What have I learned so far as a fulltime freelancer? Balance is everything. Balancing time, projects, priorities, personal and professional life, etc. In the end, balance has been the lesson, and I’m getting better at it.
It’s easy to spend your waking hours on business development strategies, branding, pitching for projects, networking–oh and then actually doing the projects. And, in the very beginning, I think you almost have to do this. Afterall, it’s survival here–you have to get work in the door and work lined up and people wanting to work with you to keep paying your bills and to feel safe in knowing that you can keep paying your bills. But, once that’s achieved, you need to know when to tap the breaks a bit and slow down to a comfortable cruise versus the high-speed chase.
You also need to balance time networking, marketing, pitching and branding with “doing” the work and knowing how much work you can take on, what resource you have if you end up with more on your plate than you can handle.
On the one hand, it’s my job to drum up business and keep getting projects in the door. Afterall, I’m a freelancer, so without new projects, I’m without cashflow. On the other hand, I am an army of one, so making sure I balance out projects and deadlines is critical while I’m always keeping an eye out for new ones. <–This all may seem obvious, but there’s a point here…
In an age where more and more freelancers and entrepreneurs are budding up, a real skill, once you’re certain you have something valuable to offer and others know it too, is planning for success. Many more businesses fail because success came, and they weren’t prepared for it, than people might think. It’s not always that the clients don’t come and the contracts fall through, etc. Often times it’s overcommitment leading to missed deadlines, broken promises and failed deliverables that shuts down an operation.
I’ve not fallen victim to either fate, yet, and I remain cautious, making sure to say “no” and to make certain that I never have more than three projects on my plate at once and no more than three more in the pipeline to maintain a successful balance. And that’s just my personal guideline–I know myself. Others may be able to handle more or less, but it’s important to know what that number is, or risk biting it and facing failure.
Also, as I mentioned earlier, keep other resources on hand–other freelancers or partners outside of you that you can send projects to or work with in case you need the extra set of hands, eyes and brains. Not only do you need to have backup plans for when your deadlines become too much, but also it’s important to plan for being human–illnesses, personal and family crises, etc. Develop a professional support system/back-up plan for emergencies.
Truthfully, though I try to plan and maintain a healthy network of colleagues for mutual support, I still make mistakes, and not everything runs as smoothly as I like, and outcomes aren’t always the slam-dunk I anticipated. Mostly, though, I’m finding increased success in this crazy freelancing journey–for me and my clients. And that’s awesome. Here’s to progress!
You cannot succeed if you don’t take a risk,
and without failure, you’re not likely to learn much or get any better.