As time goes by and I can take a distance to last year, when freelancing and consulting was such a key part of my income, I’m able to reflect on my successes and my–learning experiences. There are a lot of things which a freelance can do to be more or less successful, but I think that no freelancer can succeed without two things: passion and persistence.
In an ordinary job, you can survive on inertia. As a freelancer, you can’t.
Your passion can be for any number of things. It can be for the work itself or it can be for something bigger you hope to accomplish by doing the work–whether it’s a financial goal you’re passionate about or you’d like to get your own business up and running and eventually plan to have employees do the nitty gritty stuff.
Passion is what keeps you going when you’ve just come off a project that made you feel like a sellout. Passion is what keeps you going when a client stalls on paying or turns out to be difficult to work with. Passion is what keeps you going when a project takes longer than expected and you have to stay up late or give up something fun.
If you can’t find a passion somewhere in your work, then you won’t be able to keep going when you hit the wall. And you will hit the wall. No matter how good you are at what you do, no matter how easy it is, you will always run into things that make you think, if just for a minute, that you don’t want to keep going with your work.
And maybe if you don’t have a passion for it and can find work elsewhere, that’s ok. Otherwise you need to be able to remind yourself why you’re doing this.
When I first started freelancing, I was unfocused in my efforts because I wasn’t really sure what interested me or what worked best. At that point, my passion was mostly for being free from a rather mind-crushing job. As I kept at it, I developed a stronger passion and a focus on the work itself that has kept going even though I no longer need to freelance. Most of the time, I love my work. And when I hit the inevitable road blocks and annoyances, I can easily remember why I’m doing it.
Passion is no good unless it manifests in something. Persistence freelancing is inspired by your passion and tenaciously goes after new work. Without persistence, even a passionate freelance won’t flourish.
Persistence is what makes you go out there and find the next project. Persistence is what you need when you keep losing jobs to other bidders. Persistence is the tool that unlocks your freelancing future.
One of the things I had the hardest time with in freelancing was putting myself out there and getting jobs. Once you build a good client base, you’ll go through periods where you can get plenty of work off referrals and old clients. It’s a comfortable place to be and you can get used to it. But unless you’re one of the biggest people in your field, it’s likely that you’re going to have to seek out clients too.
Persistence is what keeps you checking job postings, it’s what helps you network with others in the field when you’d rather just wait for the next person to approach you. I think my biggest failing…or learning opportunity…as a freelancer was not being persistent enough between jobs. I probably could have done more, had less downtime, earned more, and even developed better skills.
I was persistent enough to find new clients and I always made ends meet on the financial side. But if there’s one thing I’d advise freelancers to learn from my experience, it’s to be more persistent.
What about you? If you freelance or do work on the side–what are your passions? Have you found ways to be persistent about the work?