Lessons From My First Year Freelancing Full-Time

This is a guest post by Denene Brox. Denene recently finished her first year working full-time as a freelancer writer and has graciously agreed to share the lessons she’s learned here.

After four years of juggling freelance writing assignments with working a full-time job, last July I decided to step out of the boat of comfort and security and freelance full time. I was working as a marketing manager for a small non-profit organization, and was itching to see if I could really make a living as a writer. I was also tired of spending my lunch hours conducting phone interviews with sources in my car and living a double life. Do I tell my clients that I work full time? Do I tell my work colleagues about the latest article I’m writing? It was very liberating to focus solely on my freelance business. But it was also the scariest thing I’ve ever done professionally (and I’ve taken several risks in my young career).

As I toast my first year as a full time freelancer, I’m also pondering some things that I’ve learned over the past 12 months. For anyone wondering what it’s really like to make the leap, here are my thoughts.

Lesson 1: You can’t predict what it’s really like–
You have to live it.

When I was contemplating quitting my day job, I spent a lot of time trying to figure out what it would be like to go full time. Would I have enough clients? Would I make enough money? While it’s important to plan and map out goals for your business, like most things in life, you won’t really know until you give it a go. I’ve gained some new clients and I still work with clients that were on board before I made the switch. I couldn’t have predicted everything I’ve done simply because a lot of it has come my way simply because I’m full time. I have more time to market myself, come up with story ideas and network in my city as a writer (and not a marketing manager). Bottom line: It’s great to plan, but you can’t predict what will happen exactly.

Lesson 2: It can be hard working alone.

While I don’t miss office politics in the least, I do get lonely at times working all by my lonesome. There’s no water cooler chatter about celebrity gossip or the last episode of LOST. In fact, there’s not chatter at all most of the time. But, on the flip side, I’m hardly ever bored with work because I am my own boss and can focus on what I want to pursue. In recent months, I’ve started networking with old colleagues and attending networking events for young professionals to meet new people. Not only is this good for business, but it’s great to get out of the house and be around people.

Lesson 3: Despite my successes, I still struggle with doubts.

When people ask me, “So when are you going to get a real job?” it can cut like a knife. At times over the past year I’ve struggled with my decision to go full time — and hearing things like that don’t help. I’m finally starting to own my decision and do the best that I can to build my business. And I thought of a great answer to that annoying question (feel free to adopt it too): “When my clients start writing me fake checks, then I’ll get a real job.”

Lesson 4: Stay open to opportunities.

My decision to go full time was the best decision for me at this time in my career. A lot of times when we set goals for ourselves, we think they are life or death, do or die. I’m having fun with my business. Will I freelance for the rest of my career? I don’t know. I want to stay open to possibilities for new clients and even new job opportunities (if the right one came along). Freelancing feels like more of a professional adventure because I’m not on a “corporate ladder” or career track with pre-defined steps. It’s exciting (though scary sometimes) not knowing what’s around the next corner.

In the end, if you’re thinking about going full time, just know that there will be obstacles to overcome – both mental obstacles and obstacles with your business. You won’t land all the great gigs or build a sustainable business overnight (most likely), but you can gain clients and confidence along the way if you’re willing to try.

Denene Brox is a Kansas City-based freelance writer. She has written for more than 30 print and online publications including Yahoo! HotJobs, MyBusiness, Minority Nurse, and Heart & Soul. She is a copywriter for non-profit organizations in the health, arts, and social services. Denene maintains the website Freelance Write Now. Visit her online at www.DeneneBrox.com, or follow her on Twitter @DeneneWrites.

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