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Freelancers Share Their Words of Wisdom9 min read

September 29, 2016
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Freelancers Share Their Words of Wisdom9 min read

Whether you’re an established freelancer or just beginning your adventure into a freelance career, sometimes it’s good to take a step back and listen to what others who have ventured along the same path have experienced.

We asked two freelancers to tell us their stories, and their answers will inspire you to kick your freelance career into the next gear.

Tara Lynne Groth Talks Transitioning From 9-to-5 to Full-time Freelance

Write Naked founder and freelancer extraordinaire, Tara Lynne Groth writes SEO content and develops blogs for site owners. Before running her writing business she was a marketing manager and public relations director. She speaks at conferences and teaches classes on best blogging practices and search engine optimization.

AND CO: When did you begin freelancing? Do you do it full-time? If so, did you leave a traditional career behind? Tell us about your transition to full-time freelance work.

Tara: I began freelancing in 2009 while I was in a 9-to-5 job as a marketing manager. A year later I resigned and I have been a full-time freelancer ever since. During my first year moonlighting as a freelancer I set specific financial goals. I promised myself that if I kept making those goals that after a year I would resign and focus 100% on freelance writing. I met my goals and followed through with my plan, and was very happy that I did.

AND CO: What are the most important traits a freelancer should have? Why? Did you have these traits when you started or did you learn them as you went along?

Tara: The most important traits a freelancer should have are resiliency, determination, and self-discipline. Freelancers don’t generally have back-up help, they need to be able to handle setbacks (large and small) or they forfeit their livelihood. Resiliency is necessary to get through tough times. Freelancers, like any entrepreneur, will flounder if they lack determination. Determination helps one move forward through boring assignments and tight deadlines. Not all folks work well autonomously. I’ve seen friends and acquaintances take half-hearted attempts at consulting or freelancing work, but they lack self-discipline. Self-discipline is what will keep you focused on finishing paid work before spending time on your own creative projects, going out to meet friends, Netflixing, or (if you’re in the country like me) spending time with your backyard chickens! Yes, I had these traits when I started. I’ve always been focused on getting things done ahead of what is expected— I left high school early and graduated college early. Not everyone has this motivation though!

AND CO: What have you learned about yourself from your pursuit of a freelancing career? Do you have any juicy success or failure stories you can share with us?

I’ve learned that freelancing is exactly what I expected it to be. I knew the first few years would be tough to build a name, credibility, and establish myself as a reliable writer. I couldn’t be where I am today without understanding that in advance. I have successes and failures, none that are ‘juicy’ per se. One success over the past year is that an editor came across my blog and invited me to write for their publication. I didn’t start my blog with the intent of attracting editors, but it’s a nice benefit!

AND CO: What are some ways that freelancers can increase their income (ideally while simultaneously decreasing working hours)?

Tara: Freelance writers can increase their income by relying on multiple streams of income. Write articles, create content, teach workshops, sell photos with your articles, seek grants, speak, start a podcast/blog and have sponsors pay for placement, write books/ebooks. At the end of each quarter and year I look back to see what is bringing in the most income. I thought my income from writing workshops was going to be small in 2015 because I took a half year off from hosting events (used the time to focus on my creative writing instead) – but it still covered the cost of a summer vacation!

AND CO: If a friend or family member were thinking about pursuing a freelance career, what advice would you give them?

Tara: If a friend or family member was thinking about pursuing a freelance career I would tell them to be ready to give 110%, tap into their strengths, and keep the day job until they’re ready.

Katrina Frye on Risks, Clients, and Motivation in Freelance

Katrina Frye is the founder of Mischief Managed. An artists consulting company working with artists of all mediums to get their careers off the ground and money in their bank accounts. She has worked in the arts for 10 years and has received her masters degree in Arts Management from the Drucker School of Management. She strongly believes that artists are the architects of culture and transcribers of history. Follow her artists and insights @mischiefarts or mischiefmanaged.info.

AND CO: When did you begin freelancing? Do you do it full-time? If so, did you leave a traditional career behind? Tell us about your transition to full-time freelance work.

Katrina: I transitioned to full-time consulting for freelance artists in early 2016. I left behind eight years in the social arts sector. I worked with four different organizations in that time and usually in the same capacity or title. I couldn’t seem to climb “the ladder,” and instead of getting frustrated decided to take my natural abilities, my extensive formal education, and the professional skills I had accumulated to jump into full-time freelance work. My transition has been daunting and exhilarating. I first picked up a few shifts a week waitressing. I wanted to make sure I wasn’t desperate for clients and knew if I worked at night it wouldn’t interfere with lunch meetings I needed to take. I then set up my own deadlines and business plan so I could see tangible progress and not get lost in the weeds. Once my website was complete I spread to the word out to my network and began taking every lunch and dinner meeting offered.

AND CO: What are the most important traits a freelancer should have? Why? Did you have these traits when you started or did you learn them as you went along?

Katrina: The most important traits needed of a freelancer are tenacity and grace. You need tenacity because no one is going to start or complete the work for you. You have to be your own coach, your own cheerleader, and your own all-star. You need to be able to hear no until you finally hear yes. You need to be able to objectively look at your product at say it needs work or it’s not complete. This is one of my natural strengths, but it can also be learned.

Grace is not one of my natural strengths and therefore I need so much more of it. You need grace for yourself, your work, and your clients. You can be your own worst enemy and when you are too hard on yourself this usually spirals into unproductive thoughts. You really need grace to say I did my best, I am still learning, and I can try again tomorrow. Being a freelancer you can find yourself working 60 hours per week. Those are the moments when you need to step back and ask yourself, “What do I actually need to accomplish this week?” “What can wait?” and, “What is really on fire?” These tough questions have been learned from years of experience in the corporate would when deadlines felt like life or death.

AND CO: What have you learned about yourself from your pursuit of a freelancing career? Do you have any juicy success or failure stories you can share with us?

Katrina: What I have learned so far is that I should have taken this risk on myself a lot sooner and that I am extremely valuable. I kept trying to make myself “fit” in the corporate setting and I think with any more years of that my confidence would have been damaged forever. I knew I made the right decision when people started calling and emailing just to let me know I should have been doing this years ago. It’s even hard to laugh about quite yet, but I know nothing is in vain. All my experiences have lead me to this point, and I’m thrilled to be finally working the job I want to be working, helping the people I am uniquely gifted to help.

AND CO: What are some ways that freelancers can increase their income (ideally while simultaneously decreasing working hours)?

Katrina: One way to increase income and decrease working hours is to patiently find the right client for you. There are clients out there that will bring out your best. When those synergies happen make sure you up-sell yourself because of the great chemistry and then maximize your time with them.

Another great tool is putting the hours back in the client’s court. If you foresee something beyond your contract or capacity don’t be so eager to show off that you can do everything. Stay within your scope, give thoughtful solutions, and then make sure you clearly communicate that it’s now on them. Example: A client needs a competitive comparison analysis. I am only hired for two hours and I know it will take 10 hours, so I would show (in two hours of work) how to go about the analysis and major questions I would ask during the process. Then I would say my additional fee to complete the work or I would suggest that an employee they had in-house to complete the task.

AND CO: If a friend or family member were thinking about pursuing a freelance career, what advice would you give them?

Katrina: If you are considering a freelance career I would just say it’s not for everyone. If you find your self to be unproductive in a 9-to-5, cubicle atmosphere maybe it’s time to consider a new path. But just because you get to make your own schedule doesn’t mean you are good at it. It’s a lot of alone hours, administrative and marketing duties, plus inconsistent pay. If all that excites you then my last questions would be: What do you have to add? What corner market or experience do you have that people would be willing to pay for? Is anyone already doing what you want to be doing? Can you do it better? If so, get to it!

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John Arthur is a contributor for AND CO. Beyond writing, he is passionate about music and is a member of the band, The Deafening Colors.

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