A little over six months ago, I cut the cord with my full-time job to pursue my passion for writing. As thrilling as this moment was, I'd be lying if I said my exhilaration didn't morph into panic the second I walked out of the office door, only to realize I wouldn't be returning the next morning.
Fast forward to today, and I couldn't be more thankful for that mental fight-or-flight response. Despite how alarming this feeling seemed at the time, it was just the mindset needed for launching my uphill climb of becoming a full-time freelancer. Has this trek been easy? Heck, no. But it has been worth it. And what's more, I've proven to myself that this lifestyle is possible. So if you've been daydreaming about making your own freelance transition, I say go for it! But before you take the leap, allow me to share five lessons I've learned as a full-time freelancer below.
1. Hustling takes a whole lot more than just hard work.
No matter what type of freelancer you become, you're essentially starting your own business the moment you become self-employed. And just like any new business, it will need to be nurtured around the clock in order to survive and grow. So since you'll be a one-(wo)man show, get ready to wear all the hats, as you'll need to become your own advertiser, bookkeeper, scheduler, etc. That said, be prepared to work harder — and for longer periods of time — than with the usual 9-to-5 job.
Yes, there will be dinners with friends that you'll miss, sacrifices you'll have to make, and if your experience is anything like mine, you'll start out working your fingers to the bone for a much smaller amount of money. But I encourage you to push through the discouraging days and keep on hustling.
2. Structure and balance will become your new best friends.
Of course, one of the greatest perks about freelancing is the attached flexibility. Because you're the gatekeeper to your schedule, you get to decide where you work, when you work, and what you work on. While this arrangement sounds pretty ideal, it can be quite the slippery slope when it comes to productivity.
That said, implementing some sort of standard routine is crucial for keeping on track and growing your business, not to mention making money. So despite how different your workday might look from those of your friends and family, it is much easier to hold yourself accountable to meeting deadlines when you have a set schedule in place.
Furthermore, it will also ensure you're building a framework for work/life balance, and that you're using your time with more intention. Although you might first feel the need to keep your hustle at a nonstop pace, remember that taking regular breaks actually improves productivity.
3. The three P's are vital for your success.
In order to find success as a full-time freelancer, you will need a great deal of patience, persistence, and perseverance. I'll be the first to admit this new chapter will be far from perfect. For starters, not all of your work will be fun – and you'll probably have to chase down your paychecks from time to time. Drawbacks aside, having these three P's securely tucked away in your back pocket will make any of the trials and tribulations that come along with the frustration, rejection, and self-doubt much more manageable.
4. You're not really your own boss.
Despite what most people believe, even as a full-time freelancer, you're not really your own boss. Sure, you are in control of your complete schedule and how you manage your time, but as long as you are working for clients, you still have someone to report to. And these individuals — just like any normal boss — expect you to put your best foot forward and deliver high-quality work.
5. Freelance life is by no means glamorous . . .
But it is worth it. No, it doesn't come with healthcare benefits, 401K contributions, or paid vacations, but I can truly vouch that it has been an incredibly rewarding path for me thus far. Becoming a full-time freelancer has helped me step out of my comfort zone, and has also aided in my growth development — personally and professionally — as I have the privilege to take on work that challenges and inspires me on a daily basis.
Simply put: it has allowed me to do more of what I love. And that alone makes it all worthwhile.