Freelancing is an extremely popular form of employment these days. Things like the internet and smartphones have made a variety of contracting work more accessible than ever before, allowing tens of millions of freelancers to contribute well over a trillion dollars to the U.S. economy every year.
Nonetheless, no matter how much tech may help, it doesn’t change the fact that freelancing has been and continues to be a bit unstable at times. The ebb and flow of work leads to a “feast or famine” lifestyle that can make it very difficult to maintain stability.
If you’re a freelancer or thinking of becoming one, here are some tips to help you overcome these challenges and establish a truly sustainable and flexible freelance career.
Prepare for “Famine” Periods
One of the first rules of freelancing is to use your feast periods of income to help make up the difference when you enter periods of famine. It’s the same concept as a traditional farmer storing away excess crop yields to keep food on the table when weather or other shortcomings lead to a poor harvest in the future.
As a freelancer, this concept translates into creating a business continuity plan for your solo enterprise. In other words, what steps can you take now to help smooth out and continue operations when your work is disrupted in the future? A good freelance continuity plan should include things like:
- Setting aside a business emergency fund to continue paying yourself when income is low or you’re between clients.
- Maintaining a budget that allows you to easily cut costs and live below your means when money is tight.
- Purchasing things like a disability insurance policy to protect against the potential loss of income from an injury.
- Diversifying your income and avoiding the temptation to lean too heavily on a single client.
- Building failsafes into your work systems, such as having a Wi-Fi hotspot on your smartphone, to keep you connected when the internet is down.
By being prepared, you won’t just be able to survive the low points. You can even capitalize on them.
For example, if you’re prepared for slower periods of income and workflow, you can utilize them to rest and recuperate. Mental health is a trending concern for freelancers these days. Using your slow times to heal rather than stress out about your situation is a wonderful way to maintain a positive, successful, and sustainable freelance career.
Cultivate Your Personal Brand
Along with preparing for future challenges, it’s also important to think beyond simply getting paid for each gig that you take. You also want to preserve your personal brand as you interact with clients.
The more you act like a brand (even if it’s simply your own personal brand) in your professional interactions, the more likely you will be to build meaningful, long-term relationships with your peers. This can lead to steady workflow, referrals, and a bevy of clients that won’t just see you as an expendable part of their operation. They’ll want to work with you as they grow to see you as a trustworthy ally for their company.
Maintain a Growth Mindset
Finally, it’s also important to maintain a growth mindset. Don’t become complacent or predictable in your freelance work. The gig economy is always evolving, and long-term success is dependant on your ability to adapt over time. You must find ways to always be learning, growing, and honing your skills both in your specific field and as a small business owner.
For instance, you might consider continuing your education. If you have a bachelor’s in business, consider going after that MBA once your freelance business is self-sustaining. The flexibility that freelancing provides in the manner of work schedules and work hours can make it easier than most traditional full-time jobs to fit in adult education.
By pursuing a master’s, you aren’t simply looking for more letters that you can add to the end of your professional title or onto your resume. There are many other benefits to this kind of higher education can offer, such as:
- Increasing your professional network;
- Continuing to foster your hard and soft skills as an entrepreneur;
- Maintaining a cutting-edge business perspective;
- Growing your credibility as a professional in your field.
Whether it’s through education, independent research, networking with others, or any other avenue, it’s important to maintain a mentality of continual learning throughout your freelance journey.
Finding Long-Term Sustainability as a Freelancer
The freelancing lifestyle is famous for its flexibility and freedom. At the same time, it’s just as infamous for its inconsistency and feast or famine workflow.
Nevertheless, it really is possible to enjoy the benefits and minimize the challenges of the freelance lifestyle. By preparing a thorough business continuity plan, building your personal brand, and maintaining a growth mindset, you can introduce a profound level of stability to even the most unwieldy freelance career. So review your own freelance situation or future plans and consider how you can pave the way toward a long, healthy, and happy life spent working as a solopreneur.