10 Lessons From 10 Years Of Freelancing

Jan 25, 2024

I've been freelancing for ten years

Ten things I would do differently

  1. Identify who my client is

    In the first years, I worked for the wrong clients. I should have defined who my ideal client is from the start. Working for three years inside old school corporates, with shared offices and lots of office politics wasn't healthy for me.

  2. Say no more often

    Every job offered got a "yes, when can I start?". I was afraid to say no to anything, because "who knows if I'll get anything offered later". Of course, that's nonsense. I operated purely from fear in the first few years of freelancing. Later I discovered that time spent on work I hate, was time not spent looking for better gigs. This insight completely changed the way I approached new leads.

  3. Close the laptop

    I remember a moment when I literally couldn't read the words on my screen anymore. Shortly after, I was on the verge of a burnout, maybe even in one. The stress during this period also triggered a skin condition – vitiligo, where skin and hair lose pigment. If I could go back in time, I would have given myself a big slap in the face including a sermon about not working in the evenings and weekends.

  4. Build my personal brand

    I did a lot of things right. Worked hard, had a modest but effective network, and got enough jobs. That's why I was lax in building my personal brand. I now see its value and would have started earlier with the insights I have now.

  5. Document my lessons

    In 2021 I published my book Super Freelancer (in Dutch, subscribe to my newsletter to keep up-to-date about the English version). However, it was difficult to recall all the insights from ten years purely from memory. If I were to do it all over again, I would have written down my lessons every week.

  6. Surround myself with people who inspire

    As you've probably heard before: you are the average of the five people around you. I never really consciously thought about this in the beginning of my freelancing career. Thinking back, I should have earlier gathered a few people around mewith the same goals and mindset around.

  7. Focus my online bubble

    My social feeds used to be full of people I don't really have much in common with, but I automatically followed because they were connections. Nowadays, I focus on following people who inspire me and who actually send value on social media.

  8. Work on a long-term side project

    I have a post ready about 10 failed side projects šŸ˜“. What went wrong: everything had to succeed in the short term. If I could go back in time, I would choose working on a project that would bring long-term success.

  9. Think less from fear

    Oh man, I lived in pure fear at the beginning. This was because I was totally broke when I started freelancing. I only thought about escaping from a situation I had to get away from, and not where I actually wanted to go. This made me afraid to say no, to lose clients, to not work at all.

  10. Enjoy more

    The fear, the excessive work, not daring to say no... it all leads to a negative outcome. If I could go back in time, I would have started enjoying more earlier. Booking vacations in advance, prioritizing social events over more work, and spending more time on hobbies.

Here's to the next ten years.


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