Seven Things I Wish I Knew Before I Started Freelancing

At the start of 2019, I shared that I’d reached a new milestone in freelancing - five years of self-employment!

Looking back, it’s hard to believe so much time has gone by but then there are days when I have trouble remembering what my life was like before I started this adventure.

I think we all reach a point in our lives when we look back and think, “If only I knew then what I know now.”

While there are few things I’d change about my career up to this point, there are some things that would have been nice to know before I started freelancing. For any new or aspiring freelancers, today’s post is for you.

Here are seven things I wish I’d known before I started freelancing.

Eliminate Self-Doubt

I’ve always considered self-doubt to be a freelancer’s fatal flaw and that’s because it is something we all go through. Some more than others but undoubtedly, all of us.

As a freelancer, you will literally play every role necessary to run a successful business. It’s human nature to ask yourself if you’re even doing this right but the truth is, there is no one right way to be successful.

I wish I’d known to allow myself to replace doubt with encouragement and confidence. Once I did, I experienced and accomplished more than I imagined possible.

Freelancing Is Pretty Lonely

I spend so much time alone. If I wasn’t married, I could easily go days without talking to someone.

I’ve always enjoyed an office environment and was pretty social with co-workers before I started freelance life, so when I realized how isolated I’d become by working at home it was a bit of an eye opener. It’s also why I started my first blog and decided to grow an online community. Your girl needed friends!

I wish I’d known to be ready for lonely days so I could have made a bigger effort to surround myself with people who are in similar situations where we could lift each other up.

Perfection Isn’t Real

I am a self-damaging perfectionist. Most freelancers are. Meaning, I hold myself back more because I convince myself that if the work I produce isn’t better than anything anyone else could produce - it’s not good enough.

While I’ve always been this way, my need to be “perfect” came into full bloom during my first year of self-employment. It’s like I’d convinced myself that the only way I could do this right is if every move I made was the right one, every assignment I submitted was flawless and that I always knew the answer to every question.

I wish I’d known that this is not only unhealthy but it will ultimately cripple my freelance business.

Being a business means knowing what your capabilities are and delivering consistent high-quality results. That means it’s also important to understand what your limits are and be OK with delivering your best and not obsess over being THE BEST.

Clients Come And Go

Don’t take losing a client personally, it’s just business.

While we all strive to have recurring clients, there will be times when a client either isn’t satisfied with your results or simply loses need for your services. No matter how much value you bring or how much they like working with you, it is bound to happen at one point or another in your freelance career.

I wish I’d known to be prepared for when this will happen so I could have a plan in place to help me bounce back faster.

Stop Overthinking, Start Delivering

Much like self-doubt, you will find yourself thinking way too much.

I wish I’d known to develop structure for how I process my time to help me stop thinking about all of the possible outcomes and start delivering what my clients need.

Money Is Important

It’s funny to think back on how I used to talk about money with clients during my first year of freelancing to how I do now. I gave them way too much power and would be so focused on getting the job that I didn't stop to think if it was actually worth the investment of my time.

I wish I’d known that money is really important.

Your rate is your rate for a reason. Stick to it and speak to it with confidence and assertiveness. Know where you’re willing to compromise and where you’re not. This is your business and the decisions you make determine how successful you’ll be and how much money you’ll take to the bank.

Oh, and you really do need to take out 30-40% of your income for healthcare, retirement, social security, income, state AND self-employment taxes.

You Are In Control

I used to think clients were the ones in control but then I realized that I’m the one they need. Companies reach out to me for my services because I provide value to their business, value that I get to put a price on.

I wish I’d known that I’m in control of who I work with, how much I charge, and the experience I get to have by choosing my own work circumstances.

While these are all things I wish I’d know five years ago, there are truly few things I would change about this journey of mine. I’m a firm believer that things happen the way they’re supposed to and there’s a lesson to be learned in every failure and missed opportunity.

When it really comes down to it, trust yourself. You are the one doing this really scary and brave thing. Stay focused, work hard and know that you’ve got this!


AUDREY ADAIR IS THE FOUNDER OF ‘THE SCOPE’ AND A GLOBAL FREELANCE COMMUNICATIONS PROFESSIONAL. SHE STARTED ‘THE SCOPE’ TO PROVIDE RESOURCES AND COMMUNITY TO FREELANCERS AND THE SELF-EMPLOYED. CONNECT WITH AUDREY ON INSTAGRAM, YOUTUBE AND LINKEDIN.