Making a Living or Leaving a Dream

Warning: Reading this article won’t make you a better freelancer or a pro in your domain. The purpose of the post is to make up an analysis about the possibilities of making a living from freelancing.

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Making a Living or Leaving a Dream

I don’t know what the statistics are saying, but I haven’t met in my entire life someone who loves his/her boss. It is worldwide accepted that the concept of chief is associated with reproaches and accusations, and many hours of hard work per day; it is quite probably that your dreams about happiness suppose a free life with lots of money and lots of journeys around the globe. From this point of view, it is clear that to have a chief and to accomplish your dreams are somehow opposite.

I am not a philosopher, but the key of this situation is to realize a good balance between both facts (in a real situation it is impossible only to have a chief and zero dreams fulfilled or all the dreams fulfilled with no chief or with what implies a chief –work, deadline, pieces of advice, mostly not required).

instantShift - Making a Living or Leaving a Dream

A solution to escape from the nightmare of having chiefs is freelancing. To be a freelancer supposes self control, discipline and of course a lot of work. A freelancer is that person who provides solutions or finishes projects or tasks as an individual entity and receives money for the services provided. This kind of occupation doesn’t imply the existence of a chief, you are the one who decides your schedule, which projects to take or which clients to choose. As I described until now freelancing is a perfect occupation, but in practice the situation is somehow different. It sounds great but having a pessimistic personality, from the first time I found out about freelancing I asked about the disadvantages. Unfortunately, there are downsides and some are very irritating: your finance depends on the client that anytime could give up at your services, the clients don’t believe that your work takes so much time and obviously time is money. Even if it sounds maybe too pessimistic, in our society everything is based on money, the financial aspect is determinative in choosing the career of freelancing. I do not want to sound like the new Shakespeare, but the question for freelancers isn’t “to be or not to be” it is “to make a living from freelancing or not”.

Before presenting the aspects of making a living from freelancing (or not), I should discuss the needed steps for successfully fulfilling the option of making a living only from freelancing.

1. Be the Best at Something

If you aren’t very good at something then you can’t survive in a world where only the best has a chance. A lot of creative designers activate as freelancers, but usually they can do the job of an entire company specialized in the field of design. In other words to be a freelancer requires a huge talent and will to practice in your field, but at the same time a solid package of knowledge in adjacent domains is needed. It simple but efficient logics: nobody will hire a freelancer who is not sure that he can finish the project awarded, maybe some steps are totally unknown by him, the deadline couldn’t be respected…that is a perfect recipe for a small disaster. Why will somebody risk and won’t hire a company that is well-known as a good one and you have the guaranty of a good quality? I really don’t see any reason…maybe the price sometimes.

The salvation for a freelancer from this embarrassing situation is to create a perfect image about the services provided, but at the same time his/her services should be “the best of the web”. To be more pragmatic, try to put yourself in the posture of the client and if you have a viable reason in selecting your services, then you are on the good way.

2. Create a Good Publicity

instantShift - Making a Living or Leaving a Dream

It could happen to be the best but, if nobody knows you it is equivalent to zero. The Internet is full of freelancers ready to finish your projects…it is impossible for a client who wants to hire someone to select without knowing that the services of the freelancer are very good. This problem is quite complex and could be the subject of a book, but I feel that I should repeat my slogan: without publicity equals with without clients. A great attention should be paid to the social presence; the importance of it is increasing in an exponential manner, but as a personal opinion I believe that a website specks more than everything…and it is the link to the next step.

3. Portfolio

A serious freelancer needs an online existence to present his/her works. Let’s suppose you are good in web design, have a good publicity, but if you aren’t presenting your previous works or some of the most representative projects, the clients can’t estimate your value. A strong portfolio really is the fact that makes the difference between freelancers. A portfolio is so important because as I said previously all clients require high quality and the best way to prove it is your portfolio.

Some people consider testimonials as a part of a portfolio, others consider it as a distinctive part, it really doesn’t matter, but a testimonial from a great client sometimes is more important that the project itself. Usually, a client isn’t a specialist in your domain and the great majority of them have no time to judge your portfolio, but surely his attention will be attracted by testimonials that are saying only good words about you.

4. Patience and Strong Will

These mental qualities are determining the future success of a person to become a complete freelancer. It’s happening very often, that beginners are being outclassed by the more experienced in the brotherhood. I am one of these persons that were ready to abandon the fight of getting the status of an independent service provider. I said to myself that I could never compete with such creative persons, it was better to find maybe a full time job and let go of my dreams. There is surely the work of God who give me the power to overcome this scabrous situation; when I really didn’t believe there is someone on this world who needs my services, finally that someone came! All what I ask for you is to never give up (and is not a popular movie, is the pure truth); perhaps you need a break…take it, a week, a month but once again don’t abandon! The great portfolios, the numbers of years of experience and the perfect imagine of a professional started always from zero, nobody came in the market being well known and all people ready to give him their big projects.

It is a grave mistake to consider yourself as being a nullity in comparison with some huge players of these markets. Along the time anyone who respects “the rule” of 1% talent and 99% perspiration (is not I who established the percentage of “success”) could accomplish the wish of getting number one. A strong will and patience are the fuel of a freelancer in his continuous, but always difficult trying to the complete refinement.

5. Feedback

instantShift - Making a Living or Leaving a Dream

No one is able to judge in an objective manner his/her works; some of us have a very good opinion about them and in the majority of cases are overestimating the value of their services while others are underestimating it. The good news is that the Internet is full of possibilities where to get a feedback from specialists…the majority of these opportunities are for free.

The most important fact for any entity in this world is to have a positive evolution. A freelancer should have as a priority his evolution and it is the main reason of stressing the importance of feed-back. Searching for feed-back is a step before launching yourself the career of freelancing. It is better to upload as many works as you can and ask for opinions. I think it is recommended to start when the messages of the “judgers” are positive, else you risk having only bad comments when try to present your portfolio.

Surely, I am not the perfect example, but it is relevant in my trying to demonstrate that freelancer can’t be any amateur. I am a great lover of logos and initially I believed that a logo is not a great task. I started by creating few logos and I thought that I am a little genius…after a week of study I posted some on Logopond, really waiting for very positive comments. Ooooh, it was a great comedown: the comments come, but all was very negative…it takes almost a year of hard work to receive a positive one. This event reveals my level, at that moment I couldn’t call myself logo designer.

Now Let’s Go Back to Our Problem

To determine if somebody could live only from freelancing. The answer of this question should be interacted with a couple of factors; among them, the most important are:

  • The quality of services provided and that depends in a huge proportion on the talent, experience and capability of accomplishing projects (maybe simultaneously) in a short period.
  • the number of clients, a rich and various network of them is the most important in evolving in this career.
  • the medium cost of living in the country of the freelancer.Unfortunately, the prices of the projects outsourced to freelancers are smaller (and sometimes too small!) and in a developed country it is very hard to make a living out of these. It is true that some freelancers can afford to ask for huge amounts of money and to reject clients, but we speak from about 5% of the all freelancers that could do that…obvious they are really the best in their domain. The rest have a single solution: try to be more competitive.

1. The Quality of Services Provided

instantShift - Making a Living or Leaving a Dream

On the Internet there are some freelancers that afford to select their clients and the prices required are very high. They usually work for companies that are very important and need only high quality work, any small mistakes aren’t accepted. That is cool, but to get in the situation of rejecting clients we have a long way ahead of us.

A freelancer could be in this position after many years along which he/she persevered a lot in his domain, all the clients were content with his/her job and he created a good image about his/her work. I really don’t believe that someone who didn’t meet these criteria could be in the situation of selecting clients. A very difficult moment in the existence of a freelancer (it is not wrong to consider it even the most difficult one) is until he/she received a project. Being a novice as a freelancer is a challenging situation, it is really hard to find a client that could trust and select you because the market is full with other good professionals. At this time nobody can dream to be select and perhaps select the clients. Despite of that, as I said, the experience gained along the time in addition with a strong policy of self advertising and providing only good final results could bring someone in the poll position of becoming one of the most exclusive and well paid freelancer.

In conclusion to this paragraph it is established that a perseverant person could live only from freelancing, but this only after some years of pioneering in the field.

2. The Number of Clients

There is rather a financial or a strategically problem…the success of a freelancer depends on the finance received. The most important factor to avoid a lack of finance is to have more clients. Having more clients that need services from various fields is the perfect situation (but this implies that also you are highly qualified in various fields).

Anyway, nobody could have a serious income from freelancing without having good relationships with the clients. To afford making a living from freelancing is in the same time very important how much the clients are paying your services. As a coherent conclusion to this summed up logic the treatment of the clients is very important, the success is in a direct relationship with the satisfaction of your clients.

3. The Medium Cost of Living in the Country of the Freelancer

instantShift - Making a Living or Leaving a Dream

This is maybe the most important factor in our trying to establish a correct point of view over the financial situation of a freelancer. It is worldwide known that people are looking for the services of a freelancer due to the low cost of the services, so it means that as a freelancer it is hard enough to make a living only from freelancing. There are in fact two almost opposite situations:

  • The freelancers located in countries having a modest economy being happy with these possibilities of making money. If someone needs a prove it is simple to search some websites with jobs for freelancers, to see that more than three quarters are from India, China, Romania, Pakistan. The great disadvantage of this situation is that a lot of freelancers are offering their services for almost nothing…I honestly meet hilarious situation when an important project was taken by someone for some dollars which is a shame. The result of this situation is uncomfortable at the same time both for the freelancer as well as for client. The freelancer could work a lot, but in the most cases he can’t finish the project and the client hasn’t the requirements fulfilled.

    Thus the freelancers from the countries with a low cost of living can make a living only from freelancing, but surely can’t became rich from this occupation. I want to stress out the fact that it is dangerous, ridiculous, maybe stupid to offer your services for prices much bellow the standards.

  • The freelancers based in countries with strong economies are in a worst situation. It is very different what you can buy with an amount of 100$ in Holland and what you can do with the same money in Moldova. I see as a solution to search clients from rich countries or even from your countries that could be attracted with the great advantages of a more easy and fluent dialogue.

    My great advantage (and this was the main reason that I am able write this article) is that I am from a country in between both extremities. I am from Romania; a country that hasn’t a well developed economy, but due to the engagements in the European Union we are moving to a status of a growing economy.

    Here becomes important my warning from the beginning, meaning that this article is valueless without yours comments. I want to share at this point different opinions from various freelancers based all around the world to establish if the conclusions presented in this post are true.

    From Canada to Australia every freelancer could post if he/she could live only from freelancing but it’s recommended to write also the experience in working as a freelancer.

    What I could say about making a living from freelancing in a middle country as Romania?

    Unfortunately, I can’t live only from freelancing, but that could be because of the lack of experience and talent (unfortunately).Romania is still a growing economy, but prices of various projects on job boards can’t overcome very much a medium salary. I honestly have friends that live only from this kind of income, but they really are working without any breaks and only high quality. I consider a good solution working part time as a freelancer and having a job as full time. This situation requires a strong effort, but the results could bring the happiness so much desired. It is better to have the full time job in an adjacent or maybe similar domain with the one you want to profess as freelancer, this way you could learn more and gain more experience.

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  1. Create a good portfolio and you will get good clients. Freelancers with their experience and expertise can earn good money

  2. Amazing read, its very important to be good at something rather being jack of all and master of none.

    good realization of problems, had a good time reading it.

    Keep up!

  3. Interesting read :)

  4. Its been 10 days and I’m on the freelancing road. Its not going to be as easy as it seemed. I’m not getting as much client work but I’m putting my best efforts in exploring my own creative limits.

    Nice advices and analysis in this article, Thanks.

  5. Thanks for the wonderful tips. Reading and learning new things always helps! good post btw.

  6. Be the Best at “Something” not everything. this is important

  7. amazing great article

  8. this post really makes me a regular reader of instantshift….the headline is interesting!!!

  9. Interesting article!!!!Thanks for sharing it.

  10. its verey nice article thanks

  11. Very Interesting.. I am posting since you stressed that it was necessary to know the situation in various nations.

    I am from India and what you mentioned regarding freelancers being happy with naive price for their work is actually true, in fact what you see as freelancers operating at a price which is equivalent to nothing are companies (outsourcing firms) mostly.

    The skilled labor is kind of cheap in India, the average salary for web designers is 6000 INR a month which is around 130 USD. Its not that it is easy to survive with such income in a modest economy nation.

    The reasons for such situation according to me could be:
    1. The lack of awareness in the professional community.
    2. The currency difference.
    3. Language barrier.
    4. The Job providers compromising the quality of work for lower costs.

    Now since outsourcing companies operate at such prices, the dream of being freelancer is kind of crushed in India. But still some manage to pull through the right skill and reaching the right clients with good luck.

    It would be hard for you to believe but you can find some ace designers here who will do a whole web 2.0 website for you at 3000 INR which equals to 65 USD app.

  12. This was a really interesting article. Thanks for the insight!

  13. I live in Ecuador and I’ve been a freelancer since 3 years ago, it is very difficult indeed, I decided to take a second job as a teacher of corporate identity in some universities and it has made me able to live satisfactory and even made me eager to learn more.

  14. nice article u got here!! thanks

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