Are you gambling with your freelance future?

July 1, 2010 by Dean Rieck
Filed under: Freelancing 

Dean Rieck in Las VegasThis last weekend, I went to Las Vegas to visit family and enjoy a little R&R.

I’m not a gambler and have no illusions about winning a jackpot, but I do enjoy some of the games there.

While feeding money into a slot machine at Bally’s, I started thinking about freelancing. (Slots don’t take any brain power, so the mind naturally wanders.)

It occurred to me that many of the freelancers I talk to are gambling with their future because they just don’t know how to intelligently play the game.

So here are a few of the things that popped into my mind as I doubled my money, then lost it all over the weekend.

Play your best game. You can’t win at everything. You need to choose the game you know best and stick with it. That means you should specialize in high-tech, business-to-business, financial services, or whatever field you have experience or interest in.

Know the rules. Every game is different. And the rules keep changing. You have to stay up-to-date with your industry and be as educated or more educated than your clients. They’re coming to you because you’re an expert, after all. Attend conferences, subscribe to publications, talk to your peers, connect with people on LinkedIn, read the latest books.

Don’t bet on just one or two clients. It’s tempting to work for just a few good clients, but this is a big gamble. Every business relationship eventually ends, and if half of your income is coming from the client you lose, you’re in trouble. My rule is to never have more than 25% of my income coming from a single client.

Play to win. Writers can be timid. But freelancing isn’t for the faint of heart. You can’t let fear or doubt hold you back. Success comes to those who are willing to take a few chances. You don’t have to take giant financial risks, but you do have to place your bet and spin the wheel. Freelancing isn’t like having a job. YOU have to take action. And experience shows that doing something, even if it’s a mistake, is better than doing nothing.

Stick with it. The odds are with you. Giving up too quickly is the number one mistake new freelancers make. It takes time to figure out how to find clients and run your business. The overnight successes you read about are the exceptions. Usually, you’ll spend 3 to 5 years before you’re totally comfortable at freelancing.

Freelancing really isn’t risky business. In fact, it’s a lot less risky than having a full-time job, especially these days. But while you have to be willing to gamble a little, there’s no reason to take unnecessary risks.

What do you think?

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Smart Comments

17 Comments on Are you gambling with your freelance future?

  1. Tammi Kibler on Jul 1st, 2010 9:39 am
  2. Great advice – “never have more than 25% of my income coming from a single client.” This is key for any business of any size. Rely on one client for more than 50% of your income and essentially they are your employer.

    Freelancing is “a lot less risky than having a full-time job.” How true that is. Just wish I could stifle the doubter in my gut.

    Thanks for the tips and the vote of confidence.

  3. Dean Rieck on Jul 1st, 2010 10:41 am
  4. Tammi,
    The doubter in your gut gets quieter over time. Just consider the facts. Because of the economy, I’ve lost a couple clients. If one of those had been my employer, I’d be out of work. But since I have many clients, my income continues to flow. It’s like smart investing. You put your eggs in more than one basket to minimize risk.

  5. Mike Klassen on Jul 1st, 2010 12:34 pm
  6. Like Tammi, betting on one or two clients stood out to me because I went through it.

    It’s very easy to get into a flow with just a few good clients and neglect to continue marketing yourself. You might think, “I can’t even take on new clients, so there’s no point in doing any marketing right now.”

    However, the marketing process can take time. So, yeah, you may be busy now and can’t take on new clients. But you still have to be laying the groundwork for down the road when your situation may be different.

  7. Charles Cuninghame on Jul 2nd, 2010 2:58 am
  8. Cool photo Dean. You look like a member of the Rat Pack ;-)

  9. Trace Conger on Jul 7th, 2010 8:25 pm
  10. Dean- great advice. My advice to you… Stay away from the slots. It’s a sucker’s game.

  11. Dean Rieck on Jul 7th, 2010 10:21 pm
  12. Trace,
    Of course. That’s why I bet only $1. :) That bought a half hour of cheap entertainment at the penny slots when I had a little time to kill. I’m Mr. Frugal and no gambler. As long as you approach it with the right attitude and no expectations of winning, Vegas can be fun.

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  13. Jess Webb on Jul 20th, 2010 2:26 pm
  14. I too particularly noticed the part about no more than 25% of income coming from any one client. Excellent tip there – thank you! :) It hasn’t been something that I’ve had to worry about yet, but is definitely good to keep in mind as I continue to grow my biz. :)

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  15. elysplanet on Jul 24th, 2010 6:20 am
  16. This blog is nice. Thanks for the advice. I’ll keep on coming back!

  17. Kirby on Jul 24th, 2010 11:38 am
  18. “Stick with it the odds are with you”.

    This is great advise as this is definitely one of my weaker traits.