Lessons Learned From a Year of Freelancing – Part 2

It’s been one year since I quit the security of my full time job, set out to travel Europe and had no idea what would be waiting for me when I returned. With a bit of luck and a lot of connections, I’ve been able to make freelancing a full time position but not without learning quite a few lessons (and mistakes) along the way.

Lesson #2: Set firm boundaries.

You’re obviously setting off on this freelancing adventure because something about the typical 9-5 makes you want to vomit. Before getting too deep into things, it’s imperative you figure out what your goals are going to be with this new venture. Some of these may include but are not limited to:

  1. Number of hours worked per week
  2. Hourly rate
  3. Yearly income
  4. Type of work
  5. Personal goals

Personal goals are a special one to call-out. You’re doing this because something in your life needs a change. Think about what that is and how you are going to achieve it. It may be working out everyday at noon, having one weekday off each week, or dinner with the family every single night; ALWAYS factor that in because you are now the one in control of your schedule. Life is about balance and overcommitting yourself won’t lead to happiness despite the fact that you’re now working from home instead of the dreaded office.

From there, it’s necessary to share these goals with your clients. Okay, maybe not what your yearly income goal is but if you plan on being offline every weekday at 3pm and only working mornings on the weekends, you need to make that clear to them so they understand why you aren’t answering the email they sent at 3:01pm on a Tuesday.

Don’t forget to include timezones anytime you are speaking about time. As someone who is constantly flipping between CST and EST, it can get a little confusing for my clients. This will also come in handy as you build your clientele – they can be located all throughout the country (and world) so it helps to keep things a bit more organized.

Building off of this, you will need to set expectations with each of your clients. How long will it take you to respond to an email? To complete a request? To pull data and compile a report? While your first instinct may be to get it done ASAP, this may set you up for some issues as you build up your clientele. Be realistic and factor in other urgent requests and life complications that may come up. Because sometimes a gecko gets into your house and instead of setting up new campaigns, you spend 3 hours trying to chase it down with a swiffer. This more than likely wouldn’t happen if you were working in an office setting but when you work from home, things tend to pop up and distract you from the job.

My standard is:

  • Email response: 24 hours
  • Request turnaround: 48 hours
  • Reporting: 1 week

Of course the requests can vary depending on intricacy however, this sets a minimum standard for all of my clients.

Unfortunately, when you have multiple clients, no matter how many times you tell them you are working with others, they will forget. And since they have access to your personal email and phone number, they will contact you at obscene times with all sorts of requests (which can be extremely hard to ignore if you hate notification bubbles sitting on your phone). Therefore, it is necessary to set those boundaries and be hard about them.

Mistake #1: Create a separate email for freelancing.

While I have found that having a website or business cards or any formal documentation from the get-go isn’t completely necessary, the need for a separate email is. A few of my clients have provided me with a company email but the rest just filter into my personal Gmail account. UGH.

While the name is professional, the amount of inbound mail (both personal & freelancing) is unreal. We know I’m Type A, OCD so of course it’s organized but it would be nice to have separate labels for each of my clients rather than one giant “Freelancing” label. So please learn from my mistake that it is necessary to start off with a new email when you take this on. And as a reminder to myself, it’s never too late to implement this change.

I think it’s important to note that freelancing was never my dream – I had always imagined myself being a powerhouse director of marketing at a large agency or Fortune 500 company. It’s an unconventional role to take on that just happened to fall into my lap. While no two stories are the same, I want to share the lessons (and mistakes) I learned along the way to inspire that person who isn’t loving their 9-5 or the adventurer that wants to travel full-time but needs some supplemental income to know that with some time, patience and hard work, freelancing can evolve into something great.


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