Being a freelancer has always been a dream of mine. I was raised with the value of hard work, but was always told that to really succeed and get ahead in life, I needed to start my own company and be my own boss.
Now that I’ve started my own company and am essentially my own boss though, what’s next? Do I continue freelancing forever? Do I continue narrowing my niche and raising my fees?
Before trying to figure out how to make it to your dream job, you need to first figure out what it is. Not only what it is, but how long you’re going to do your dream job and what’s next after you achieve your next dream.
For this post, I’d like to get a little bit personal and talk about how I’m starting to shift my business, and what you can do about yours.
When we first decide to go freelance that’s all we can think about. All we want to do is quit our jobs and work for ourselves. Then when we do that, we’re so busy with clients that we continue down the same path without thinking about what’s next.
After I finally became so busy that I couldn’t keep up with my projects, I realized that I could finally start to pick and choose my clients, projects, and even the prices that I accepted. This is normally the “next dream job” we freelancers aspire to, but we often don’t prepare for it until it hits.
Just this week, I’ve overscheduled myself again (I can really mess up sometimes) and have ended up working from the time I wake up until the time I go to bed. This, of course, is not only unhealthy, it’s also not what I started freelancing for.
So what’s next? While I’m contemplating raising my rates once again, I’m already well above the average pricing for a front-end developer. Do I continue to raise rates throughout the years? Do I expand into hiring subcontractors or even employees? I decided it was time to sit down and think.
I knew from the time I started freelancing that I never wanted to go beyond myself in terms of workers. I’m just a terrible manager, and so many things come into play when you start hiring employees or even contracting work out. This was a path I didn’t want to go down then, and it’s still something I don’t want to bother with now.
While I can continue to raise my rates higher and higher, eventually I will hit a ceiling. I can’t imagine anyone agreeing to pay a developer $1,000 an hour, no matter how good they are.
So then I started to study some of the “big names” in my industry. What do they do once they become pretty successful? I realized that most of them now do something other than what they started doing. Instead of coding or designing, they now fill their time with speaking engagements, events, books, and their own projects.
After listening to a bunch of app developers when I was working on my first app I realized what my next “dream job” was going to be–I wanted to create my own projects that I liked and make money doing it. I really wanted to stop taking on clients altogether.
Habits of Highly Successful Freelancers
Once you decide what you want to do (and this still goes for those of you who are just now contemplating jumping into freelancing) it’s time to get started. In all honesty, there are several “habits” I’ve seen in highly successful people that I believe make them successful. In the past two years that I’ve been freelancing, I’ve done my best to emulate these habits, and I’ve never been disappointed. What are these habits?
- Read every day. My major goal this year is to read 100 books and I’m already more than halfway there. Successful people read a mix of everything, but mostly books. You should be reading everything in and around your industry. If you’re a developer, think development, design and business. Read as many books on this topic as you can, and look for articles and videos on the topic. There’s so much great advice out there and you can never read too much.
- Spend time on you. Take a break from working on your clients’ businesses and work on your own. Experiment with some of the latest techniques and trends in your industry and show them off.
- Offer goodies. Everyone loves free stuff and the industry experts love giving things away. Write a blog, or an e-book. Code some free plugins or themes. Give all of these away or sell for a cheap price. Not only will it give you some practice into different kinds of tasks, it will also increase your visibility online and could bring in some extra income.
What needs to be done next? If you don’t have an actionable plan, you will find yourself still thinking about your dream job forty years from now and you will still be in the exact same place as you are in today.
My movement to my next “dream job” started with the creation of CodeSnipp.it. While it hasn’t been a financial success (was never meant to be), it’s been the “goodie” I gave to other developers that allowed me to gain experience in app development, business building, marketing and other tasks that come with trying to make a successful app.
Now that that app is mostly done, I’ve teamed up with a great designer and a programmer to get started on what I hope to become my permanent source of income. I’ve created another app (called SpendK.it). I’m applying what I learned from the first one to this. For example, I’m going with a professional mailing service to handle app alerts and an actual integrated payment gateway instead of upgrading accounts manually.
This is why I recommend doing a starter project in the area you want to move into. This can be done while you’re still managing clients (or your full-time job) and allows you to get a feel for what’s going to be needed when it comes time to move to your dream job. Use the experience as a learning one, even if it fails.
What is your dream job? Are you doing it already or are you trying to move towards it? Are you outgrowing your current dream job?
Image by Horia Varlan