10 Tips on How to Not Lose Your Mind As You Begin Freelancing
Tina Roumeliotis is a NYC based writer, currently working with Buzznet and she’s also the editor of The Daily Listening. Her years in the music industry have taught her lessons along the way that have helped her successfully navigate the freelance world. Tina was kind enough to share some of her words of wisdom with us to help all the freelancers of the world stay sane, check it out below!
For many, the word “freelance” sounds both scary and exciting. It’s a way to take control of your career and be your own boss – something that can either frighten or intrigue a beginner…or both!
While freelancing does have both positive and negative aspects, the important thing to remember is to treat it like a professional business. But if you’re passionate about what you do, you’ll go further than someone who just wants to make a quick buck.
I’ve been writing almost my whole life, but I didn’t take it seriously until about 7 years ago. I started writing for BUZZNET in 2012. Back then, the site was still user-generated so after trying to get my foot in the door to the world of music writing to no avail, I decided to create my own luck and join one of the top music and entertainment sites on the web. Turns out, I made an excellent choice. I learned the ropes of journalism and media writing, made some incredible contacts and ultimately made a name for myself. In 2015, I was asked to become a freelancer for the site after they made some drastic changes. I also started my own music site, The Daily Listening, that same year.
Freelancing, while incredibly satisfying, can drive anyone insane when they’re first starting out. While I have been in the game for a few years now, it still manages to make me want to pull my hair out from time to time. If you’re just starting out or thinking about starting a career freelancing, I have 10 tips on how to not lose your mind as you begin your freelance journey. You got this, girl!
- Work out a schedule.
I cannot stress this enough. If you don’t have a schedule, you will wind up spiraling into an I-don’t-know-what-the-hell-I’m-doing frenzy and it won’t be fun. Get organized and figure out a schedule that works best for you. Oddly enough, I’m an organized neat freak and for the longest time I did not have a set schedule! I basically let myself wander free which ultimately led me to suffer from a severe case of burn out that I haven’t fully recovered from. Now that I’ve set boundaries for myself, I have more time for life outside of work. Plus, I’m gaining a lot more energy now that I’m not sitting at a computer all day working.
- Find reliable resources that mirror your own ideals and values.
It’s easy to get caught up in the “rules and regulations” of freelancing, but not everyone operates on the same terms. Find helpful resources – whether it be books, online courses, articles, Facebook groups, trusted entrepreneurs, etc – that mirror your own ideals and values. Find a space dedicated to your niche and other things you’re looking to get into and let those ideas inspire you.
I used to scour Facebook networking groups for advice but always wound up feeling worse about myself and what I was aiming to do because I was looking in the wrong places. It’s so important to find a community that gets you and who is willing to help you without policing you, especially when you’re just starting out. It’s one thing to be constructive, but when others are being nasty and unwelcoming in the process, it can put a bad taste in your mouth. Not cool. Which brings me to my next point.
- Try not to rely too much on the opinions of others.
Family and friends may try to be supportive but it can often come off as condescending. Anyone in any creative field will back this up. It’s impossible to waste your time and energy on trying to convince others that what you’re doing is worth it. As long as you’re passionate about what you’re doing and you believe in yourself, that’s all that matters. It’s incredibly brave to go off on your own and do something you’re excited about. If others can’t see that, it’s their loss.
- Remember to treat it like a business.
When you’re starting out, it’s easy to fall into the trap of working for free “for the exposure.” While you’re trying to build up a portfolio, working for free can actually be beneficial for some. I know it was for me. But there comes a time when enough is enough and money needs to be coming in. Some may tell you that asking for payment is wrong, but do they walk into a store, take a soda and walk out? Nope. If you want the goods, you have to pay up! Be professional about everything you do. Treat it like a business. Discuss payment up front and know what you’re getting into before putting any work in. Also, set reasonable rates that reflect your desired ROI (return on investment) and be willing to work within the budgets of clients, at least for the first few months.
- You have more potential clients than you think!
Think you have zero contacts in your industry when you’re just starting out? Think again! For me, since I was writing for so many years, I grew a long list of PR contacts and artists I’m now I’m touch with about writing artist bios, among other things. Think about whom you’ve connected with, or whom you’d like to connect with, and figure out a unique angle to pitch them some of your ideas. You never know where those connections might lead.
- Stay focused.
I know this is easier said than done but if I don’t stay focused, I feel awful when it’s time to work. It’s important to get into that balance of a creative mindset mixed with a business attitude. It’s easy to slack off when you make your own hours, but once you realize your income all depends on you, watch how fast you’ll perk up and get motivated!
- Stay close to whatever inspires you.
It’s easy to lose your enthusiasm every now and then, normal even. For me, since I’m a music writer, I rely on me being a music fanatic to keep me inspired. New music is constantly being released so I tend to hold on to that to keep me motivated and excited to write about all the new things being unleashed into the world. Watching others succeed, especially when I helped propel them to the top, is the best takeaway from my job.
- Take time for yourself.
Without even realizing it, I became a workaholic. In fact, my health took a beating for it. I was constantly writing, reading, researching, etc, to the point where time would fly by without me even noticing it. I’d pass on fun opportunities and time spent with my loved ones all because I was so focused on work until I realized I was losing more than I was gaining anything worth having. Plus, I was always tired. That, among other factors, contributed to burn out, and once you deal with it once, it’s hard to get rid of. Take weekends off. Plan a vacation. Do whatever you can to connect with yourself and others. Remember to have fun and to breathe. While it’s obviously important to stay focused, you can’t be in work-mode all the time.
- Save your money for the dreaded tax season.
I cannot stress this enough. Once tax time comes along, there’s going to be a lot to figure out. But you don’t have to do it alone. Find a trusted professional who can help you figure out those special forms, etc, along with tips on what you can do throughout the year that can help you with expenses. Everyone is different when it comes to taxes so make sure you’re getting the most out of it.
- Believe in yourself.
The most important factor in all of this is to believe in yourself and your abilities. No one else is living your life but you, so be sure to take care of yourself – mentally and physically – so you can live out your dreams and inspire others to live out theirs in the process.