Struggle #1: Was I making a big mistake? Jumping into full-time freelancing brought up a ton of insecurities in myself, my work, and my own abilities. I struggled a lot with self doubt and my decision to work freelance rather than full-time. I knew freelance was a better fit for me and the life I wanted to live, but did I have enough work experience to be successful? Was my portfolio good enough? Was I worth what I wanted to charge my clients?
Being on my own felt extremely vulnerable and I was terrified of failure. I wanted the path I had chosen for myself to be justified. I wanted someone to tell me I was making the right decision. Most often I was told the exact opposite. I was literally told by a recruiter to "suck it up and grow up. A full-time, 9-5 job is the only way to be considered successful and the only way to have a legitimate career." I practically lost my mind when I was told that! For me, the idea of working the same job, doing the same thing, 40-hours a week seemed like a prison! Luckily, I have some great friends that supported me and my "non-traditional" career choice and even referred me to new clients!
Lesson Learned: Stay true to myself. Surround myself with people who support my decision to work freelance and tune the rest out.
Struggle #2: Finding interesting work and gaining new clients. At first, I took on any work I could get. I had no idea of what type of work I actually wanted to be doing and ended up feeling unhappy about the low-budget, low-creative projects I was accepting from clients. It wasn't until September that I actually realized who my ideal client was and the type of work I'd be most excited about doing! Once I figured that out, I redesigned my portfolio to reflect that and within one week, won a project with my dream client, Lisa Frank! (Project TBA in 2012).
Lesson Learned: Identify my ideal client. Knowing exactly what type of work I wanted to do inspired me to rebrand myself to appeal to that specific market. And once I did that, it paid off almost instantly- Hurray!
Struggle #3: Financial planning, running a business + work flow. Money was a definite worry. How do I make a budget? How much money do I need to make to get by? I have to pay my own taxes? What? One month I was overloaded with projects, the next I was twiddling my thumbs. I experienced some drastic changes in my workload and it freaked me out! Then I realized- this is the life of a freelancer. It's ok that I don't have any big projects right now and it's actually a good thing! For example, December was a slow month for freelance work. At first I was worried about not having enough income to make it through the month, but the money I had made in the busy months previous helped me through and I was able to focus on other things! I was a vendor at Crafty Wonderland, I visited friends in Seattle, did some reading and even started planning for 2012.
Lesson Learned: The ebbs and flows of freelance life is what makes being my own boss worth it! When I'm not fully booked with freelance projects I can change my focus to personal projects, reorganizing, and planning. I still have A LOT to learn about running my own business. One of my goals for 2012 is to design an easy system for keeping track of financial stuff and filing quarterly taxes.