How to Understand the Freelance Mindset

How to Understand the Freelance Mindset August 25th, 2014, by Matthew Setter

These days it seems like everyone and their dog wants to "quit the daily grind" and, in some form or other, start their own business. One of the most talked about options is being a freelancer. Problem is, an employed and self-employed mindset aren't the same. And if you're not careful, you'll likely fail as a freelancer, in spite of all your enthusiasm and skills.

These days it seems like everyone and their dog wants to “quit the daily grind” and, in some form or other, start their own business. One of the most talked about options is being a freelancer.

Problem is, an employed and self-employed mindset aren’t the same. And if you’re not careful, you’ll likely fail as a freelancer, in spite of all your enthusiasm and skills.

I’m one of the recent “quit my job and became a freelancer” types. Filled with passion, enthusiasm, and a dream (ok, with a healthy dose if planning thrown in) I set off on my freelance journey.

At first it was brilliant; my time was my own, I could work where and when I pleased, so long as the work was completed on time, for the client.

And there’s lies the first challenge; clients, or lack thereof. I’d been fully employed my whole career. I had precious little experience with finding clients.

Sure I’m very personable and when I have, the relationships have regularly been very positive. But I’d only landed enough for work on the side. Never had I landed enough to support myself, let alone my wife and child as well.

All was not well in paradise

As the reality of what may lie ahead truly dawned on me, my stress levels started to rise, leading to troubled sleeping patterns, invariably leading to difficulties at home.

I worked harder than ever, or felt like I was. Try as I might, expending countless hours of effort, seemed to do little, if anything to bring a change in the situation and bring in paying clients.

Before you suggest I should throw in the towel, I was, gradually, picking up new clients, but the rate didn’t seem enough to last long-term.

Many a time did I wonder why, with so much skill, energy and likability, did I seem to be getting nowhere. How is it, that despite all I had learned and applied, success seemed to difficult to achieve?

My Focus was all wrong

Then today, some months in, the realisation hit me. My attitude was all wrong. I was still acting like an employee, not like a hired gun, or future business owner.

I was still acting out of the mindset where ultimately I expected to “just do work, the work for which I’d studied and trained” and in return to be duly compensated for it.

Fact is: I suspect I’m not the only one.

How many of us, begrudgingly, accept that we’ll now only spend a percentage of our days on the work we do which results in an invoice; and that the rest of the time it’s about working on our business, not in it?

Raise your hand if you truly accept that reality!

Don’t worry, I’m not there in the room with you and I’m not such a computer genius that I can take over your webcam and see you.

So this really is a no-loss situation. Raise your hand if you do, go on, no one will see you. If you’re in a coffee shop, just pretend you’re stretching.

We need to paradigm shift

The thing is, we read this advice all the time, but so many of us pay lip service to it. But it’s a fact, more times than not.

I’ll even go so far as to suggest that the thing we call “real work” is but a part of what we do and can no longer be considered “what we do“.

We have to make a paradigm shift and truly let go of where we were before, before we can live where we are now.

As Einstein said, the same thoughts produce the same results, and to attempt to produce different results with the same thinking, is pure madness.

Ok, perhaps I’ve take a bit of creative license there.

So instead of giving you glib advice, advice which you’ve heard a 1,000 times over in one form or another on the countless blogs you consume with avarice daily, I won’t. Instead, I’ll say this – stop!

1 Tip to rule them all

From this moment on, I ask you to accept that all of what you do is what you do. Not just software design and development, if you’re a software developer; not just writing and editing, if you’re a writer; not just graphic or cover design, if you’re a designer – but everything you do.

It’s the networking you do, almost daily; it’s the shaking hands and getting out of your comfort zone to meet new people; It’s the time you invest in growing your technical skills; it’s the work you create, market and show off.

Everything you do, is what you do!

One piece is not more or less important than any other. If you’re shaking your head at any of this, feeling a growing sense of anger, denial, repulsion or fear, that’s not entirely unexpected.

Breath, accept it, be flexible and grow because or in spite of it. But if don’t deny it forever. If you do, I’d suggest that either freelancing isn’t really for you and that one way or another, that will become obvious in time.

I’m not out to kill your dreams, honestly. That’s not what I’m about. I’m here to help you, to share with you some of the things I’ve learned on this path we call life and freelancing. I want you to succeed. When you do (and when you fail) I want to hear your stories.

I encourage you to think about what I’ve said and see how you can benefit from it, far quicker than I did. If you’re struggling, tell me your story.

If you’ve gone through it and come out the other side stronger already, tell me your story. I’m keen to hear from you. After all, in some way, shape, or form, we’re all in this together.

hear from you soon,

Matt


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