The global workforce is undergoing a massive freelance surge.
In 2015, approximately 53 million Americans ditched the 9 to 5 to become professional freelancers. That’s 1 in 3 Americans, or a little over 1,200 sold-out pro baseball fields.
And who wouldn’t want a freelance lifestyle?
Freelancing provides you the opportunity to work directly with business owners, get to know different markets and businesses and gain a ton of experience you might not otherwise get shuffling papers behind your cubicle walls.
It is your ticket to taking control of your professional life.
Staying productive as a freelancer can be tough.
For many freelancers, learning the ropes as you go can be a stressful experience. While I personally feel like holding my feet to the fire is the best way for me to learn and get better, it’s certainly not for everyone.
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Being a professional freelancer takes organization, energy, and a whole lot of discipline. Early on in your freelance career, you may not have all the tools you need to land those big fish clients.
And, hey—it’s all part of the learning experience.
But if you’re not actively and regularly investing in yourself, you may find it very difficult to realize that dream and graduate to the freelance big leagues. Worse yet, you may find yourself in the dugout, unemployed with no clients at all.
Below are several things that I try to keep front of mind on my own personal quest to becoming a better, more productive, and more professional freelancer.
1. Be a Seeker
Knowledge is power. I don’t think anyone would argue that. But being knowledgeable and being an active knowledge seeker are two different things.
When’s the last time you saw a great creative project and thought to yourself, “Man, I’m falling behind!”
I’ve been there more times than I’d like to admit. The majority of projects on Behance and Dribble make me want to cry, they’re so good.
But that pain should only serve to motivate us to do more, to learn more, and get better.
2. Be Disciplined
I recently ran across an anonymous quote online to the effect of “Discipline is greater than motivation.”
This really hit home because at the time I had been browsing Reddit in an effort to delay the inevitable hard work I’d have to invest in a large, complex freelance project.
In order to be a more productive, professional freelancer, you have to exercise serious discipline. This could mean a variety of things:
- You get up at 7:30am every morning and get ready for “work”
- You dedicate “x” hours per week to reading up on your area of expertise (or a new one)
- You get out there, shake hands, smile, and give out business cards
- You turn the TV off, put the electronics on silent, and limit your distractions
3. Leverage Technology
One of the cornerstones of professionalism is organization. Meetings, project deadlines, creative assets, invoices, and everything else you’ve got to keep track of can really weigh you down as you take on more and more clients and concurrent projects.
But managing your workload and staying organized doesn’t have to be difficult. You should be leveraging as much technology as you need to keep yourself sane and organized.
4. Anticipate Client Needs
The Freelancer/Client relationship can be a difficult one if managed poorly.
Being a professional freelancer means anticipating the needs of your clients ahead of time and structuring your process around them.
If you’re a web designer, what does your typical process look like? Do you send clients a questionnaire? Are your projects broken out into clearly organized (and communicated) phases and milestones? Are your services aligned with your clients’ expectations?
5. Love It or Leave It
To weather the storms and stresses the road to becoming a freelancer throws at you, you have to have a passion for what you’re doing. If you’re not 100% dedicated to your chosen area of expertise, it’s going to be real difficult for you to get to the next level.
Al Lopez, Pro Baseball Hall of Famer said it best:
Do what you love to do and give it your very best. Whether it’s business or baseball, or the theater, or any field. If you don’t love what you’re doing and you can’t give it your best, get out of it. Life is too short. You’ll be an old man before you know it.
6. Keep Swingin’ for the Fences
No matter where you’re at in your freelance career, one thing is certain. If you keep wanting, learning, and trying; you’ll keep growing and earning.
That’s it. That’s the magic formula.
What About You?
What have you learned on the road to the Freelance Big Leagues? I’d love to hear and learn more, so be sure to share your story in the comments below!
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