5 Things I Wish I Knew Before Becoming a Freelancer

Last updated on July 11, 2020

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Starting an online freelance business has been a very exciting journey for me.  Being my own boss has helped me move from my comfort zone and it has aided in the growth of my personal development. Setting goals and meeting them – even exceeding them – has been a great joy.

When I became a freelancer, I was full of ambition, hope and determination  but I might add, a bit clueless about what freelancing was all about.  And that could be you too. If you are as clueless as I was, here are the five things I wish I knew before I started my online freelancing business.

1. I Wish I Had Gotten a Mentor Sooner

As freelancers, we spend a lot of time hidden away in our homes, spending hours upon hours behind our computers, hidden away in our homes.  Some people find this challenging; others thrive from it.  Seeing that there is no one to incentivize you to work, you need large doses of self-motivation and discipline to make it. Some days you just feel like you are down in the dumps, while other days you feel like a million dollars.  A mentor comes in handy on those days when you feel like you’re nowhere near attaining your goals, or worse, when you feel like you’re stuck in a rut. Furthermore, every now and then you need some  wisdom and direction, and that’s where a mentor comes in.

Case in point: I started freelancing  back in 2012. Read numerous blogs and learned all I could about freelancing. But there’s something about having someone you can turn to when you need advice.  Back then, I didn’t even know how to withdraw my funds from Paypal.  I found a mentor, one Walter Akolo, who is also a good friend and a guru when it comes to all things freelancing. He shared his freelance experiences with me and that made a huge difference.

 

When I started writing, I wasted several months working for some unscrupulous clients who ran off with my cash. Wish I knew about Google’s DMCA complaint service at that time.  (when I discovered this wonderful thing, many months later, I was paid by a stubborn client after threatening to report him).

I also wish I knew about the freelancing sites at that time. If I did, I would have avoided those crooks.- Victor Nyorani

Where can YOU find a mentor? You can find a mentor via Facebook or LinkedIn groups.   You can also follow freelancing blogs and contact your prospective mentor, expressing your interest in being their mentee.  Choose someone who will not only tell you what you want to hear but what you need to hear.

2. Not To Depend on One Client

If only someone had mentioned this to me before I started freelancing! Now I make it a point to remind my mentees and trainees how important it is to diversify, even with clients. When I become a freelance transcriber, I used to work for a transcription company based in India, who would pay me $40 per audio hour. At that time, I thought that was a good figure.  But the audio files were horrible! It’s a miracle I didn’t become deaf.  So this one time, in April 2012, the client sent only one audio file for me to transcribe. That was one dry month. I learned how unwise it was to depend on one client then.

So there this one time, in April 2013, my client sent me one audio file to transcribe  – for the entire month!  That was when I learned how unwise it was to depend on one client. It’s quite enjoyable when you’re receiving of work from one client, be it writing numerous articles, or transcribing several audio hours. But be aware that the project can suddenly come to an end and that will definitely hurt your bottom line.

3. Asked For Referrals From Clients

One of the benefits of dealing with direct clients or clients from sites such as Upwork , is that they can sometimes refer clients to you, assuming you’re submitting great work.   I wish I knew then how important it was to ask for referals. Many times, we wait for the clients to send the referals but it’s also important to mention to the client that you would appreciate it if they would spread the word about your services. If you have done a good job, they will be more than happy to do so.

 

carolk

I wish I had known that there were better freelancing sites than freelancer.com. I worked there for almost two years, working for as low as $0.5 per 500 word article, before I discovered other websites. I also wish I had linked up with other freelancers as we would have encouraged and learnt from each other -Carol Kay (article writer)

 

4. Let Go of Some Clients As My Business Grew

I endured and worked longer than I should have with clients who paid really low (and one that was even abusive) because I was afraid of being broke. I feared that if I let the clients go, I wouldn’t have any work coming in. However, there reached a point where I was receiving so many invites from my Upwork clients that I  quickly became overwhelmed. All I needed to do though, was to up my fee and let go of the clients who couldn’t afford me any longer.  Remember, it’s not about the quantity but about the quality.

5. Known The Difference Between Being Busy and Being Productive

As my business grew – my blog, transcription ecourse and transcription clients, I started having way too many things to do. I had a looong things-to-do list and my days become very busy, but not productive. I was also spending too much time on social media, since most people send me messages on Facebook, enquiring about freelancing or my ecourse.

A time came when I realized  that I was becoming quite busy but not productive. What’s the difference, you ask?

Since then, I have learned to focus on three to four things on my to-do list.  and I hardly multi-task.  I prefer to focus on one task, giving it my all, before I move on to another task. This has worked wonders for my mental health and it will do the same for yours.

Over to you! What do you wish you knew before you started freelancing?

About the author

Virginia Nakitari is a work from home mom passionate about making money online. She's here to show you legitimate companies offering full-time, part-time and remote jobs from home! Stay tuned!

  • Hi Sheeroh.Writing about what you wish you knew “then” is quite encouraging to many newbies. Personally I have been stuck at the bidding level,and not getting any invites. Where am I going wrong? Can I request you to mentor me if you don’t mind?

    • I do not mind mentoring you Cira! Happy to help. There is an algorithm that Upwork uses for you to get invites so you can’t really manoeuvre that. In terms of bidding, keep bidding regularly and consistently, and keep in mind the tips I wrote in this article.

  • Thank you. This is insightful as always. I wish I knew there was low season too in transcribing.
    For some reason, I thought it only affected writing. Now I know, painfully but gladly.

    • The summer period can be slow. The month of January too. But thankfully, it’s never as dry as academic writing!

  • Wow! you have just hit on the head. We need to keep on trying and not blindly. If we don’t succeed, mentors are there for us.

  • Hi, sheero, thanks for the insights. Very inspiring, I wish I knew the difference between being busy and being counter productive, I believe this will make me move a notch high up there.

  • At the onset of social media groups like Face book, I disdained and frowned down upon the prospect of joining one. Encouraged by my mentor, I joined some but remained largely dormant. I thought he was sufficient and kept bothering him with questions even in cases where I would have shared and gained more from group ideas. This kept my knowledge base and field updates limited to his advice. However, 3 years later I understood and joined several groups. You can’t believe how I marveled at the rich source of ideas and professional belonging. Oh yeah! Things got so juicy until I initiated a group that has continued to grow leaps and bounds. Had I known the value of group membership I could have grabbed those early opportunities and probably thrived way beyond my current station. Thanks for such an informative post Mrs. Kiarie

  • Hi Sheeroh, just found about you the other day and I am marvelled by what you’ve shared. Thanks for being there and also for sharing such crucial information. I’m a newbie and don’t even have a clue on how to go about. I want to get out of my comfort zone for my little son’s sake and be able to provide for him. I have been to Upwork but I haven’t proposed. I also need to ask, must I be online throughout as in 24/7 for me to get work? I am interested in transcribing as I learn more; to utilize my typing speed. Can you also connect me to a mentor to guide me more? Any advice will be gladly appreciated. God bless

    • Hello Carol,

      I’m ready and willing to be your mentor. You don’t need to be online 24/7. With most of the transcription sites, you can download the file and work on it offline. I will also guide you on how to get your first job on Upwork.

  • Thanks Sheeroh.

    I appreciate the mention too. I’m happy I helped.
    Awesome points.

    Below are some things I wished I had done sooner:

    – Starting a blog
    – Raising my rates
    – Getting direct clients
    – And the ones you mentioned too!

    Great post my friend!

  • Just signed up with iWriter today after trying online writing a few years ago and giving up. This is encouraging.
    Sheeroh your points are noted and I will definitely get a mentor.

  • Awesome advice.

    What’s more intriguing is we still keep learning even after years of experience in the online world. I’ve even seen some newcomers bringing in amazing ideas.

    Thanks for the mention too.

  • You are heaven sent Sheeroh.Am just starting out and I really need a mentor.Will you be kind enough to mentor me?

  • Hi Sheeroh,
    What is the best internet option for transcribing at home. Been doing it in the office and using office internet but want to do it full time from January.

    • Hello Florence. I use Zuku. It’s fast, reliable and their customer service is great. I’ve heard good things about Airtel too.

  • Great Info….would really appreciate getting a few tips here and there about writing. I have been doing writing, on and off for the last three years but I have decided to take it up fully. Let me know if you would be my mentor kindly…

  • Thanks for sharing your experience, and thanks for being my Trainer. I wouldn’t have a clue, of how to start. Your e-course has been much help. And knowing that your an email or phone call away to guidance is comforting!

  • Hey Sheeroh,
    Great article. I am just starting out and I’m requesting if you’d kindly mentor me and guide me through the labyrinth. Looking forward to being independent one day.

  • I joined upwork Sheeroh. So I will also need help in getting that right. I have been sending work requests. I would like to ask you some questions from time to time about some of the pros and cons of looking for jobs on these online sites

    • It’s a bit tricky John. Try editing your skills to a rare skills, probably App Developer or Game Developer and let me know how it goes.

    • It’s the CS of ICT who launched it actually, but I believe it’s a good way to reach more Kenyans, especially Kenyan youth, and tell them about online jobs.

  • Hey. Thanks for the great article. I’m new and would like to try any online job. Can you please advice me on a job I can began with.

    • Hello Simon. You need to identify where your interest lies. What are your skills? Depending on your skills, you can probably be a good writer, transcriber, web or graphic designer or software developer, and much more.

    • Thank you Robert. We all feel fear at one time and another. But we need to look at the big picture. What do we want to attain, in our personal and professional lives? That give us the impetus to press on.

  • Hi Shee, I love post! lost my job from Cocacola last year and seemed like the world had crumbled down into pieces for me.Luckily, i had a few friends who were freelancers, i learned from them and started freelancing on my own this year. I first started with upwork where I have just landed a $1000 job just a few weeks in and your blog is really encouraging.

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