It’s already been just over four months since I started freelancing full time. It’s flown by … I really can’t believe it’s already been 1/3 of a year.
It hasn’t always been easy and there are some things that I wish I had done differently but overall I’m still pleased with my decision to leave my full-time office job.
So, here are 10 things that I have learned over the summer during my first 4 months of freelancing.
- It is important to have a life – When I started I wasn’t sure if I could earn enough to pay the bills and get by. I spent all of my time working – days, nights and weekends. My original intention was to do this so I had more of a life. I burned out after a month and didn’t work very hard the 2nd month (or earn very much).
- Set boundaries – Because I was so concerned about having enough business I took calls, worked weekends, and planned meetings at times that were not convenient for me. I now do not make myself available on the weekends and I try to keep work within regular office hours. I am a little flexible with this because I have a number of clients on the West Coast and the end of my business day is only mid afternoon for them.
- Letting go of a client – It’s ok to let go of a client. Some people are difficult, our personalities don’t mesh, they make unreasonable demands, contact at odd hours, or I just don’t have time for the project. At first I wanted to do all the work that came my way but I quickly learned that there are some people that I can’t just work with. Or that can’t work with me.
- Phone Availability – My phone number is available on this site, although I did remove it while I was away, but I have limited my availability via phone and try to encourage people to schedule calls with me. I did this for a couple of reason. One, when I’m coding I really need to concentrate. If the phone rings a lot, I can’t focus and get the work done. There are also those that call at any time and any day and who will keep me on the phone for an hour talking about nothing. I can’t tolerate or afford that. I try to do my most complicated work in the morning because that is when my brain works best and schedule calls for the afternoon.
- Saying No – I learned to say no the hard way. With one project new ideas and coding problems kept being presented. I was not assertive enough about not adding additional work to the project and to saying no to things that I really wasn’t that skilled with. The client and I decided to part ways before project completion but if I had been better at saying no it wouldn’t have dragged on as long as it did.
- People can be pushy – I understand that everyone thinks that what they are working on is the most important thing in the world and that not all people are as considerate or as understanding as I can be. I don’t have a problem with that – it seems to be a typical U.S. me centered world view. I did find, however, that when I couldn’t take on additional projects prior to leaving for vacation that people got a little pushier than normal. “Can’t you just squeeze this in?” It was annoying but fortunately I had already dealt with the previous item and was better at saying no. :-)
- Better planning and organization – I need to get better with planning and organization. Actually organization isn’t as much of a problem but I am still struggling to gauge how long a project will take and I need to factor in unplanned for events, such as family illness, computer issues, server problems, etc. Because of this I have missed some deadlines but nothing has been too serious. (I’ve had clients miss deadlines too).
- Word of mouth is awesome – Some of the best clients I’ve had have come from word of mouth recommendations. And many of the original projects recommending me were volunteer projects. If you are just getting started, volunteering your skills and time can be invaluable in obtaining later projects and in building your portfolio.
- Get out of the house – I spent way too much time home alone this summer and by the time I left for vacation I was feeling pretty down. Vermont revitalized me and made me do some thinking about my life, where I’m headed, what I want – things like that – and I returned feeling hopeful and positive. I got a hair cut, some new clothes, and have made some steps toward dating again – not so sure if that’s a positive thing but it’s definitely an adventure. Anyway, make sure to get out of the house so you don’t head into a funk.
- A WordPress hack/exploit will happen while on vacation – and you will return to a flood of panicked emails when you aren’t even yet aware of what happened.
photo credit: Fabio Bruna