My First Month as a Full-Time Freelancer (What I’ve Learned)

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Heather Swick is here today to share how 30 Days or Less to Freelance Writing Success helped her leave her 9-5 behind. After taking the course and building up her business, she made the leap and took her freelance writing side hustle full-time. It’s been just over a month and she’s here to share her story.

Take it away Heather!

Back in April, I realized it was finally time to do something about my career. I knew I wanted to end up as a full-time freelance writer, but I didn’t know how or when that would happen.

Ideally, it would be before my fiancé and I have kids in a few years.

So I started planning, and I found Gina’s, 30 Days or Less to Freelance Writing Success course. The more I got involved with the logistics of my future career, the less I wanted to be at my day job. I planned on taking six months to launch my career – leaving my job right before our wedding in late October. (Like many others, Heather sped that process up!)

Well, considering that I’m writing this post in July, things don’t always go as planned. My fiancé got a raise at his current job, I landed a couple new clients, there were a lot of changes going on at my 9-to-5, and the timing was just right. So, thanks to the urging of my fiancé and a massive leap of faith, I left my job in June.

The transition has been both easier and more challenging than I expected. Right after I put in my notice at work, what was supposed to be my biggest client decided they were changing their focus and didn’t need writers anymore. Another client closed up shop. So there I was, already on the outs with my former job, preparing to leap into total uncertainty.

But here I am a month later, feeling great about my decision.

I’ve learned quite a bit from my first four weeks of full-time freelancing, so I can only imagine what I’ll learn after a year! Here are five lessons I’ve learned in the last month and what it has looked like for me.

1. Follow Your Instincts

My gut instinct has a pretty great track record, but I still don’t listen to it nearly enough.

Case in point: I ended up calling off work with a new client on day two. That was scary.

Who did I think I was to turn down work this early in the game? But I knew it would take too much time away from my other clients and there were too many uncertainties to feel good about it.

And to be honest, I felt uneasy about it from the very first conversation we had. I now know that was the right move to make. I try to consider my gut on a daily basis, especially when thinking about applying to $5 per article jobs or talking with a prospective client who makes me uncomfortable.

2. Time Management Is Very Different

When I worked in an office, I’d often have about three hours of real work to do each day. The rest of the day would be spent on Facebook, Pinterest, or some other social media black hole.

However, I was getting paid through all that wasted time because I was salaried. Now I can waste all the time I want, but it actually feels like wasted time. Until I beef up my passive income options, if I don’t work, I don’t make money.

So yes, I’ve had a couple days over the past month where I get up, attempt to get things done, and somehow squander the day away without finishing much of anything. But the next day, I hit the ground running. I come back ready to work.

I’ve also learned to make time “budgets” every day. One reason I wanted to work from home was for the flexibility, because sometimes life things get in the way. We are right in the middle of wedding planning and buying our first home, so sometimes I have to work a vendor appointment or home inspection into my schedule.

To plan for this, I lay out the day ahead of time; what time I intend to work until, and budget blocks of time for different tasks. This helps me in a couple major ways:

  1. It allows me to prioritize my work and tasks.
  2. It helps me see where and when I am wasting the most time. I do my best work in the morning, so I pack my mornings with work and allow for more flexibility in the afternoons.

3. Cold Pitching Is Intimidating, but It Pays off

Cold pitching was pretty scary.

I don’t know what I was afraid of, exactly, but I really dragged my feet on it. Then, Gina wrote her post about cold pitching, and I decided it was time to get down to business.

I wrote a pitch based off of her template, sent out 10 or so, and waited. It was two weeks before I heard anything.

Now, I have one definite client out of that first round, and a couple responses from the ones I’ve sent out since. Plus, once you’ve got a solid pitching template, it doesn’t take much time at all, so there’s really nothing to lose.

4. You Can Still Be Social

When I was talking about leaving my job, all of the doubters had concern in common: “Won’t you be lonely?”

First, I really do work better on my own, so that part has felt like a very natural transition. But I have had more lunch meetups and networking events and coffee catch-ups in one month that I had in six months at my day job.

Having a schedule on my own terms has allowed me to reconnect and network more than ever before.

5. Have Patience and Track Your Progress

The hardest part about this career move is my own perception of it.

“Having the opportunity to create your own future is a double-edged sword.”

You can make it whatever you’d like, but what will it look like? Will I fail a year from now? The first couple weeks were especially rocky.

One day I felt like I had it all figured out, and the next day I was panicking about whether or not I would make it. I was worried about what people thought of me, that I wouldn’t make enough money and that no one would take my job seriously.

I found ways to deal with all of that.

When it comes to money, if I’m feeling helpless, I look at the money I’m saving by working from home. I’ve already saved a decent amount on gas and lunches over the past month. I also have time to cook meals instead of eating out and make DIY laundry detergent. It sounds dumb, but finding even the simplest ways to save money when I’m feeling stressed really helps calm me down and feel more in control.

I also learned to track my progress. If you ever find yourself going down the “I don’t know what I’m doing” rabbit hole, this is a great way to combat that. I wrote down what money I’ve made over the past couple months, and also looked at how many clients I have now compared to several months ago.

“I just remind myself that I have happy clients now, and that means I can find more great people to work with in the future.”

It just takes patience, persistence and a serious belief that you can do this.

I get to work at the kitchen table every day with a puppy sleeping at my feet, and I don’t regret my decision for a minute. It feels like exactly what I should be doing. Here’s to another month of victories and life lessons!

What was your first month as a full-time freelancer like? Or is your first month still on the horizon?

Heather Swick is an author, freelance writer and virtual assistant. She loves helping others achieve their career goals by sharing her own experiences, as a successful writer. She currently lives in Central Illinois with her fiancé and Boxer puppy. Check out her professional site  or just-for-fun blog Morning Glory .

Photo Credit: zappowbang via Compfight cc

10 thoughts on “My First Month as a Full-Time Freelancer (What I’ve Learned)”

  1. First of all, Congrats Heather for your new phase of life. It feels great to leave behind the 9-5 job, isn’t? Now, you are ready to experience the real freedom.
    I can easily connect with your first point. We must make a decision before starting a project. The selection always depends on our interests and monetary requirements. It is always better to follow our instincts.
    Ya, social media is a black hole. Instead of wasting time on scrolling the pages, we must concentrate on building relationships with the people.
    I am taking away many useful life lessons from this post. Thanks Gina for sharing Heather’s inspiring story
    Lots of love, buddies.

    • Yatin,
      It feels amazing to have so much freedom! It’s still tough to keep motivated and continue setting goals, but every week gets better and better. I don’t think I could go back to the 9-5 life.
      Thanks for reading, and good luck to you!

  2. Thank you so much for providing an honest representation of the first few weeks of full-time freelancing. I’m looking to make that move in the not-so-distant future and I’m sure I’ll revisit this post on those times that I feel like I’m going through it alone. Despite some minor hiccups, it seems like you’re off to an amazing start. Congrats on taking that leap of faith – it seems to be really paying off!

    • Kelby,
      Thank you so much! Once you do take that leap, hopefully you remember that we all have that initial learning curve once we get going 🙂 It’s not easy, but I continue to learn a ton every week. Good luck to you!

  3. I really like your perspective, Heather. And you’re right, cold pitching is scary at first, but the more you do it, the less intimidating it becomes.

    Rooting for you, H.

  4. Great post! I’m so glad you were able to make the leap into full time freelancing. I haven’t made it yet. I’m planning to by this time next year though.

  5. This was a really encouraging read, thank you! I’m just a week into my freelancing career, and anticipate a few learning curves along the way as I trek toward completing my first month.

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