- paid sick days
- paid time off
- paid downtime (at least when you’re charging hourly) – paid office chatter, bathroom breaks, snacks, etc. – NO MORE!
- one boss – now all clients own various percentages of you. One upside is: you make the decision to hire or fire said client.
- a steady paycheck – knowing when the next payment will come in & how much that’ll be is a thing of the past. That said, site maintenance contracts come in handy for providing reliable residual income.
- working WHENever you want – my most productive work is late at night with no phone calls or e-mails to distract.
- working WHEREver you want – if it’s got an internet connection or at very least cell signal (mobile hotspot inventor – praise you!)…it can be your office for a day, a week, a month, etc. I’ve worked everywhere from a scenic overlook along Rt.1 on the California coast to a ranger station in the Redwoods to a Walmart parking lot in Tennessee to an ashram in Lithuania.
- working with WHOever you want – meaning the ability to select which clients/projects you take on.
- too much or too little work – my experience has been that work comes in waves, whether too much or too little- it gets to the point where you’re like “OMG…how am I going to make it?” This is where you become incredibly grateful for regular clients, routine work & the patience of clients allowing you to schedule their no-rush projects a little further out.
- spontaneous paychecks – sometimes big, sometimes small, sometimes weekly, sometimes monthly, etc. Finishing up projects & sending out invoices is like Christmas morning.
- being the jack(or jill) of all trades – office manager, secretary, accountant, client liaison, CEO, etc. – you name it, you’re it.
- paying for office supplies – at least you get to write it off.
- handling delicate e-mails – it’s your duty to deliver the most unpalatable news in the most enticing way possible (i.e. “While I appreciate your enthusiasm for animated gifs of glittery space cats, using them as a background for your website may not be the best idea because…”)
- talking to people a lot – tech support, clients, etc. – whoever it may be, you’ll be talking to them on the phone, online chat or through Skype a lot.
- Boundaries – even if you don’t work regulated business hours it’s good to have a general window say 9a-6p M-F of when clients can expect you to be available via phone & respond promptly to e-mails. That said since you’re your own boss, you can break & bend the rules but, having some parameters set as “norms” is incredibly helpful to your sanity & setting your client’s expectations.
- Balance – it’s easy to get sucked into either working way too much or way too little. It’s important to have a balance between electric (behind the computer) & acoustic (outside in fresh air) time.
- Discipline – commit to working at least X hours per day allowing flexibility to make up time on a weekend or another day if something awesome comes up.
- Deadlines – deadlines prevent too many projects hanging out in the “asap” or “flexible” bins. These bins are like blackholes – anything that enters them may never be seen again. If you’re like me, procrastination is your super power & deadlines are the necessary kryptonite to keep you gainfully employed.
- Parameters – develop criteria for accepting or rejecting new work or clients. If you loathe logo design, love working for small businesses & can’t stand cats – don’t take on an identity design project for Friskies, it’s a waste of your time & theirs even if it’d look great for your résumé.
- Passion – you can’t always do only projects you love as someone’s got to bring home the tempeh “Bacon” (yes, I’ve been an herbivore for 13 years). But you can avoid doing projects you hate. Find the balance between the two & stick to it. For example, I may not like PCs but, I may like illustration. So if someone asks me to do an illustration of a PC – the fact that I get paid to draw all day would prolly excite me enough to take on the project.
Anyway, this is just a few noteworthy things I’ve learned from Feb 2014- May 2015 which serves as my first year of being a full time freelancer. Every day, every project & every new client – I learn something more, so there will surely be more to come.
I’m about 2 years into my full-time freelance career and I can relate with everything you said.
I am also a freelancer from 2012 and really appreciate your post. Thanks buddy.