We’ve all heard about the freelance dream. Leave your job, and you can travel the world and work remotely. Drop everything and simply ‘follow your dreams’.
Well, sorry to put a dampener on things, but dreams don’t just come true. Did you know on average 50% of freelancers fail after a year, and 80% fail within three years?
Freelance success rates are painfully low
Yup. Just like any new business launch, the success rates are low. And they’re low for a reason because to actually make it, you have to a) Have the talent and b) work your arse off and dig deep when things get tough.
If someone asked me if I recommend leaving their job and building a freelance business from scratch, I’d be like, erm no. In this article, I’ll explain why. Plus, I’ll show you how I made things work.
I have been freelance for ten years. A whole decade of my life.
The reality of going freelance isn’t always just leaving your job and then expecting projects to fall into your lap. Let me tell you about how it happened for me.
My journey to becoming freelance
Image by Andy Trace
Before I went fully freelance, I had to work three jobs whilst growing my business.
I trained as a dog groomer (yes, really) and studied canine behaviour, and worked a part-time job while building up my writing portfolio. I also had to take a part-time role as a Digital Marketing Manager while I waited for my business to grow enough in order to go FULLY freelance.
I also should mention the time I spent gaining experience BEFORE I went freelance. I’d say the time I spent working in Digital Marketing (about 6 years) has had a huge impact on my overall success as a freelancer. It helps to have experience in your chosen sector under your belt before you consider taking on freelance work.
Finally, after years of hard work, I took the plunge
After I left my job and slowly built up enough work whilst doing part-time work, I took the plunge, and I haven’t looked back. When I say ‘haven’t looked back’ I mean I’ve never considered being employed again. I’ve not even let that become an option in my brain because, for me, nothing is better than working for myself. I bloody love it.
The thing I love the most? The freedom. There is literally nothing better than being able to do whatever you want when you want (to an extent). And I really genuinely enjoy the work that I do. Not many people can say that. I never take being freelance for granted, and I thank my lucky stars that I’ve managed to succeed.
The crazy highs and soul-destroying lows
Image by Matt Bowden
BUT, I have had many, many times where I’ve battled self-doubt. Freelance work doesn’t come steadily. It ebbs and flows. Being a freelancer is like jumping on board a very bumpy, very risky rollercoaster with huge peaks and enormous drops. You go along for the ride because the thrill is oh-so worth it. But boy, does it rattle you.
I’m not tooting my own horn here (maybe I am), but I know it takes a special kind of resilience to continue to run a successful freelance business.
The times when work is slow, I feel like actually crap. My confidence disappears, and I literally can’t function in normal daily life until work picks up again. It feels terrible, but this fire in my belly keeps me fighting. You have to find something within yourself and bring out that determination.
Fear drives success
If I didn’t spend time panicking and churning out sales messages and fighting for new business, I would not have been able to keep the business going. I’d say this happens at least once or twice a year when I’m in between projects or waiting for new ones to finally be signed off.
I think to myself, can I really keep doing this? Can I really keep living the dream? And that fire kicks in again. I’m like, no. Screw this. I will not bloody fail. There is too much at stake. There is no way I am ever going back to being employed again. So I’m just going to have to keep pushing and fighting.
Successful freelancers are resilient
If you want to make it as a successful freelancer, I have one main bit of advice for you. When work slows down, this is your time to push. You can’t give up. You have to dig deep and find a way to keep believing in yourself. If you want something, go get it. If you want to work with a particular dream client, go and pitch to them. Fight for what should be yours.
I bet if someone conducted research on the personality types of all successful freelancers, you’d find one thing RESILIENCE. If you want something bad enough, you have to fight to keep it. It’s all very well deciding to leave your boring corporate job to travel the world writing in a van – but are you actually going to put the work in? Because it still takes a lot of work.
When the dream isn’t the reality
When you imagine someone freelancing in a van on the shores of a beach, you picture them leisurely typing away when they feel like it. LOL, it’s not really like that. Not unless you’ve got an endless amount of cash, and it doesn’t matter how much you earn.
So my advice to those looking to take the plunge? Sure, do it. The rewards are enormous. But you need to work really, really hard to benefit from them. And to those freelancers who are experiencing a dip in work, hang in there; it’s all part of the game. You may have to fight for it, but the work is still out there.
*main image by Keenan Beasley