Where to begin? If you're reading this, I'm going to assume you're frustrated with driving through traffic to sit in a fluorescent-lit building slaving behind a screen for 8 hours a day or maybe that's not the case at all and you just want a better work/life balance. Either way, this is my point of view on how to start making your own hours, taking on clients, & design your days the way you dreamed. Note, I can only share my personal experience - I'm no self-righteous expert nor can tell you how to live your life. I hope you get something out of my mistakes & successes.
#1 Who are you? What do you believe? What's the end goal? What do you contribute? What's your superpower?
These may be basic or really overwhelming questions, but if you can't answer these in less than one sentence, you may want to step back and reflect a bit. You have to know who you are, what you do, and how you can help people, businesses, entities before you go out into the big, bad world. If you're stuttering through explaining your craft, I'd stand in the mirror and try again, with confidence this time.
"I'm Jen, a creative producer, writer, marketing director, mediocre artist, lover of the ocean & human connection, and travel is my life, let's make things together!"
Before I pulled the ripcord and started working for myself, I hadn't realized that something as simple as knowing how to organize creative ideas was a skillset. I took my writing abilities & way with words for granted... These were two skills I had in my toolbox that I wasn't using to my advantage. Even something as simple as my athletic abilities or hobbies, the damn things I did on the weekend, other people wanted to capitalize off of. Crazy. Furthermore, I realized I had some very strong opinions about work-ethic, health, and the environment. I found my previous jobs didn't always cater to the health, happiness, and sustainability of their employees. My care for the environment & creating sustainable products for the world was heavyyy on my heart. I knew deep down that I couldn't contribute to the toxic wasteland by putting my time in at Nike to sell another sneaker or whatever. I wanted to work for progressive companies, people, and like-minded individuals. I knew they existed. This firey passion & personal value steered me in the right direction.
So, again, who are you? What do you do? How do you do it? What do you contribute to and why?
#2 Collaboration, Questions, and a Willingness to Fail
Once you've figured out how to articulate what it is you do, how you can help people, and what you want to offer to the human race - you have to open yourself up. The only way to get work is to work well with others. Lose the ego, if you're an asshole & don't generally like or trust people, you may have some issues getting anyone to take a chance on you. Being genuine, authentic, honest, and doing damn good work is going to get you a hell of a long way. All the other doodads, fancy websites and Instagrams, are just a bonus.
Join Facebook groups for freelancers, ask questions on Quora, post things to Craigslist, sign up for Upwork, hit up your friends, family, professional people you look up to, and find answers to the ambiguity. Your willingness to learn, grow, and get better at what you do is going to keep you more alive in this business than anything else.
Initially, I opened myself up to everyone & thing I knew out in the world. I was terrified to fail, all of a sudden, the work you do as a freelancer is fully YOU. So, when you mess up or a client isn't happy with your work, it's your fault and no one else's. You don't have the comfort of an entire company or agency behind you to be like, "Well, we sort of messed up, sorry..." No... own it. Own your failures and do what you can to make an amicable & honest resolution. People will try to separate personal and professional, but at the end of the day it's all personal.
A willingness to fail is going to get you a long way. When I gave up the 8-5 grind, I envisioned the worst case scenario & what that really looked like. Would I sell my car and live in a van to not pay rent? Would I pick up a shift at a coffee shop & teach some yoga for extra cash? If rock bottom doesn't scare you, then good - you're equipped to start taking some risks.
#3 The Digital You
Ok, down to the nitty-gritty. Set up a website (Wix, Squarespace, Wordpress) with your portfolio (work) so people can easily see exactly the type of work you do. Share past projects, passion projects, and work you're proud of. Be sure to credit other people who helped you achieve those projects as well, you want to show that you're a good person to "collaborate" with and not a mean little bastard who takes credit for everything.
Clean up your LinkedIn profile, as dorky as it is, it's essential. It's your online resume basically. Also, if you upgrade to LinkedIn Premium, you can search for full-time, part-time, and contract work there. It's great to browse around your city & see what's hot on the market. I personally love to read job descriptions because it gives me insight into what businesses are really looking for on a skill & professional level.
Instagram. Ah jeez, what a beast. I hate to say it, but it's a judgemental world & time. How you present yourself on Instagram is real. I'm not above it. When I start working with someone new or hiring a contractor - the first thing I do is check them out on Instagram & then look into their web portfolio. A well-crafted post & high-quality content is so damn visually appealing & impressive, I won't lie. Photographers, filmers, and creative individuals - Instagram is the mecca. Yet, on the flipside, if it's overly curated & perfect, I just feel like it's not human and have been utterly disappointed by a person when their IG feed is f*cking awesome & they are not... haha, or they are just living their life for the gram. On a professional level, I'm not warning or telling you to clean up your IG account but, I'm just saying - people be watching that sh*t & it does matter. I personally think it's beneficial to show a bit of personal & professional work on Instagram, a gentle balance. If you're looking to get into influencer type work, the standard minimum is usually 10k+ followers but "micro-influencers" are also becoming a hot topic! I recently got into a nice conversation about joining a sport modeling agency with a measly yet dedicated 3,000-something followers was significant to them.
#4 How Much is Enough?
When I decided to go freelance, I realized I wanted quality & no clutter. I wanted the freedom from the things I disliked, & the freedom to pursue the things I loved without working for work's sake (4-hour work week term). "The goal isn't to simply eliminate the bad, but to pursue and experience the best in the world." I opened up a spreadsheet, logged my monthly expenses (insurance, debts, rent, food, gas) and took a long hard look at what my finances demanded of me over the course of 1-year. I thought, where could I trim the fat? Where could I cut down costs & re-allocate the money for something else, like travel? Once I knew what I REALLY needed and what I didn't need, I could factor how much money I really needed to make in a calendar year. Ballpark number (hypothetically), let's factor $50,000/year and then, I thought, if I could spend 2-3 months in Southeast Asia/Indonesia & live for $20.00/day - I'd only need $40,000/year. So, I'm no mathmetician, in fact, I'm really bad with numbers but money in and money out is just + & -'s, nothing crazy. Ask yourself, how much is enough? What do you really need? If your goal is to be a multi-millionaire, okay - map it out & make a game plan, but for me, the first 2 years of freelance and to do the things I wanted to do, I didn't need a million dollars to get off the ground.