifestyle that’s suited to your unique skills and situation.

And don’t underestimate how tough it can be to be your own boss. Unpaid invoices, harsh deadlines, and unexpected delays can make you feel stressed. Learn how to cope with stress and manage yourself in order to thrive, not just survive.

There has never been a better time to venture out on your own into freelancing. There are so many channels where you can advertise your services for free, and a whole sub-economy built up around helping you manage your business better. The sheer diversity of roles to explore also means that if one venture isn’t working, you can evolve into something else.

Victoria Greene

Branding Consultant and Freelance Writer at Victoria Ecommerce
Victoria Greene is a branding consultant and freelance writer. On her blog, Victoria Ecommerce, she shares tips on ecommerce and digital marketing. She is passionate about using her experience to help brands with their digital marketing strategy.

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