The Freelancing Lifestyle 5 Factors to Work on that Contribute to a Freelancer’s Happiness
The term ‘Freelancer’ expresses joy and freedom. After all, overseeing your own time and securing clients at your own pace is a dream job.
Statistics further support this fact that between 2014 and 2017, there’s been a rise of 3 million freelancers in the United States alone.
Over 35% of the U.S. workforce consists of freelancers, who’ve collectively brought in a revenue stream of a mammoth $1 trillion according to a survey released by ‘Freelancing in America: 2016’.
With the increasing trend of people shifting over to a freelancing lifestyle, it begs the question – just why are freelancers a happy bunch and how do we determine the value of this happiness?
THE ADVANTAGES OF A FREELANCING LIFESTYLE
Why Freelancers are happier than traditional workers?
The ultimate battle that rages on – Employees versus Freelancers.
Which one wins as a career option?
Exactly why has there been such a boom in the freelancing space?
According to a 2015 survey, freelancers have the most important resource available to them over traditional employees – Flexibility.
The ability to manage time is the core reason many people shift to the freelancing market. Single mothers, university students, part-timers, businessmen, and just about anyone with a marketable talent tap into the freelancer’s world.
Another factor that adds to the happiness of freelancers is variable contracts.
While an employee in a company gains experience from a single source – the company itself, a freelancer has a range of clients to work with simultaneously as his or her time allows.
Being tied down to a permanent cubicle versus having their own personal workspace makes freelancing a sought-after market.
Personal Group carried out a poll which demonstrated that only a meager 48% of employees were happy when working for someone while an astounding 82% of freelancers were proud of the work they performed.
Freelancing comes with the feeling of contributing to one’s passion or idea while an employee doesn’t necessarily share the same goals and values of the company they are working for.
THE TOP HIGHEST-PAYING FREELANCING JOBS
Now that we understand what makes freelancing so attractive, let’s find out some of the top paying jobs you can typically find on freelance jobs websites.
1. Legal Services
Lawyers are available for hire on multiple freelancing sites without the necessary hassle of meeting up with one.
People prefer to hire an online lawyer by the hour due to the convenience.
2. SEO Specialist
Every business owner needs their website to rank above everyone else.
That’s where an SEO specialist comes in.
Equipped with search engine skills and a repertoire of tricks to provide the much-needed boost in search engine rankings.
3. Game Developer
Gone are the days when video games were made by big-budget companies.
With freelancers for hire, one can simply hire a game developer and breathe life to their vision.
Be it mobile or console, game developers are among the most sought-after professions in the freelancing stream.
With millions of websites on the cyberspace that need advertising and content management, it’s no wonder the modest copywriter always finds work within the freelance market.
Copywriters usually charge by the hour or a flat quote based on the project undertaken.
5. Internet Security Specialist
Hackers destroy valuable data and are the terrorists of digital space.
That’s why an internet security specialist is highly sought after for their valuable knowledge in keeping the data and files safe from prying eyes.
Apart from the following list, there are also graphic designers, marketing consultants, illustrators, photographers, customer service representatives, administrative officers, PR consultants, and several other freelancing jobs that are making their way into the freelancing space as we speak.
More people are finding it convenient to tailor fit their needs and hire the right freelancer instead of hiring employees to do their bidding.
Will freelancers soon be ruling the professional race? We’ll wait and see.
Until then let’s demonstrate 5 crucial factors to determine what truly increases the happiness index of a freelancer.
5 FACTORS THAT DIRECTLY INFLUENCE THE HAPPINESS QUOTIENT OF A FREELANCER
The freelancer’s lifestyle often sounds like a dream due to the perks that come with it.
- No office hours to report in
- No travel time required
- Efficient time management
- Maximizing your workflow
- Get clients at the click of a mouse button
- The freedom of working from anywhere
A freelancer is the envy of the professional environment and this type of work offers plenty of opportunities.
The digital market is always open for plenty of work and freelancers are often a sought-after bunch.
But are all freelancers at the same level of happiness?
Of course, not.
We’ve only listed the perks of a freelancer, like any other job there are negatives to being a freelancer such as –
- No fixed work hours often promote procrastination
- Takes time to build up your first network of clients
- No job security and lack of stable income
- Round the clock reports to clients
- Varying workloads make it difficult for freelancers to manage their day
- The isolation can start to wear on your mind
- No bonuses, insurance, or employee benefits
- Risk of obesity and health issues due to working from home
If you’re a freelancer looking to balance the benefits and negate the problems, you’ve come to the right place.
Here are 5 factors to keep in mind to ensure you avoid the biggest mistakes that freelancers make.
1. Work Schedule
Yes. Freelancers are known to be a flexible lot and that’s a fantastic perk.
Unfortunately, many freelancers get carried away and usually don’t maintain a fixed work routine.
Without a work schedule, freelancers begin to procrastinate and daydream. All this accounts for lost time.
With no one to keep a check on you, the entire responsibility lies on yourself to be productive. Remember, everyone gets the same share of 24 hours a day.
While you have a head start over a traditional employee – no commute time or gossip breaks, the employee gains a disciplined lifestyle thanks to his 9-to-5 work life.
The first step is to create a flexible work schedule.
Here’s a guide to help with it.
Step 1. Determine your work hours and stick by them. Unless you’ve got a work priority never work overtime or this causes you to break your schedule. Example – 10 hours a day.
Step 2. Pick the number of days you want to work for. Always give yourself a day or two off to rejuvenate. Example – Monday to Friday Workdays. Weekends – Off.
Step 3. Schedule your breaks – Lunch break, tea break, exercise break. Example – 12 p.m. – Lunch, 4:30 p.m. – Tea, 6:00 p.m. – Gym, etc.
Step 4. Write down your daily work list or to-do schedule. Example – 8 a.m. – Check Emails, 8:30 a.m. – Report to clients, 9:00 p.m. Begin project work, etc.
A simple work schedule like the following allows you to plan your day without wasting any time.
Procrastination happens when your mind wanders, and you don’t have a schedule to look forward to.
That’s why an employee remains disciplined because when the clock turns 9, he must show up to work or risk being fired.
Now with your work schedule looking great, it’s time to look out for another factor that disrupts your work schedule – Distractions!
Distractions are to a freelancer what kryptonite is to Superman. It makes you powerless and you feel miserable for wasting your entire day instead of being productive.
Here are 9 quick ways to eliminate distractions from your work schedule.
- Ensure your work desk is noise-free. It’s easy for your mind to lose concentration. This means no television, no mobile alerts, and no loud music.
- Freedom is an app that blocks all distractions on your phone. It’s available for iOS, Android, and Chrome.
- Hunger is one good way to lose focus on your work. Keep healthy instant foods by your work desk to fuel up as you work – Bananas, Nuts, Energy Bars, etc.
- Hydrate yourself often to increase mental focus, keep a water bottle beside you and sip it every hour or so.
- A clean work desk allows you to work without interruptions. Remove all distractions from your work desk. To increase oxygen levels in the room, buy a potted plant.
- Distractions usually occur at a later part of the day. Waking up early like 5 a.m. allows you to get twice the work done.
- If you must utilize social media for your work, maintain a business profile and sign out of your main social account. Another way is to prioritize social-media work before other milestones.
- Soothing music is a great way to calm your anxiety levels. fm is a music app designed for working professions to evoke creativity.
- Freelancers utilizing the ‘Pomodoro Technique’, where you work for 25-minutes and take a 5-minute break and repeat the process – Focus Booster is a timer app based that utilizes this technique.
2. Financial Literacy
Money management is an important topic for freelancers.
After all, without any work, the best part of your day is spent in creating resumes and cover letters for your client.
It’s during this time that money becomes a diminishing resource and managing it allows you to have a rewarding career in the future.
Let’s take the following example.
Mark is a freelancer who utilizes $150 for food and living expenses every day. With no clients and with only $2000 left in his bank account, Mark needs to spend his expenses wisely to last a month.
Spending $150 would give Mark only 13 days of time to find a client before his money runs dry. To survive for a month, Mark needs to pull down his daily budget to $50.
The above example allows Mark a choice of finding a client in 13 days or a whole month. It’s just a matter of how Mark spends his expenses.
Finance is a key aspect to every freelancer and it’s necessary to save up for a rainy day when the work stops flowing.
Employees get several benefits that allow them to secure personal loans from their company or take advantage of employee benefits.
The same can’t be said for freelancers.
Here are 3 financial tips that every freelancer should follow.
i. Maintain a Monthly Budget
Every freelancer has bills to pay and a monthly budget is critical to have. It gives a number to your expenses and the number will be your guide to saving.
Let’s say as a freelancer you make $500 the first week and $1000 the 2nd. Now you’ve got an average cash flow of $3000 per month. If we set aside 40% as monthly budget for bills and expenses that would be (Monthly Expenses – Total Income per month) = (40% (1200) – $3000) = $1800.
$1800 will be your monthly savings. Set 30% aside for savings such as buying a home and the remaining 30% as cash for maintenance (when not working).
Avoid buying expensive things during your first year of freelancing.
This is an extremely volatile period and you don’t have an established track record for bringing in sustained returns.
Tips that will help you save money on your monthly budget are
- Prepare home-cooked meals instead of ordering out.
- Many mobile apps offer free news and entertainment. Don’t subscribe for television or newspaper.
- Move in with a roommate to save rent.
- Invest in a bicycle, it’s an eco-friendly and healthy way to get around town and save on fuel.
- Carpool when going long distances.
- Use free texting apps to stay in touch with friends and family instead of costly cell phone plans.
- Switch to CFLs and other energy saving utilities to save on utility bills.
Every dollar saved is a dollar invested in your future.
ii. Milestone Payments
Freelancers undertake large projects in which money is usually paid at the end of completion. Unfortunately, no money earned in this time adds up to your daily problems.
The solution is to set up milestone payments with your clients.
A milestone payment is when part of the payment is released from either escrow or the client’s bank account to compensate for your work.
Example – You are a freelance photographer that’s tasked with coming up with 12 photographs of wildlife. Your responsibility also lies in editing and polishing the images.
Negotiate a 25% milestone with your client for 3 photos. This way when you’ve finished creating 3 photos and uploaded them, you’ll receive 25% of the payment.
Milestones are great for large projects only. Don’t create milestones for small projects as they are simply a hassle to you and the client.
As a rule of thumb, anything longer than a week should come under a milestone.
Payments can be made via popular gateways like – PayPal, Stripe, QuickBooks, Google Wallet, TransferWise, etc.
iii. Tax Preparation
Being an employee negates the necessity to prepare taxes as the company does it on your behalf. A freelancer must file his or her own taxes.
Always ensure the receipts from freelancing sites are maintained. Sites such as PeoplePerHour, Upwork, and Fiverr provide the freelancer with proof of payment slips.
A good idea is to avoid the rush of the tax season and make quarterly payments.
This allows you to file taxes only for the last quarter when it’s tax season and you’ll have an easier time processing it.
QuickBooks offers a free tax calculating tool for self-employed professionals.
3. Socialize Regularly
The first weeks of a freelancer’s life are filled with happiness and the freedom to do as they wish.
After a few weeks pass by, the isolation of the job begins to descend and that’s when reality sets in.
A UK survey demonstrated that
- 48% of freelancers were unhappy as they were isolated from their working peers.
- 32% of self-employed individuals missed the office gossip
- 29% of the respondents felt they were deprived of the team working
Here are a few red flags to consider when a freelancer career has turned you into a recluse.
- The last time you had any real human contact on your phone was over a week.
- Your phone conversations don’t last more than 10-30 seconds.
- You are convinced you are a vampire with darkened drapes all over your home with no way for sunlight to penetrate.
- You can count all your friends with just one hand.
- Having a shower is a monthly commitment.
- Your new best friend is the action figure sitting on the work table that you named ‘Bob’.
- ‘Bob’ and you share meaningful conversations and watch tv shows together.
But it doesn’t have to be that way for you. There are plenty of ways to remain a freelancer and still be a social bird.
Here are 3 exceptional ways to release yourself from the confines of an introverted lifestyle.
a. Coworking Space
Coworking spaces are a great alternative when you feel lonely and are dreaded by the interiors of your home.
Search for a coworking space near to your home and head out to work with other self-employed people just like you.
Isn’t a coworking space a costly affair?
Not necessarily. Plan out your days when you’ll be working outside. Say you prefer working 4 days at home and 1 day outdoors – A 4-hour shared office space should cost you anywhere between $20-30.
Coworking spaces offer the best bridge between both worlds – office space and freedom.
You’ll find plenty of entrepreneurs, startup owners, remote employees, and of course freelancers working in these convenient spaces.
Remember to socialize only when the other person is on a break or you’ll be interrupting their workflow and people don’t favor others taking up their time.
b. Public Spaces
So, you don’t have the money to spend on a coworking space.
There are plenty of other spaces for a freelancer to work without shelling out a dime.
- Libraries – If you can turn down the voice levels on your phone, libraries are a great place to get your work done. Public libraries often allow anyone to come in and provide several benefits – soft chairs, large designated tables, and free wi-fi.
- Malls – Every mall comes with a food court and the place is packed with people. So, it’s a win-win for your anti-social issue. The great thing about food courts is they come with wi-fi and there are a host of options to select when it comes to grabbing a bite.
- Parks – With free wi-fi entering natural spaces, parks are a viable place to work while enjoying the serene tranquility and the open air of the landscape. To get a list of all parks with wi-fi access, visit the NYC Parks website.
- Clubs – If you’ve signed up for a sports club or gym membership, guess what? You’ve got a great way to take advantage of your membership. With smoothie bars and cafes built-inside these fitness centers, simply begin working and take advantage of the free wi-fi. Gym memberships are also tax-deductible, so you don’t spend a fortune.
And finally, we present to you the world’s most preferred public space for working – The humble ‘Coffee Shop’.
Say what you want about the age-old coffee shop, but it has always offered shelter for creative individuals to socialize and conduct their work amongst a public environment.
c. Networking Groups
We get it. You don’t want to leave the sanctity of your home. You believe a bolt of lightning might strike down on you if you ventured far into the big bad world.
Well, we’ve got you covered. With over a million freelancers signed up in networking groups across the cyberspace, solitude is but a distant dream.
The benefit of networking groups is that you’ll meet with like-minded individuals who share the same passion and work in the same field as you. Interested?
Let’s get moving.
Here are 4 networking groups for freelancers to sign up for to seek advice and revel in the social revolution.
Slack is a popular networking tool for professionals around the globe. Like chat rooms in messenger sites like MSN and AOL, Slack groups are the professional way to stay in touch with professionals of your field.
Slack groups are made for various professional groups – designers, iOS developers, startup leaders, young entrepreneurs, etc.
Joining a slack group that applies to your professional field provides you with like-minded individuals to interact and discuss problems with.
Slack groups come with plenty of interactive elements such as – contests, polls, AMAs from leading personalities, and much more to bring out the best out of your talent pool.
Don’t wait. All it takes is a simple sign-up process to connect to a host of communities waiting for people like you to exchange ideas and engage in discussions.
GitHub is exclusively for software developers and programmers to connect. While it’s a niche networking site and not for all freelancers.
The free apps and programming content that are offered on GitHub make it a worthwhile mention to this list.
With over 31 million developers signed up to GitHub, there is a plethora of free content for freelancers to download and even interact with the developers directly.
Even if you aren’t a programmer or a developer, GitHub offers plenty of business and career opportunities just by connecting.
The best part of GitHub is – it’s free. A
lthough, there are paid options if you intend to unlock advanced technical features, the core interactive and networking features are completely free for the general public.
If GitHub is the Las Vegas for software developers, then Dribbble is the mecca for creative and design professionals.
Basically, Dribbble started out to connect varying creative artists and design professionals from around the globe into one unified community.
When it comes to web design, graphic design, illustration, and photography, there stands no equal to Dribbble. The community is extremely active with a wide range of illustrations posted at any given time.
As a freelancer, if creativity is in your field, then be sure to sign up for a free account and allow the community to kickstart your creative juices.
iv. Facebook Groups
We saved the best for last. Yes, Facebook is counterproductive as it allows freelancers to procrastinate but notice the word ‘Groups’ beside it.
Facebook groups are primarily made for people to discuss and exchange various opinions related to a single subject matter.
Example – A Facebook group called ‘Food Cravings’ is created with the main intention of having the community members post recipes of their favorite dish. This allows members to learn new recipes while also sharing their own and interacting with fellow members.
Similarly, if a Facebook group dedicated to photography was made, professionals belonging to photography from around the world would come and share new techniques and tips on achieving the perfect shot.
The main idea of Facebook groups is to get you networking without leaving the comfort of your home and remain a social bee.
4. A Clean Portfolio
Have you ever visited the portfolio of a top-earning freelancer in your field? Their portfolio looks like it was forged by the gods.
When you see your own portfolio, you begin to feel underwhelmed and threatened that you’re an insignificant being in comparison.
This causes an internal panic to dump everything that you’ve ever performed into your portfolio and the result – A page filled with clutter that is an eyesore for your clients.
The first thing is to calm down and remember that every professional freelancer with an eye-catching portfolio started exactly where you’re today.
Their portfolio wasn’t a result of an overnight creation. What you don’t see is the years and years of work put in.
To build an enviable portfolio, you’ll need to start at the basics.
Here are 4 tips to ensure your portfolio is worthy enough to flaunt.
a. Treat Your Portfolio Like a Trophy Cabinet
The first reaction you get when someone glances over your trophy cabinet is a burst of excitement followed by appreciation.
Do you know why that is?
It’s because you’ve maintained a cabinet with only the highest honors you’ve achieved and not filled it with action figures.
When a portfolio features some of your best work, the client will obviously be impressed by your skill and talent.
Adding low-quality work degrades your work proficiency and is a blight to your portfolio. Avoid it.
The best work and accolades achieved must always be on top.
This demonstrates that you’re a person that has performed interesting work and is worth hiring.
Provide details of your individual work and the solutions you provided to commence the work. All this adds to your reliability.
b. Present Testimonials
Clients don’t care what you think about your own work since they expect personal bias to creep in.
However, by adding testimonials of clients that you’ve worked with along with a link back to the client’s website, you’ll immediately verify the authenticity for your work.
- Trustworthiness is an important aspect of a freelancer’s portfolio.
- Do free work to get your first few testimonials. Either for a friend or a networking community.
- As a rule of thumb, 100-words of written testimonial is a bare minimum.
- Video testimonials are invaluable if you can get your clients to provide you with one.
- Case studies are another way to demonstrate the struggles you faced while working on a difficult project.
c. Update Your Portfolio Constantly
Imagine having things gathering dust on your desk that you haven’t cleaned for years. Your portfolio is bound to look like a dusty old desk if you don’t update it regularly.
As you add newer and better projects, recycle the old ones. You want a fresh portfolio with updated content to define your work.
New work also demonstrates that you’re currently in-demand and the chances of hiring you with a higher fee go up.
Example – As a writer, it’s a good idea to maintain your top 10 articles that you’ve written for your clients in the span of a year. Remove all articles older than a year and archive them. If your clients want to see your older work, simply provide them a link to your archived folder.
This way you keep a fresh and clean portfolio without older work cluttering over your present work.
d. Take Screenshots of Your Work
A series of text walls is considered boring. Include images to give a broader scope of the type of work you’ve done.
The quote – ‘A picture says a thousand words’ rings true for a freelancer showcasing his portfolio.
At the end of the day, it’s not how much text you’ve got on your portfolio but how you present it to your clients. Images tell a story and add a cinematographer’s viewpoint to your projects. I
t’s easier for clients to glance through a few pictures of your work rather than to spend hours to read through text explaining your work.
A few tips before you add pictures to your portfolio.
- Ensure you only upload high-quality pictures
- Utilize apps such as PANASCOUT to add effects that sharpen your pictures
- Don’t just spam images at every corner without a clear story to tell
- Always mention a line of text below the image for describing the event
5. Constantly Improve Your Freelancing Skills
Freelancers often focus on their work so much that they lose the concept of upgrading their own skills.
In a modern world, the early bird gets the worm. In this case, a newbie freelancer that’s up to date with the current trends is preferred over an experienced freelancer with outdated techniques.
Getting on with the times is something a freelancer should always acquaint himself or herself with.
Here are 4 ways to upgrade yourself and breathe new life into your freelancing career.
i. Identify Your Flaws
No, you aren’t the perfect embodiment of the freelancing world, no matter how good you think you are.
Every freelancer has flaws and identifying yours is critical to upgrading your skills.
Some ways to get behind your armor chinks are.
- Ask for feedback from your clients on areas you could improve
- If you’ve been recently rejected, ask what made your client look over your resume
- Write down a list of your strongest points and also the weakest.
- When bidding for jobs on freelancing sites, certain jobs have requirements. Aim to reach all the requirements listed.
ii. Set Up a Structured Time Limit to Your Goals
Unlike an employee in a company who has appraisals and promotional openings, a freelancer has no such benefit.
A freelancer doesn’t realize when it’s time to move on to the next project or when it’s time to increase their fees.
That’s why it’s important to set a time limit before you begin to evaluate your own performances.
- Emulate an employee’s appraisal approach. Give yourself a year before you evaluate your performance.
- Markdown dates on your calendar like half-yearly or quarterly to check up on your career progress.
- Most freelancers increase their fees based on the skills they learned in the past year. If you’ve acquired new skillsets and have improved your work considerably, it’s okay to increase your quote.
iii. Constant Search for Improvement
Career development plays an important role in a freelancer’s life – The more skills you have, the more work you get and the more you get paid. It’s that simple.
- Enrolling yourself in training programs is a good idea to improve your existing skills. Websites such as Udemy and Mooc are great places to sign up online courses.
- Freelancing sites such as Upwork and PeoplePerHour have tests that increase your visibility to clients. Maybe you weren’t prepared to clear a test last year but this year you have the knowledge and the experience to ace it.
- Several part-time courses are available in academies. Search for ones near to your locality. Set aside time to inquire and sign up for courses that improve your skillset.
- Workshops and online seminars are a great way to quickly acquaint yourself with the modern techniques utilized by professional freelancers in your field.
- Get a new degree in your field. An advanced degree or even a certified course.
- Industry experts usually hold meetups, stay informed to events related to your city and attend these discussions to learn valuable tips for free.
- If all else fails, simply watch YouTube videos on topics related to your profession.
Knowledge is constantly evolving, and new trends arrive as we speak.
To stay relevant in your field, you’ll have to upgrade your skills and make a note of it every year.
iv. Add a Complimenting Skillset
If you feel there is a new skill that could do wonders to your existing skillset, it’s a great way to enhance your freelancing skills.
Example – You’re a website developer of 7 years and you’ve realized an opportunity where photography is a skill that would go great with web development. Pairing high-quality photos with website creation translate to double the money for original content. Instead of loitering around stock photo websites and charging half the value for a website, a course in photography would be fruitful.
In such a case, taking a course in photography and learning about valuable editing techniques can enhance your website creating skills.
Upgrading skills don’t necessarily have to be focused on your core skillsets.
Adding additional skills that compliment your main skill is a great way to upgrade yourself.
A REFRESHER COURSE FOR ALL THE CRITICAL POINTS COVERED IN THE ARTICLE
- Freelancers contribute to $1 trillion of the revenue stream in the U.S. workforce
- Flexibility is the biggest asset of a freelancer. Use the time well.
- 82% of freelancers are happy with their work compared to only 48% of employees working for a company.
- Top freelancing jobs are – Legal services, SEO specialist, game developer, copywriter, and internet security specialist among others.
- Every freelancer needs to set up a work schedule and stick to it.
- Eliminate distractions from your work schedule to be more productive.
- Money management skills are a key aspect to freelancers – Monthly budget, milestone payments, and tax preparation should be considered.
- Freelancers can socialize by working from coworking spaces, public spaces, or through networking groups
- Every freelancer should have a clean portfolio with testimonials, snippets, highlighting the best work, and with images.
- Freelancers should always look to upgrade their skills through seminars, workshops, adding a complementary skill, and identifying flaws.
FINAL WORDS ON BEING HAPPY AS A FREELANCER
The toughest time for a freelancer is landing the first client. Once you get the first break, it’s an enjoyable journey where you handle your own income and work at your own pace.
However, a freelancing journey isn’t for everyone, if you prefer working in a team environment with a ton of guidance, employment is the best bet.
Freelancing can be given a shot later in your career when you’ve gotten more experience.
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