Are you gambling with your freelance future?
This 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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