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Learn what it takes to be a successful freelancer



You need to make many lifestyle and attitudinal changes in order to be successful as a freelancer. Some people have the needed traits inherently and some need to develop them. Without the needed traits, it’s practically impossible to succeed as a freelancer. You need to be self-motivated. You need to be highly disciplined. You should be able to work on your own without somebody breathing down your neck to make sure that you meet deadlines. You should be able to work in complete isolation.

Successful freelancer

This Lifehacker blog post features the experiences of a successful freelancer who explains what habits and attributes helped him succeed. Although every lifestyle is unique and what works and what doesn’t may differ from person to person, there are some set lifestyle and behavioral patterns that if followed, give great results. Some of them are:

  • Wake up early in the morning: This point cannot be stressed enough. Fine, there are people who work better at night, but if your profession involves synchronizing your activities with the others, you need to be awake when the world is awake. A typical office begins buzzing at around 9-10 AM. If you expect calls from your clients who might be in their offices rearing to go or if you have some teleconferences scheduled early in the morning, you cannot suddenly expect yourself to get all charged up just when there is a need. So it’s better to develop the habit of getting up early so that by the time the world around you starts working you are already through with your morning rituals and sitting on your desk ready to pounce on the phone the moment it rings. There are also health benefits of getting up early because then you get plenty of time to get some exercise, refresh yourself with a nice bath and have a good breakfast.
  • Set clearly-defined boundaries for family and friends: If you are a freelancer there is a great possibility that you work from home. Unfortunately people who work from home aren’t taken very seriously because everybody has this stereotypical image of a busy and successful person rushing to the office, attending various meetings and simply buzzing around looking very occupied. If you work from home everybody thinks that you can be called up any time and it is okay to barge into your room at the slightest pretext. Set some rules and boundaries that you cannot be disrupted during your work hours unless there is an emergency. Your friends cannot call you to chat. Kids cannot barge into your room to solve a homework problem (they can wait until you have finished your work). You cannot run errands just because someone can shout from another room and ask you to do things.
  • Outsource as much as possible and provide something that others cannot: What is your core business? Is it writing? Is it web design? Is it accounting? Stick to these. Outsource the rest. When you are working as a freelancer you will need to take care of practically every aspect of your work, including hardware and software problems, research, sorting out bills and invoices, marketing, maintenance and whatnot. If you try to manage scores of things you will not have enough time to put in your primary freelance work. Suppose you create websites using HTML, PHP and JavaScript but creating a visual layout is not one of your strengths. Don’t waste time figuring out stuff unless you plan to use it professionally with multiple projects. Outsource the graphic design part to someone else so that you can deliver quality to your clients. In the same vein if you’re spending 2-3 days every month taking care of your hardware and software problems you should better hire someone part-time to do that. You will be amazed at the amount of time you save and the amount of more money you make.
  • Go big on self-motivation: You will be working alone most of the time and there is nobody constantly pushing you, driving you up against the wall or motivating you. You are responsible for tracking your own performance. You have to get up early in the morning despite the fact that you don’t need to punch in your card and nobody is going to bug you if you start your work at 10:30 AM instead of 9 AM. You need to feel constantly motivated in order to stick to your schedules and see your projects through.
  • Don’t neglect essential parts of your life: Just because you want to be a successful freelancer it doesn’t mean that you ignore everything else. Family is important, in fact more important than your work. Maintain a healthy social life. Setting boundaries for your friends and family doesn’t mean that you stop seeing them altogether. Spend weekends with your spouse, girlfriend or boyfriend, the kids, your parents and siblings and your friends. Cultivate your hobbies to keep your mind stimulated. Go watch your favorite movies and games. Work hard, but also have lots of fun.
  • Seem like a business: Have you got business cards? If you don’t, you should. You should also have a branded letterhead. The same goes with a website and a blog – you have them, right? Branding is very important for you.
  • Keep in touch with your older clients: As a freelancer, much of your work comes from your existing clients, and in fact, this is the easiest way of getting work continuously. Your existing clients have already worked with you, they have already seen your work, and they already like the way you work. Basically they trust you and unless you have really messed things up, they would prefer to work with a person they already know rather than someone totally new. So keep in touch with your older clients. Keep mailing them without harassing them. Maintain an active mailing list.

You can read some more stuff in the original blog post linked above.