When you skip across the great big blue in pursuit of that sweet-freedom-filed-laptop-lifestyle, it can be easy to get cozy with the “freedom” part and lapse on the “laptop” part. All of a sudden there is no company newsletter alerting you to new trends; no boss dishing out the industry skinny before you’ve had your first caffeine dose; no executive admin booking you discounted motels for this quarters conference. And damn, that feels nice. But to be a successful roving freelancer, you have to stay tapped into the market and what it demands somehow.
So, how do you balance what you already know with what you need to stay on top of, and your newfound freedom with making enough money to sustain it?
The answer is. Who knows? But here is what helped me:
Give yourself a moment to adjust, but only a moment
Relishing in your recently revealed liberation fine. It’s normal. It’s what happens when humans are finally let off their leashes. Enjoy the novelty of being your own alarm for a while but then… get your shit together. Big nights followed by no one expecting you out of bed in the morning are fun, but you know what’s even more fun? Making money.
Set goals and chip away at them every week. Website. Instagram. LinkedIn. Reach out to one agency or potential client a day. Start a weekly newsletter. Draft your systems and processes for delivering work. Write your product descriptions. Create a PDF with your price list. Celebrate the small wins and [insert appropriate entrepreneurial platitude here].
It may take a minute for your business to get cranking but as long as you are ticking things off your list of ‘to do’ daily then you are already creating a demand for your professional attention.
Who are the people around you and what do they need?
Sign up for a membership at a co-working space or start working from somewhere where other people doing what you’re trying to do. At the risk of sounding all kumbaya, you’ll find the energy in these places super conducive to productivity. It’s a thing. I can’t explain it. For eons scientists have tried. When brains are all vibrating in the same place, stuff just gets done.
Setting yourself a ‘time’ and a ‘location’ to rock up to ‘work’ will also hold you accountable for ticking off boxes on the above list (wait, did I just crack the code?) and basing yourself out of a co-working space where everyone else is hustling means being bang in the middle of a vortex of useful information. What are people talking about? What kind of services are they looking for? Could you be of service to them? Do they have cute friends? Find out who is succeeding and who is failing and learn from that data.
Also, the coffee is usually good.
What are your specialised skills, but what are you also good at?
Obviously you won’t be going into this freelance thing completely blind (unless of course you are blind, in which case, hats off to you – you can’t see but I’m taking my hat off). You have a skill that you’ve likely taken from a previous job and now you’re going to make money off offering that skill to people at a price that you’ve set. Cool. But what else are you good at? In your 20, 30 or 40 years on this big weird dot, what stuff have you become quite refined at? Think outside of your previous jobs – just not so far outside that you’re offering freelance consultancy on how to milk snakes.
So you’re a copywriter, huh? Aren’t you also really good at helping develop brand tone and narrative? Could you be a branding consultant too? Oh that’s right, you’re a marketing and PR whiz. But wait, I’ve seen your excel spreadsheets. Couldn’t you also help companies set up their sales systems?
A handy tip to keep in mind is: just don’t waste people’s time. Don’t take a job if you genuinely have no idea what you’re doing. Trust me, it’ll be obvious.
See the demand, be the supply
Once you’ve worked with a few different clients on a few different projects, you’ll start to see what a lot of businesses are missing and the kinds of savvy creatives they need in their corners. Since you’re no longer working for someone else, it’s now your responsibility to keep yourself educated on new systems, new trends and new bits of information that relate to your services, thus creating more of a demand for those services. Dedicating one day a week or one hour a day to researching the above or refining your skills outside of paid gigs is imperative. You don’t want to be a receptionist; you want to be the surgeon.
Schedule that research hour into your calendar. It could be an end of day journaling ritual. Could be your excuse to spend an hour reading the news on the toilet every morning.
If you need something tangible for your time to feel like its worthwhile, then start a blog and use it to publish your freestyle findings. Keep it on your website, share it on your LinkedIn or set up your own Medium account. Boom. Automatic self-marketing.
Collaboration is the key to success
When an entrepreneur is shopping at the services store, wouldn’t it be nice for them to find everything they need in the same isle. Buddy up with someone whose skills complement your own and consider presenting yourselves as a package deal. This is different to a service swap, because there is a third party transaction involved. Between you, you’ll know twice the amount of people; have twice the amount of ideas, and twice the number of shoulders to weep on during the more challenging times.
I’ve heard UX writers and graphic designers make good friends. Social media marketers and data analysts also create attractive bundles. And I’m pretty sure I read about business coaches and website developers being astrologically compatible.
Don’t be afraid to approach people about this either. Suggestion you collaborate is actually pretty flattering.
So, there are a few little tips to getting your life together as a digital nomad and edging your way into your own pocket of the freelance world. It can be daunting to pivot from being told what to do, to having to figure out what to do yourself, but once a few systems are in place and you start to experience other professional’s appreciation for your time and work, the ball will begin to roll itself. Things’ll work out, they always do.
First things first: get out of bed.