I Made $100K As A Freelancer: Here’s What I Learned

One of my biggest motivations for starting a freelance path was so that I could call the shots. I wanted to be in control of my own life, and not have to rely on anyone else.

A milestone that I had always wanted to achieve when I set out to become self-employed was to make $100,000. I knew if I accomplished that goal, I would never have to consider working a regular 9-5 again.

While the journey wasn’t easy, looking back, I don’t regret a thing.

Here are the lessons I learned when I crossed the six figure mark as a freelancer.

1. Persistence is important

When you first became a freelancer, did you ever want to just give up?

I know I did. From unpaid invoices to the struggle of finding new business, freelancing was not what I thought it would be. Maybe I expected to grow faster or to make a lot of money right away. The truth was that everything took time.

I remember when I first started out, I would come back home from work everyday and spend hours sending proposals to potential clients on Upwork. On weekends, I would often go to sleep when everyone else was waking up.

I sent out hundreds of proposals and got just as many rejections back. I felt defeated, but I used every rejection as an opportunity to refine my approach and keep improving.

Finally, after months of searching and getting no results, something clicked. I landed my first big client. Then two weeks later, another one. And then everything snowballed.

Looking back, I realize how crucial it is to keep going, even when you don’t feel like it. I could have easily given up after my first few rejections and just told myself that self-employment wasn’t for me

But I pushed through anyway.

If I didn’t build that resolve from freelancing, I wouldn’t be here today.

2. Done is better than perfect

“It just needs another day.”

“One more pass before I send it.”

“If I buy this tool then my work will be perfect.”

Sound familiar? I admit, there’s a big part of me that tends to be a perfectionist in everything I do, even when it ends up taking up most of my time.

We’re only human. We’re constantly judged and evaluated by the work we do. No one wants to be remembered for turning in bad work. Or worse–for turning in mediocre work.

The cognitive behavioral model of clinical perfectionism. (Reproduced from Shafran et al. 2010)

When I first started freelancing, I would often catch myself spending more time than necessary trying to perfect my work.

But then I realized something. It just needs to be finished.

There’s always a better way to frame a sentence, a better image to use, a smoother flow of words. But the more something is perfected, the less likely it will ever be finished in time.

As soon as I stopped trying to make everything perfect, my earnings increased.

I no longer obsessed over getting perfect 5-star ratings for my work. Instead, I focused on helping my clients get the results they wanted.

The faster you can finish and ask your clients for feedback, the more your work will improve. Click To Tweet

And when I did get less-than-perfect feedback, I used it as an opportunity to improve my work.

For example, in the contract below, a long-term client gave me a total rating of 4.65/5 (93%) instead of a perfect 5/5 (100%) because of issues in the project’s Quality and Deadlines.

When I saw this feedback, I immediately went back to the drawing boards and created a new framework for managing clients. The framework ensures that my current and future clients will get a better quality service at a faster speed.

If you want more advice on getting stuff done, check out my other blog post on overcoming procrastination.

3. Failure is the best teacher

Some lessons can’t be explained or readthey are learned the hard way.

Too many people live by the words “failure is not an option.” They fear that a single messed up assignment or client interaction spells doom and gloom.

But in reality, those missteps and setbacks can teach you a lot.

Image source: Demetri Martin

Every time you get a negative review, or a customer complaint, take it as an opportunity to improve. I promise you only good things will happen.

As Thomas Edison once said, “I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.”

The same goes for freelancing. If you really want to win, you have to be open to learning from your failures.

4. Complacency will destroy you

The moment you become too comfortable with the idea that you’re a “six figure freelancer” is the moment you become vulnerable.

At any moment, any of the following could happen:

  • A major client may decide to drop or replace you
  • A potential client could be right around the corner
  • Your paycheck may come late (or not at all)
  • A significant, unexpected expense may arise (medical bills, increased rent, birthday gifts)

Even if none of these happen, you can’t expect to grow or make more money by standing still. Continually put yourself out there, hunt for more clients, and improve your standards.

Always stay hungry for the next opportunity. That's the only way to win. #freelance Click To Tweet

5. Mindset is crucial

Freelancing is not a shortcut to success nor is it a get rich quick scheme. It’s a way of life, and sometimes this lifestyle is overwhelming.

You have to be able to see the beauty in the chaos and adopt a growth mindset to be successful.

For every scathing critique, there’s a reassuring compliment. For every end to a client relationship, there is a start to a new one.

Stay positive in everything you do and say. Without an upbeat attitude, clients may sideline you in favor of a more enthusiastic freelancer.

6. Learning never ends

Freelancing is a continuous journey of lessons. Just when you think you know it all, life throws something your way to make you re-evaluate and see things from a new perspective.

Each day brings a new chance to learn something about a completely different industry or develop yourself as an independent worker.

Even today I continue to learn, despite the long and eventful journey it’s been. I wouldn’t have it any other way. Here’s to always learning!

Jerome Okutho
Jerome Okutho
Jerome helps freelancers succeed online. He has a passion for everything technology, marketing, and blogging. He currently resides in Ottawa, Canada.
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