You won't see success until you treat your freelance business as what it is—a business

Tammy Danan
July 13, 2022

Success is as vague as it gets. Vague in a sense that we have different definitions of success.

So, for the sake of this article, let’s define success in freelancing as a setup where you have a solid financial stability and the freedom to build the kind of life you love.

If you think those two come easy, they don’t. Freelancing gets sugar-coated way too much I cannot count how many people came to me and asked how I did it.

They wonder why even though they’re working hard, juggling multiple clients, they still cannot achieve the financial stability they’re aiming for.

Short answer: because we have a different perspective towards freelancing

Business vs 9-5 alternative

To be clear, I used to treat freelancing like a 9-5 job replacement. Only better because I get to do it from home, no need to commute, no office drama, just me and my love for writing.

It started out okay because my goal was simply to pay the bills and I was able to do it. So, there’s nothing wrong if this is how you see freelancing.

However, if your aim is to build success (see our definition above), it may be difficult.

Success happened when I shifted my mindset and perspective. When I started treating freelancing as a business where I am a service-provider, not an employee.

I decided to set my own rates the way Converse sets prices for their sneakers—fixed, but goes on sale sometimes.

I decided to be specific with the type of projects I take the way Starbucks does their coffee—there’s the menu, but they’re flexible because people can tweak and customize it a bit. 

With the 9-to-5 perspective, oftentimes what we only care about to make enough for the bills. With the business perspective, we’re more likely to take freelancing seriously and more professionally because we’re now responsible for more working parts of the business.

Why does this perspective shift matter?

Maybe it does, maybe it doesn’t. Depends on you. 

My answer to why is because I was hungry for a better life. I wanted more.

I wanted to buy a house, travel without worry, have savings so that my anxiety would relax (I always worry someone would get sick and I won’t be able to afford a good hospital.)

I knew if I settled with the kind of freelancing I was doing, which was working with low-paying clients, I’d be stuck working 40+ hours a week and still make enough to only make ends meet.

This is why the perspective shift matters.

If you’re stuck, if you want more but can’t seem to figure out how to achieve it with your current job, if you want to grow, that’s your sign you need to change things. With freelancing, mindset and perspective shifts are vital. It’s never easy to get unstuck. Growth is always uncomfortable. But let me tell you, it’s beautiful on the other side.

The start is always the hardest

I was already charging $100-200 per article when I found myself still applying for low-paying jobs.

I was still accepting interviews with clients whose businesses I’m not really passionate about.

Why don’t I just focus on building more $200-per-article projects? Answer: Because low-paying jobs were my safe space.

For 5 long years I was stuck there. I settled for less. I thought that’s all there is in freelancing. And it felt safe.

So even when I discovered I can charge more, I can negotiate rates, and I can set my own work hours, it wasn’t as easy as turning a switch on and off.

The start is always the hardest. You will find yourself going back to your old perspective. You will find yourself forgetting that now, you’re supposed to treat freelancing as a business. All these are part of growing, as a person and as a freelancer. Be patient. Be kind to yourself. Keep pushing forward.

Success is a vague word that’s thrown around too often, especially when you’re researching about freelancing.

Another word thrown around too often is freedom.

These two go hand-in-hand but they’re not easy to achieve.

What’s more important than shifting your perspective about freelancing?

Having grace and patience. Trusting yourself and your progress.

Good things don’t happen overnight.

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