8 Surprising things I've learned in my first year of working for myself
A full year an a half of working for myself snuck up on me quickly. This year has been full of ups and downs. I lost my full-time job, began freelancing, and moved to a new city. Working for yourself is not all free time and yoga pants, but it does come with flexibility and freedom (I do wear yoga pants a lot, but a lot of the time it's when I do yoga). Here are eight surprising things I learned in my first year.
1) The reason you freelance will change. It started for me out of necessity when my company went out of business, and I was preparing to move to a new city. Now I work for myself on purpose--for a good work-life balance and creative freedom.
2) You can work for yourself at any skill level! Before I started, I had mainly seen freelance creative directors and senior art directors come into agencies. I was nervous about starting with only a few years of experience under my belt. It turns out, in our ever-changing industry, agencies and brands need freelancers, contractors, and services at every level and price point.
3) The first day jitters never go away. Especially as an introvert, I find working with new clients and in new places is nerve-racking! I never know exactly what to expect or who I’ll meet. But I always meet amazing people and am pushed out of my comfort zone. I've come to love the growth that comes with being out of my comfort zone constantly.
4) Enjoy downtime. There is usually a point between a job or two where I don't have work or a client project for a week or more. Instead of obsessing over finding work and becoming a crazy person I have to tell myself I have value. It's a gift to have time off, so I get outside, work out, and learn something new. The work will come.
5) You have to be your own advocate and go after the clients you want. Recruiters and clients aren't going to run after you to hand you work on a platter (as much as we wish it were so). You have to let people know who you are and what you do. Take advantage of your connections and meet with anyone you can. When I first moved to San Francisco, I had upwards of twenty meetings scheduled in the first few weeks. Quickly, I was booked up and turning down jobs.
6) You will have better hours. Coming from full-time corporate advertising jobs, I was so excited about having a work/life balance. Sometimes you do work overtime, but you are rewarded financially for it. And, you can decide to take a break after if you want. No more surprise weekend work, you can make plans with friends and keep them. You are your own boss; you can work as much or as little as you want.
7) Say 'yes' to life. This sounds cliche, but this has been my fiancee and my mantra for the last year. We both freelance and so we both have the flexibility to leave the city whenever we can. Whenever I worry if we should go on a trip or to a conference he reminds me that the reason we freelance is so we can have the flexibility to do these things. We both had a free week recently and decided to join my family on a vacation to Palm Springs. I no longer have to worry about who will look disapprovingly at my requested time off at the office.
8) If you like freelancing or working for yourself, you have to learn to decline full-time work. If people are giving you job offers this is a good problem to have. Referring to point number one- everyone freelances for different reasons. If you are freelancing out of necessity and are desperately searching for work, freelancing will get your foot in the door. A lot of agencies see it as a 'try out' and will offer you a job if they like you. I have gotten a handful of offers this past year and have learned to decline because I enjoy the perks of freelancing. It's still hard to say 'no,' especially if I like the place. Everyone has a different version of success. You have to go out follow yours.