Square One: How Do We Begin Again?
If you're anything like me, you probably didn't start off as a freelancer. You probably didn't even know much about freelancing before you considered it as a career for yourself! Most parts of the world still view a job as the only natural next step after getting a degree - and as an MBA grad in India, there was literally no option for me.
And yet here I am, a freelancer. And here you are, wondering how to start the process of becoming a freelancer.
Or you've taken the plunge, quit your job and done it (welcome to the family!) and are wondering what comes next.
Now I'm assuming you've read all the usual articles about pitching clients, choosing your niche, creating a portfolio etc. (If you're having trouble there, Creative Revolt by Jorden Makelle is a fabulous resource.)
But there's a whole lot more to freelancing than the technicalities.
I'm talking about the mindset of beginning again as a freelancer.
Of becoming ready - truly ready - to take on this brand-new challenge that is unlike anything you have ever done before, but which can potentially be the best thing you ever do for yourself.
I've struggled with developing that mindset. I still struggle with it, in fact. But I've learnt a ton along the way that I wish someone had told me when I was starting out.
So here's my advice to the new freelancer at Square One on how to begin again in style.
Remember that money will be tight.
I'll just skip to the most important part right away. You will no longer have a fixed salary every month, and while that could potentially bring you tons of money later, you could face months where your earnings are meagre and even nil. So it's important that you make provisions right away to secure a decent standard of living if you already haven't done so.
I'm assuming you have some savings in hand to tide you over (and you ideally shouldn't take this step unless you have savings). Don't just burn them up, though - take time out to plan a monthly budget that covers your necessary expenses (rent, groceries, transportation and the like) leaves an amount for emergencies and reduces all unnecessary buys (nights out, shopping, alcohol, restaurant meals) to the bare minimum. Yes, that means food delivery too. I made the mistake of not really bothering about the meals I ordered in because they were mostly cheap - at the end of the month, though, I'd spent a whole lot. Keep everything at the bare minimum now, and ease up as you earn more.
Prepare for lazy days.
In other words, prepare for several days a week where all you want to do is lie on your back and stare at the ceiling and daydream about holidays in exotic locales. It's bound to happen once you're no longer obliged to turn up at an office at a designated time. And it will happen, no matter how many kickass morning routines you experiment with. Once you accept that fact and take it in your stride, though, you'll be less hard on yourself about those days. And as you get used to the freelance lifestyle of every-day-at-your-disposal, you'll have fewer lazy days and more productive days with well-earned free time.
Use every minute wisely.
That thing I just said about every-day-at-your-disposal? Make that every minute. Quite literally, you get to choose how you will spend every waking moment. Will you send off another pitch email? Or will you scroll through a few more Instagram pics? There's not always a right answer to this - but whichever option you choose, it has its own consequences that you need to be prepared to deal with. A few minutes here and there might not seem like much. But over the course of the day they amount to substantial chunks of extra work or extra recreation. Again, that could mean different things for each person - while someone may be struggling with too much procrastination, someone else could be suffering from burnout. It's your job to make sure that your day is balanced and that you end each day feeling like you chose to use your time well.
Mindset building doesn't happen overnight. It's an on-going process, no matter who you are and how far you've come. But if you're just starting out and wondering how to get your basics covered, the points I mentioned above should take you a long way ahead. And all of it is advice I've learnt the hard way myself - so trust me when I say, it will help! :)
Lots of luck on the new beginning! Stay tuned for more blog posts on writing, productivity and the freelance writer's lifestyle.