Freelancing is Freedom

Millennials are consistently demanding more schedule flexibility in the workplace, but companies should keep their fingers crossed that their young worker bees don’t get a sweet taste of freelancer’s honey. It’s easy to get hooked on– trust me.

Portland’s cutthroat job market had me wasting my time on job applications on positions that weren’t lucrative or sometimes even real (yeah, I know). Naively enough, I began to believe the jokes that half of the city was unemployed. Maybe that’s why there’s so much traffic even on a Tuesday afternoon.

It wasn’t that I sought out freelancing: the lifestyle seemed to choose me. For example, all of my planned trips for the summer were non-negotiable– I would not accept a job that didn’t accommodate the two-week vacation I had planned a year in advance. Sorry, not sorry. The world could implode any day now (nuclear war, climate change, anyone?), so I’m going to fully enjoy my life before that happens, regardless of a paycheck. Luckily enough, Portland’s niche freelance industry found me. In one month’s time, I had three clients tacked under my belt, and I’m up to six only two months later.

I met all of my clients in somewhat serendipitous ways. From family ties to random encounters, my mind began to open to all the possibilities of potential work all around me. One client, I dog-sat for. Another is the owner of a company I took a two-week temporary receptionist role at. It proved to not hurt at all to give a nearby stranger a business card.

While it would be rewarding to have consistent financial stability, a community of co-workers, and a designated space that wouldn’t be distracting to work in, I’m not feeling inclined to change this route anytime soon. When only more doors are opening while I’m simultaneously enjoying myself, why would I choose a stuffy office over a hip coffee shop?

Naturally, freelancing isn’t for everyone, and I’m surely not an expert, either. But if you’re like me and love a different routine every day, yet don’t want to sacrifice your happiness to an agency, I’ve got some tips on how to get started.

Prepare your mindset:
You are your own company now. You manage your own budgets, schedules, resources, invoices, and communications. You are your own boss, but you have to actually be a boss. Be ready to be completely independent and responsible. You can’t lean on or hide behind anyone this time. Don’t be a losing player in your own game.

Sell Yourself:
When a client hires you, they’re hiring the work that you uniquely can produce. Position yourself as a product they can’t find in anyone else. Make your portfolio and LinkedIn reflect that.

Improve your Habits:
Unless you set up a six-month review with your client, you will have no one to manage your success except yourself. You have to be self-aware enough to recognize your talents and flaws in real-time, while also being productively critical enough to improve your performance without self-sabotaging.

If you catch yourself easily distracted or slower at working in your home, make an active effort to locate alternative places more conducive to your success. If you have a habit of getting down on yourself and your skills, cut that negativity out because it’s only going to hurt your business. If you find yourself more excited about a certain niche of the work you make, consider where you could further expand your talents (online courses and certifications aren’t a bad idea).

Have an Open Mind:
Clients can come from anywhere; you never know who just so happens to be looking for help in your industry. Be confident in talking with strangers and positioning yourself as the stellar freelancer you are. Go to networking events. Have 100 business cards ready to pass out. Be kind and courteous to anyone you meet. The bigger your smile, the brighter your days will be.

While I can’t foresee whether this lifestyle will always remain ideal for my career, I can’t express enough how grateful I am that freelancing has allowed me to expand my resume while also freely enjoying my youth. Good luck to everyone kick-starting their careers; may my perspective provide some insight into your own!