Working from home as a freelancer can be rewarding, but the job can also have its downsides, especially if you’re new to freelancing. Nevertheless, freelancing can be a great student job and the source of some of the best side hustles, so it’s worth looking into. In this article, we look at how to make freelancing work for you and how to take care of your financial, physical and mental health while doing online work.
1. Start Freelancing Before You Quit Your Old Job
It takes time to build up a successful freelance gig, so it’s usually not a good idea to quit your day job until you make at least 50% of what you were making before. Of course, this depends on your circumstances—if you are a student or have other sources of income to fall back on, you might not need to worry as much. However, freelancing as a side hustle will prepare you for juggling different jobs as a freelancer.
2. Make Sure You Get Paid
Presumably, you’re working a side hustle (or just a hustle) to make money, so there’s nothing worse than getting paid less than you did at your old job, or worse, not at all. It is very important as a freelancer not to undersell yourself—even starting. You do not want to be taking jobs that pay next to nothing. Freelance tax platform, Hnry, has a good article on how you should price your freelance services.
Without a contract or the measures put in place by a freelancing website, it’s possible to be jilted and have someone profit off your hard work for free. This is one of the benefits of using a freelance site like Upwork, PeoplePerHour or Fiverr. However, all of these sites charge a commission, weighing the pros and cons of using these options is important. It’s also possible, but less likely, to not get paid on them (for example, if you log your hours manually on Upwork, you depend on your employer’s honesty).
3. Pick a Niche
You may have many marketable skills (e.g. writing, translation, graphic design), but if you concentrate on all of these things, you’re less likely to get work. Employers are more likely to hire you and pay you well if you specialise. A specialised profile (especially one optimised with SEO) will come up more often in searches and land you more gigs.
4. Be Organised
Being organised is very important as a freelancer because you have no boss or manager to organise you. Here are three tips that can help:
5. Find Your Work Style
Closely related to making time to work is finding your work style. You’re no longer tied to a 9-5 job or any specific hours as in traditional employment, so you should find a way of working that works for you. For example, do you do your best work in the morning or the afternoon? Do you like to work in large blocks or small chunks? Do you want to do all of your work in a few days or stretch it out over a week? Thinking about your work style is especially important if you’ve never been very good at traditional work—discovering what really works for you will make your work life much more fulfilling and productive.
6. Plan Ahead
Especially at the beginning of your freelancing career, it’s important to plan. Freelancing does not give a very consistent income: one week, you might have a glut of work and then nothing for weeks. Therefore, it’s important to budget and save a little nest egg you can use to get through the dry spells. Cultivating a series of repeat clients (the more, the merrier) can help you get a more consistent income stream.
7. Maintain a Work-life Balance
Maintaining a work-life balance is as important, if not more so, as a freelancer too as an employed worker. It is very easy to end up in a state of burnout from having too many demands on your time and little to no social interaction. However, there are things you can do to retain a good work-life balance:
Of course, there’s one big element of work-life balance we missed out—breaks!
8. Take Time Off
Apart from small breaks within the day, which are very important, you also will need to think about taking weekends or holidays, which are crucial to help you recharge and avoid burnout. Try to take two or more days off a week (i.e. “a weekend”). These could be the traditional Saturday-Sunday weekend (which might help your social life) or any other days of the week (which could mean a weekend away is suddenly a lot cheaper). Scheduling a longer holiday of a few weeks is equally important. This doesn’t need to be financially impossible if you plan ahead. As with weekends, these holidays can either be at traditional or non-traditional times of the year.
So, there you have it—freelancing can work for you if you follow a few simple tips. If you can make sure you get paid, organise and take care of yourself, then you will be well on the way to a sustainable career in freelancing.