About ten years ago, I had what is generally considered a very good job: a nice office, fixed salary, some perks, friendly colleagues, and three weeks off every year. But when the nine-to-six routine was starting to take its toll, I realized that there was little or no possibility of career advancement. I felt like I was a small cog in a big wheel.
I spent two hours every day commuting to my office and back and felt trapped in a life where a passive attitude was becoming the norm. I think that the main reason why I left my stable and secure job and jumped into a completely new and insecure freelancing adventure was that I wanted to be again on the steering wheel, even if that meant I had to start driving through a steep and winding road.
After about ten years in my new life, there’s no way I’m going back. I probably work harder than before, but I manage my own time and schedule and, most importantly, I finally do what I like and I do it on my own terms. I am a consultant in the entertainment industry. I help companies organize corporate events and parties, manage some bands and run a couple of websites related to the local music scene. My business has benefited from my current situation, even if my working week is sometimes about more than 50 hours long. In this article, I’d like to share with you the key factors which I reckon are crucial to becoming a well-paid freelancer.
Before I started my freelancing endeavors I made a simple consideration. It was only a year after that I realized how important that had been to kickstart my business. These were my initial thoughts: I wanted to earn a certain net amount of money at the end of the month. I divided the sum by the available working days in a month (approximately 22) and then divided it again by the hours I was willing to work each day. The result was my base hourly rate. There was no way I could accept projects that paid less than that, otherwise the business would have not just been worth the effort.
When I was asked to quote my first job, I was very careful and always kept this simple consideration in mind. Refusing a job is never easy, but you have to look at the big picture, and you don’t have to sell yourself out for a few bucks just because you need the job. Especially if you do everything by the book, which means paying your taxes and insurances, you may end up with very little money. Instead, you could have invested your time in finding another, and more profitable, collaboration opportunity.
Freelancing may be a solitary experience. I’m not talking about loneliness but about the fact that I am often alone when a decision has to be made. When I find myself at a crossroad, I am the one who calls the shots and has to decide to go left instead of right.
Networking is not only crucial to get more work opportunities but also to confront me in an ever-changing labor market. Meeting people in my business industry is not merely a way to land my next collaboration, but it’s a great way to confront and share ideas that will allow me to be ready and competitive when an interesting opportunity arises.
Especially at the beginning, you are tempted to accept jobs with little or no payment at all, because you have to gain the necessary experience, just like an apprentice. But, once you have established yourself as a professional, you should abandon the status of an under-paid worker and start giving the right price to your expertise.
Funnily enough, when I realized the time was right to start raising the prize of my consultancy work up to industry standards, it felt as if I was doing something wrong! But, of course, it was because I was looking at the situation from a distorted outlook. In fact, I was probably doing something wrong before, when asking for very little money, as I was unfairly beating the competition.