5 Lessons From My First Months of Freelancing

man with laptop freelancing

I was employed for the first seven years after I graduated. In my first four years, I was in the corporate setup, while in the past three years, I was a college instructor. Then in August 2022, I decided to venture into freelancing.

Though I was not entirely new to writing online, given that I was already writing on this blog for quite some time, still, the experience was very different.

I landed my first client in May and immediately saw the potential of freelancing over employment. However, for every advantage, there are also disadvantages.

Here are five lessons I learned in my first months of venturing into freelance writing.

1. You are on your own.

woman using macbook sitting on white couch while freelancing
Photo by Christina Morillo on Pexels.com

After I started freelancing, I realized that I am really on my own. I am a company of one, that will need to do most of the things on my own. Since I am still relatively new, I still have a lot to learn in this field and change my perspective from an employee mindset into a freelancer.

When I was still employed, I had a boss or an organization that will set the priorities of my work and the steps I need to do to accomplish them. There are clear deliverables and deadlines that I need to meet, however, most of them are done with a team.

Depending on where you are on the ladder, you will have different roles to perform. You will not have to do everything on your own because someone is already tasked on that.

Then when I started freelancing, I realized that I have to do most (if not all) of the things myself. I had to find the clients, submit a proposal not knowing if it will be accepted or not, and that is only the first part.

After that, I will have to perform the actual work of content writing that will be reviewed by the client. Then depending on their impression, I may have to revise the output to satisfy their desire. Which in reality, was not what we initially agreed on, which can be frustrating.

Since this is a path that I took, I will have to adapt to the changes and challenges that are part of it, even if most of them are my own.

2. Your hard work is more often rewarded.

man holding mug in front of laptop
Photo by Andrea Piacquadio on Pexels.com

For regular wage employees (or those who are not earning commissions), we can work harder and go above and beyond. However, we will still earn the same as someone performing the minimum or quiet quitting.

Though the effort can still be rewarded come bonus period and progressions, our hard work is not immediately awarded.

Sadly, in other cases, it can even be that you are working so hard to get promoted, but your supervisor or manager grabs the credit you deserve. Or worse, a coworker, who is not a good performing employee, gets promoted because they are closer to the bosses.

In contrast, for a lot of hardworking freelancers, your skills and output can be immediately rewarded. Many freelancers are even earning dollars and other foreign currencies, allowing them a relatively higher income than you will typically get from Philippine employment.

However, always give yourself time to improve your craft and be kind to yourself. Also, avoid pushing yourself too much, which can affect your health negatively in the long run.

3. No work, no pay.

apartment bed carpet chair
Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

At the start of my second month of freelancing, I got sick and could not work. This only means that I will have no output for my client and will not earn for the days that I was resting — good thing that my client was understanding and moved my deadline.

That experience was eye-opening for me because though the earning potential can be relatively high, you will lose the earning opportunity if you get sick or don’t work for the day. 

To add to the earning loss, you will also need to spend on check-ups and medicine, which is commonly free for employees via HMO.

Holidays and paid time offs are also something that freelancers can no longer enjoy. There is no more holiday double pay or no work on a holiday. Either you work to earn or don’t work.

Another is about working from anywhere. Though the opportunity of working anywhere is there, it can sometimes be harder to work in a different environment, making you less productive.

However, I think it would be better to establish a monthly minimum quota so I can still go somewhere without having the guilt of having no work and no pay.

4. You don’t have job security.

ethnic kid in police uniform in studio
Photo by Amina Filkins on Pexels.com

I started freelancing a couple of months before I decided to do it full-time. During that time, I had a regular client that gave me a lot of work. He even assured me that there were enough writing gigs to last almost six months.

Then during my first couple of weeks freelancing full-time, he said that we would temporarily stop the project to see how his website ads would perform, which may take a few months.

That was a shocker because I thought I had landed a client that would give me work for a few months while building my portfolio. Then suddenly, he stopped, and I had no client in the line-up. So, the new client (until now) who contacted me was truly a blessing.

I realized that if I were still employed, I would be less likely to think about job security because I was a regular employee. Because of this, I learned to continuously look for clients, even if I’m still working with some.

So, though the earning potential as freelancers is relatively high, you will still need to be ready for uncertainties, so build your emergency fund for up to one year instead of the regular 3-6 months.

As freelancers, we need to continuously build our skills and portfolio so it will be easier to find other clients when one client ends.

5. You’re budgeting a variable income.

black calculator beside coins and notebook
Photo by olia danilevich on Pexels.com

Personal finance will differ from person to person; that is why it is called “personal.” Since freelancing usually pays a variable income, budgeting will also be different.

I can no longer use category-based budgeting as I did in the past. However, it can still be a good baseline.

I realized I needed to start building a “buffer fund,” which is different from the emergency fund. The buffer fund will serve as a one-month stash enough to cover my regular expenses.

***I think I will write a separate post about this as soon as I figure out the best approach for it.***

Final Thought

Freelancing is an entirely different experience from employment. There are many advantages to it, but also disadvantages.

I am still in the earlier part of my freelancing journey, and I don’t know where it will take me. But I believe this is where I should be at this point in my life — following God’s plan.

To everyone wanting to venture into freelancing, don’t jump blindly into it. Yes, it can be cool on social media to say that you are your own boss, but you must first establish your skills.

In freelancing, no one will ask for your degree. They will also care less which school you graduate from. Clients will only look at your portfolio, attitude, and results.

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