4 Lessons I learned in my first six months of freelancing

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July marks 6 months from switching from my 9-5 office job into a full-time freelance life.

In the past 6 months there have been mountain highs, valley lows, and everything in-between. If you want to learn more about first-hand experience on getting into freelancing, read on below.

Why I did it

Before I jump into my experience, I figured it would be best to outline the reason why I decided to make the change.

My work experience before this has been centered around the music industry. Ever since college, I have held internships and eventually full-time positions at agencies, PR firms, distribution companies, and labels. I worked in the industry for 7 years and actually enjoyed it a lot. The work was great, I had awesome co-workers, and being in the industry had its perks, but still there was something missing.

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It wasn’t until my Mum passed away a couple years back that ignited a spark in my head that life is really short, and if I am not fully happy doing something, then I should make a change.

I knew I wanted something different, but until this moment I wasn’t sure what it was.

It took some time figuring it out, but what I ultimately wanted was freedom. I wanted to have the chance to work when I wanted, not be tied down to a desk, and work with the clients that I wanted to work with.

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Also, I was learning a lot in the music industry, but I felt that there was a lot more out there to learn and gain experience from. In my mind, I could always go back if I wanted to.

Making the jump

When I decided to go into freelancing, I really didn’t know where to start.

To be honest, I didn’t even know how I would find clients or make a living off of this, I just knew that I wanted to try it.

My first step was to subscribe to every blog and website (Millo was one of my first picks) that had anything to do with freelancing. I just read as much as I could about finding clients, creating a portfolio, handling contracts and invoices, etc.

After a few weeks of studying and learning, I applied that knowledge to land my first client.

Since I had previous experience in digital marketing and website development, I figured I would focus on these two services to attract clients and build my business.

From there, I kept building my portfolio one project at a time. I focused on doing great work for my clients so I could ask for testimonials and expand my referral base. The work started coming in slow, but I was on my way to eventually build my business to where it is at today.

Freedom > money

The reason I jumped into freelancing was not for the money.

I knew I eventually could make decent money in this business, but I went into it for the freedom.

I quickly learned that I have to work a lot more than I did at my 9-5, however I didn’t mind it because I was building my own business and learning a lot in the process.

Before this, I only focused my work efforts on digital marketing and web development because that was all I needed to do.

Running my own freelance business, I had to quickly learn accounting, sales, business development, and everything else that had to do with being a on my own. Even though I spent, and still do spend, a lot more hours in the week and weekend than I did at my previous job, I never had the freedom that I do have today.

I can now take a travel whenever I want without having to worry about PTO, pick and choose the clients that I want to work with, and set my own work week hours (I am way more productive in the morning, so setting my schedule up this way is super beneficial for my work).

Six months in, I am still loving the freedom.

I’m not going to lie to you and say I am making $10,000 a month, but I am working on it. I am able to afford all of my expenses while freelancing, so for now I’m just continuing to build that up.

Lessons learned along the way

It hasn’t been a full year yet, but I have learned several lessons along the way that have helped me grow as a freelancer and expand my business.

Lesson 1: Prove your value

Providing value, and not just selling your services is super important.

Trust me, no matter what business you are trying to start, there are millions of other people that are doing the same thing. With access to anyone in the world through the internet, it can make the competition a lot harder.

This is why when pitching potential clients, and working with your existing clients, you always need to focus on the value that you are providing.

I know my clients could probably hire someone else in this industry, maybe someone cheaper, but they can’t hire another Max Pete and they won’t get the same experience when working with someone else. I go above and beyond with all my clients in terms of teaching them new skills, getting the work done quickly so that they save time and money, and making myself available, even after the work is completed.

As soon as I started focusing on the value that I present to my clients, it was a lot easier to pitch myself.

Lesson 2: Brand yourself

I wanted my business to stand out from any other freelancer, so I made sure it looked professional as possible.

I got an amazing logo created. I picked out my color scheme and fonts, designed my own business cards and capabilities deck, and also constantly update and polish my own portfolio. Lastly, I rebranded myself as the “One Hand Wonder Man” because I knew it would at least entice potential clients to want to know more.

Now that I have a polished brand, it comes easier to pitch clients and get my name out there.

I am a freelance digital marketer and web developer, so if my social media and website look outdated, then why would a client think I am knowledgeable in this field?

Marketing myself means a lot more than just posting a Facebook status. I knew I had to be willing to go outside my comfort zone when it comes to networking events, reaching out to new people, and finding new ways (such as writing for Millo) to get my story out there.

Lesson 3: Invest in your business

It’s simple, I knew that if I wasn’t willing or able to invest money and time back into my brand, then I wasn’t going to grow.

I got it drilled in my head that I am running a business and in order to run a business, I had to put money back into it. If that meant spending money for a class to learn more about the business or design side, attending workshops, or simply just reading new blog posts from my favorite marketers in the field, I was going to do it.

I am a very frugal person when it comes to spending money on a lot of things, but when it comes to my brand, the more I invest, the more it grows.

Lesson 4: You are your #1 client

One of the greatest pieces of advice I received over these past 6 months was, “spend an hour a day on your own business before you do client work.”

It is very easy to simply dive into client work, especially when bills need to get paid and there’s a lot to do, but I learned that I needed to prioritize my own business before my clients.

Every morning I spend one hour (you don’t need to spend a lot of time doing this, just give yourself 1 hour) and work on my own business. If I wait until after my client work is done, I’ll most likely make an excuse to push it off until tomorrow, and this creates a never-ending cycle.

The work I do consists of writing a new blog post for my website, reaching out to potential clients, building my newsletter list, etc. The point is to make sure I dedicate time to work on my business everyday to help it grow.

It’s all worth it

Looking back over the past months, I am extremely happy that I made this decision to become a freelancer. It’s not an easy process, and in order to make it work you really have to want it and be patient.

I know that I am not exactly where I want to be in terms of where I want my business to be at, but I have grown so much in these past 6 months. I already know when I check in at the end of the year, so much more growth will have happened.

If you’re looking to escape the 9-5 office lifestyle, I strongly recommend giving it a try. You can also go back to a desk job, but if you keep putting off your dream then eventually it gets buried by everything that life throws at you.

Still hesitating? Let’s talk more in the comments about making it a reality.

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About Max Pete

Max Pete, aka One Hand Wonder Man, is a freelance website designer and digital marketer. Max Pete also specializes in social media management, email marketing, content creation, and paid advertising. You can check out his work and get in touch with him via his portfolio at www.maxpete.co.

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Comments

  1. Hi MaxPete, I really love your Story and you did a Great Job growing your Freelancing on Six months.
    I am a small freelancer who just started, I use Fiverr as my Freelance Market where I sell my Service.
    But I want to know where have you started on what Freelance Site, or you did in in your own website.?
    Thanks

    • I built my own portfolio website and started using that to drive business too. I just couldn’t make enough money to live off of from Fiverr or Upwork, so I decided to use other resources like Craigslist to find gigs.

  2. Thanks for writing this article and sharing your experience. My business basically still feels like merely a “hobby”. I have social anxiety and am introverted and I guess use those as excuses for why 8 am not growing. Your points have simply reminded me of what I am not doing and should be if I want to be a true freelancer. Again, thanks and best to you.

  3. Thanks for your honesty and advice! I quit my full-time job about a year ago and finally let go of my part-time job in January. It’s definitely been an adventure, and you have made a great start with an awesome website and a few good clients. Keep it up!

    • Thank you so much Sharon! Happy that you found your path, and I agree on the adventure part! But, life wouldn’t be as exciting without taking the leap like we did.

  4. Truly inspiring post max. I too wanna be a freelance blogger. I will contact you if i need any help.

  5. Am planning to exit too and start my freelancing journey. This article is timely & one I can identify with. For someone who has has just started out too. I have a question though, does craigslist allow those outside the US & Canada?

  6. Great information, thanks max

  7. Dear Max Pete, thank you for your generosity, sharing these valuable lessons! I’m a new freelancer myself and I’m also in it more for the freedom than the money. I appreciate these lessons you’ve shared, and more power to your freelance business!

  8. I would like to write for you. I am well versed in many genres of writing as well as bilingual (English and Spanish). I run several entrepreneurial ventures and I believe that my expertise of the graphic design and illustration businesses will be of great use to many of your readers and potentially land you amongts a new line of readers.

    Thank you for your time.