“The 5 Mindset Shifts You Need to Make to Be a Freelancer”

“The 5 Mindset Shifts You Need to Make to Be a  Freelancer”

Freelancing has moved forward exponentially due to the coronavirus pandemic.  As a growing trend, the “gig economy”—where businesses outsource jobs to freelancers who work remotely—has already gotten traction in the last decade.  With the pandemic seemingly in full swing, traditional business has changed dramatically out of necessity.

In the U.S., currently one-third of the workforce are freelancers.  In the next 5-10 years it was predicted that the majority of the workforce would work remotely.  With the pandemic forcing businesses to either send employees home to work or shut down completely, we’ll most likely see the shift to freelancing being sped up dramatically.

To prevent the spread of the virus, companies have sent employees home to work, setting up remote workplaces using technology.  This has been a big adjustment for many workers as their daily routines have been disrupted in major way.  In addition, they are attempting to adapt to the changed environment and maintain the discipline to work at the same capacity they did when working from their business location.

Others have lost their jobs completely as businesses have been forced to close to encourage social distancing during this outbreak.  Because of this, many people are considering freelancing as an option to generate income.

Because a freelancer is essentially a business owner who has to do the marketing, selling and service fulfillment of their particular skill set, learning that they are now a business owner and “chief, cook and bottle-washer” can look overwhelming when first entering the field.

Preparing yourself mentally for this change is paramount.  People who are used to a traditional workplace with coworkers and the hustle and bustle of daily activity are feeling the effects of isolation– and it’s a drastic change for many.  Basic psychology tells us that the vast majority of people need human connection to survive and thrive.  Being forced to isolate goes against the grain of our basic makeup of being human.  Going from a work environment of having at least some coworkers  to working alone requires some adjustment. 

I spent 10 years in an office environment before striking out on my own as a freelancer almost 30 years ago.  It was a major shift for me to being alone all day with no office banter or regular interaction with coworkers.  I wanted to work for myself and had to recognize early on that I would need to adopt new attitudes about my work and lifestyle.

Below are five “mindset shifts” needed to make it as a freelancer.

  1. Recognize you’re now a business owner.  A freelancer is a business owner, plain and simple.  When I coach freelancers and first-time entrepreneurs, this is the first lesson I teach.  You’re now responsible for keeping the lights on through getting clients and jobs, keeping the books, fulfillment of the service you offer and every other detail of running a business. In the beginning, I did everything myself. As I progressed in my business, I started hiring other freelancers to do work I either didn’t have time to do, didn’t want to do or didn’t have the skills to do.  In the beginning, this wasn’t an option. Like building any other business you need to take responsibility for everything.

2.  Learn to love rejection.  Most freelancers spend about 40% of their time looking for work, emailing prospects and sending out proposals.  The other 60% is doing the actual work.  Like selling anything, it’s a numbers game. However, if you keep at it and don’t let the “no’s” get you down and just keep persevering, you will get work and build a client base.  I got rejected a lot (and still do!) in the initial months until I learned what worked as far as sending out proposals and selling on the phone to get business.  But I also knew that the more proposals I sent out and the more “no’s” I got would always get me closer to a “yes”. I also inadvertently honed my sales skills “in combat” –while I was trying to sell–as I like to say.  I learned to adjust my sales message for each client based on their needs.  I needed to fully embrace sales as part of the job and recognize I was going to be turned down more times than I would win contracts.

3. You need to accept responsibility for everything in your business.  This is where the rubber meets the road in freelancing. At a traditional job you most likely had a boss and certain tasks to do. You probably had parameters around those tasks and did it the way your boss or supervisor wanted it done. You may or may not have been responsible for the outcome of what you did. In freelancing, your name is on everything.  If bills don’t get paid, it’s on you. If you miss a deadline, it’s on you and may impact future work with your client.  Accepting responsibility for everything in order to build a sustainable business as a freelancers is mandatory.

4. Stay open to learning.  When I moved from traditional marketing to digital marketing consulting, it was quite a learning curve.  Although the fundamentals of marketing are largely the same, learning to transfer them to the online world was quite a paradigm shift.  Using different media to market a business including websites, email  and social media platforms was a shift from traditional advertising in print media or direct mail.  The point is that things are changing rapidly both online and offline and adapting to these shifts requires continual education.  Daily study of both your craft or service—as well as shifts in technology and communication is necessary to keep up with the demands of modern businesses and their needs.

5. Learn to separate yourself from your work. When working remotely for yourself, it’s easy to get caught up in over-work and workaholism.  I fell into this trap when I first started for a number of reasons. I had to learn to leave the “office” and stay away from it until it was time to work again.  In my house, I have a dedicated office. When I leave the office, I now leave my work behind so that I can enjoy other pursuits like recreational activities, getting together with friends, watching a movie, etc.  Separating your work from your personal life is extremely important to avoid overwork and burnout.

Freelancing is a life I wouldn’t trade for anything. It’s not for everybody, but the 5 key shifts in mindset above are crucial for starting and maintaining a freelancer lifestyle.

Tim Piccirillo is a freelance marketing consultant, copywriter  and coach who works with small businesses and entrepreneurs to help them grow their businesses online. Contact Tim to help you get started on your freelance career by emailing him at tim@timpic.com.