2.0 Starting Out

Bonus Content:

Breakdown: Every Project from Grace's First Year

An overview of every project I took on in the first year of freelancing including scope, value, and source.

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Video Transcript:

Deciding to Freelance is a huge step - congratulations! This chapter is all about making the jump. When you decide to go full-time freelance, it doesn’t mean that you have to start completely from scratch. There are a few ways to ease the transition and ‘dip your toes in the water’ as opposed to doing a cannonball into a new world of work. Let’s go over some important considerations when making the jump.

Keep your bridges open

Your reputation is everything as a freelancer. Most service-based businesses run on referrals - it’s true from big firms to small studios to independents like us. As you embark on your journey of freelancing, I want you to not care what people think of you. But in this case, “people” is more like, your judge-y friend from high school, or your uncle who doesn’t think you can make it. You absolutely shouldn’t care what they think. But you should absolutely care what your clients and potential client connections think of you. Even if you’ve never worked in a design studio before, I guarantee that you have people in your life that can refer others to work with you. One of my very first referrals was from my mother in law! But more importantly, my other first referrals were from my then boss and my coworker. Previous coworkers, friends, and family are all connections that could potentially refer work to you. This quote from Scott Galloway sums this up perfectly:

“Succeeding in life is a lot easier if people want you to succeed” - Scott Galloway

I’m not saying you need to treat every relationship in your life as transactional as in you are nice to people and in return you expect them to give you work. I just mean, be cool. Be kind, be friendly, be cooperative, don’t pick needless fights or dwell on things that bring negativity to your life. Keep your bridges open, there are unexpected paths everywhere.

Part Time Split

On the back of our last tip of keeping your bridges open, a great way to start your full time freelance journey can be continuing to work with your previous job on a part-time basis. I’ve had many friends who started their freelancing journey by cutting back a 5-day job to 3 or 4 days and freelancing with the remainder. If you’re working at a job and doing good work, there is no reason that they wouldn’t want to continue working with you as a contractor on a part time or project basis. When I started freelancing, my bosses knew that I was open to working with them on a project basis if it was the right fit. I didn’t have any guaranteed days or income with them, and I didn’t work with them at all for the first 3 months I was freelancing, but they came back and we did a number of project together in my first year. It doesn’t have to be all or nothing. Consider a part time contract with an existing job, or at least express that you’re always open to working together.

Tell everyone you know that you are freelancing

We’re going to go fully into this in the next chapter, but one of the best things you can do when you start freelancing is to tell everyone you know that you are open to work . I mentioned where my first projects came from, and it wasn’t because those people magically read my mind and knew I wanted to freelance. I had to tell them! I told my friends, family, coworkers, and everyone I met that I was taking on freelance web work. I really didn’t think that I would have so many referrals from so many different people in my life, but you would be surprised how many people know someone who knows someone that needs your services. I mentioned briefly earlier that you shouldn’t care what people think of you when you start this journey, and I want to repeat it again here. I was so afraid what other people, my friends, my bosses, my old coworkers would think of me trying to start my own business. What if I failed? Was I going to look stupid? Would it be cringe? The fact of the matter is, the only person who needs to believe that you can do this is you. Try to remember that when you see anyone who successfully promoted themselves and their work, that at some point they felt super cringe about it.  It’s only cringe until it works. Then it’s success.

Be fuelled by the best version of yourself

If you’ve decided to freelance, there is some part of you, no matter how small, that knows you can make it on your own. And they’re right. I want you to fully imagine the version of yourself that is successful in the future. What are they like? How do they respond to inquiries? What kind of energy do they bring to their work? Imagine this best possible version of yourself, and try to act like them. So much of our success comes from really getting out of our own way, not letting our limiting beliefs keep us small, and stepping into the most powerful version of ourselves that we can be. I don’t love the ‘fake it til you make it’ saying, because I don’t think you need to fake anything to find success. But, if you want to be the person that ‘made it’ you have to act like it consistently, so start now.

Find other freelancers

It was only after the first year of freelancing that I really became more active online, especially on twitter, and found other people who were freelancing like me. I had been on this lonely ship waving at the occasional passing vessel, but never making contact.  Finding other people who were doing the same thing, going through the same struggles, gave me so much energy. I found a community of other Webflow developers on twitter and began to follow their journeys and make connections. I reached out to a few people to connect on a video call, and I have some great friends who’ve come out of those connections. The reality is that freelancing can be lonely - try to reach out to one new person a week just to say hey, I noticed we do the same thing, I really like your style, I’d love to connect sometime. These kind of connections can lead to work, but more importantly, they are energizing and fun. Both will be welcome injections into your freelance life.

Try everything once

When you’re taking on work, if something seems slightly outside your zone of focus or preference, give it a try once. Has someone asked you to design a powerpoint template, but you’ve only ever designed websites? It’s probably something you can figure out. Did a dentist reach out for a website, but you’ve never built a dental clinic site before? It’s probably something you can figure out. The only way that you’re going to find out what you like and what you’re good at is by trying lots of things. I took a course in my first year where I had to pick a niche in order to progress to the next steps. I couldn’t do it! How was I supposed to know what kind of freelance work I wanted to do if I had never done it before? I couldn’t decide on a niche for an industry or specific skillset more narrow than just Webflow development. So I didn’t, and I said yes to everything. After the first year, I started to have an idea of what kinds of people and industries I didn’t enjoy, and kept pursuing more of what I did like. After the second year, I had a clear idea on what projects I enjoyed, what I was good at, and what people would pay me to do - all together forming what I consider as my ideal projects. You don’t need to decide on a niche right away - try everything once and your ideal projects will reveal themselves with a certain volume of work.

Making the jump into freelancing can be nerve wracking, but keeping these considerations in mind during the first year can make things easier to manage.

Congratulations! You made it to the end of the course. You can rewatch the chapters at any time, and explore the bonus content from the dashboard.

Happy Freelancing!

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