This post may contain affiliate links. If you click through and make a purchase, I may receive a small commission at no extra cost to you. You can find my full disclosure page here.
I launched my freelance business in late July of 2015. The year has gone quickly, and I’ve learned much and grown a lot. I wanted to take a few minutes to share my reflections on a year of freelancing with you.
But first, a quick history:
Why I Started Freelancing
When I started my career, my husband was driving over an hour each way to get to work. He was working a stressful job that required long days.
He’d leave before the kids woke up, and sometimes wouldn’t get home until well after bedtime. We never saw him.
The stress of never seeing each other was very real. I knew something had to change.
But, we live in a rural area without many economic opportunities. We knew a local job would require a pay cut. And our budget couldn’t take another blow.
Stumbling into Freelancing
So I started looking for ways to make money from home. I stumbled across Horkey Handbook, and eagerly read all of the helpful posts that Gina had on her blog.
Using free material (aff link) on her site, I sent my first pitch. I found it on the ProBlogger job board. Someone wanted articles on homeschooling.
So I sent a pitch off. I landed the gig.
Bootstrapping My Biz
I kept going, and soon earned enough to pay for the class I wanted to take–30 Days or Less to Freelance Writing Success. (yup–another aff. link–it’s an amazing course and I’m glad to recommend it!)
In September I had earned enough to purchase my own domain and hosting for my website. lisatannerwriting.com was born!
I’ve made it a point to never spend money I haven’t earned on my business. With a large family, the finances are already tight and I didn’t want to spend money we didn’t have!
The last year has been an amazing learning opportunity! Here are some of the lessons I learned:
Believe in Yourself
If you don’t believe in you, no one else will. You’ve got to portray confidence in your pitches, in your communication with clients, and when you write. You can do it!
Some Clients Aren’t Worth Having
When you’re broke, it’s tempting to take any client that comes along. But, I’ve learned that not all clients are good clients. And bad clients usually aren’t worth the little bit of money they’re willing to pay.
Ditch the ones that cause you stress, and devote that time to finding better clients!
You Have to Pitch
Every slow patch I’ve run into is directly correlated to a decrease in my pitching. I don’t yet have a full roster of recurring work, and I’ve been struggling to balance pitching and the work when I do have some of those one-off gigs.
Make it a priority. Even if you just send two or three a week, you have to pitch. It keeps your name out there, it keeps you looking, and it does bring work!
Remember to Save Some of Your Money
It’s tempting to take all the money I earn and pour it into the household budget. But, I can’t do that.
I have to save some.
I save 25% of each bit I earn to put into my business savings account for taxes. I’m also working on building a business emergency fund–one that I can use to cover classes, training, a new computer, whatever need arises.
Keep Your Family in the Loop
My family knows the reason I’m freelancing. The kids love seeing Daddy more. They got a tangible benefit from me spending more time at the computer.
Keep everyone in the loop. Share your successes. Share your struggles. Ask for help when you need it.
What I Would Have Done Differently
There’s only a few changes I would make if I were starting a freelancing business today. Here they are:
1. Not Invest as Much Time in Craigslist
I spent many hours pouring over Craigslist for gigs in my early days. While I landed a couple of great gigs, I also got a scam.
In December I signed up for a paid subscription to Contena, and I can’t imagine going back to Craigslist. I save so much time!
And for a busy freelancing mom, time is money!
2. Start Investing in Myself Sooner
I’m naturally a frugal minded gal. I don’t like spending money, and especially don’t like spending money on myself.
But, I’m learning that in freelancing you really do have to invest in yourself.
I got my website designed recently, and I really wish I would have shelled out the money sooner.
I’ve also invested in Mastermind groups, and love what I’m learning. Look for an ROI, and invest when you have the money and perhaps before you see the “need” to invest.
It’ll help you keep growing!
3. Don’t Fall for Shiny Object Syndrome
When I first started freelancing, I had zero presence on social media. I knew it was essential, so I started signing up.
The problem was, I didn’t know what I was doing. I just did it because experts said I should.
I was trying to learn too much at once, because they all looked shiny.
If I were starting out now, I’d stick to a single platform for a few months. Once I figured that one out, I’d move onto another. I think it’d be way less overwhelming.
4. Find My Voice
It took me a while to get in the groove with writing. I was trying to emulate the successful freelancers who had inspired my journey, and it was hard for me.
That’s because I’m me. If I were starting today, I’d work on establishing my voice and my vision sooner. After all–me is all I can be!
How Long Have You Been Freelancing?
I’d love for you to chime in the comments and let me know how long you’ve been freelancing.
Is there anything you’d do differently today if you were just starting out?
Lisa Tanner is a former teacher turned homeschooling mom with 11 kids. She's also a successful freelance writer. Lisa enjoys helping other busy moms find time to start and grow a side hustle of their own.