I swear, every time I’ve sat down to write this post some new issue, breakthrough, or change has occured. It’s been six months since I incorporated, and it’s been quite a rollercoaster. I’m honestly not that surprised at how chaotic things have been since I got into this knowing how difficult building a business can be. With that said, most of what has unfolded in the past few months for me professionally has still been a surprise. I mean, I landed my first 5-figure contract, I let go of a long-term client, and I stopped traveling in favor of a routine. I know. It’s been a lot. So, let’s get into it, shall we?
First thing’s first, I have a new client and have secured my first big contract. Funnily enough, I was hired after lending my time to speak on a panel at an event I helped organize. I didn’t even participate in the event to promote myself, which just goes to show you that when you put your time, focus, and energy into what feeds you for selfless reasons, you still open yourself up to getting something just as great in return.
It still hasn’t hit me that I was able to negotiate a contract of this size after only being in business for a few months. The size of the project itself is also pretty extensive given that I’ve had to hire staff to help. The whole experience has been a very time-consuming process that’s still ongoing. I’ve already planned on writing another post about my experience once the project has wrapped. But, for right now, my main takeaways include the importance of negotiating a contract that you’re comfortable with, maintaining your integrity as a consummate professional, and getting absolutely every important action step or decision in writing.
Learning When to Let Go
While I was gearing up to work on a project that I was thrilled about for a new client, I actually ended up having to let another client go. This was a client who I had previously done work for before incorporating, a detail that’s important to note. You see, before I decided to transition my freelance lifestyle into a full-fledge business, I still viewed myself as an MBA grad who was taking time to recover from a very intense academic experience and just needed to make ends meet. Therefore, I found myself on freelancing platforms like Upwork taking on work that would allow me to pay my bills on time. The bar pertaining to what I was and was not willing to put up with in regard to compensation and general work conditions was, frankly, set pretty low.
Cut to about a year later and this particular client approached me about working on another project that her and her business partner were interested in pursuing. We ultimately came to an agreement that I would work on the project for a trial basis, so that we both could get an understanding of how many hours I should expect to devote to the project and what my job responsibilities would be. However, I quickly realized once the trial was over that this particular client was uninterested in paying me what I was worth, but still expected me to spend a significant amount of time and energy producing high-quality work. It was then that I decided that despite our history working together, I had to end our professional relationship.
Finding Some Balance
I also stopped traveling for a little while and have been housesitting in areas closer to my hometown to give myself some room to focus on my current projects and building my business. I thought I would miss being in a different location every month, and sometimes I do. However, the time I once spent making travel arrangements, being in transit, and exploring new cities, is now being invested into my professional development and business growth. Needless to say, these investments are yielding me very good results. I now have a handful of clients that I can count on for steady work, which has allowed me to plan ahead and settle into an efficient routine that has allowed me to be productive rather than busy.
With that said, once I land enough clients to where I’m hitting my revenue goals on a monthly basis, I will definitely pick-up traveling full-time again. I still have a lot of the world to see and absolutely no desire to settle down in any one place anytime soon.
I’ve definitely learned a lot of lessons while on this journey, and I’m sure I’ll continue to learn more as my business evolves. Here are a few key takeaways:
- Creating and maintaining a good work-life balance is even more of a struggle and just as an important. For some reason, there’s a lot of rhetoric floating around the Internet about how freelancers and digital nomads are able to create a better work-life balance due to the flexibility of their job. I just wanted to let you know that, for me, that’s a flat out lie. If anything, because I have no set hours, paid time off, designated weekends, and my livelihood is dependent on how much I work, I’ve actually found it to be pretty difficult to develop and maintain a good work-life balance. With that said, I’ve found that scheduling out my work weeks in advance and deciding when I will take time off far enough ahead of time has helped immensely.
- Making sure you’re consistently giving each of your clients your best work isn’t always possible. As someone who is constantly striving for perfection, this is a lesson I had to learn the hard way. While my clients are paying me to deliver quality work, I’m still only human. Therefore, sometimes I have off days or even what I’ve affectionately dubbed “struggle weeks”. I mean, I still make it a priority to complete and deliver work to my clients on time and to the best of my ability. Planning my work weeks ahead of time through detailed scheduling and declining work when I’m already on the verge of being overwhelmed has helped. However, there will still be times when I’m not able to live up to my own high standards and I’m learning to come to terms with that.
- Learning my limits and setting boundaries are necessities. Part of knowing my worth is learning what I will and will not put up with from clients. I’m a hard worker who is willing to go the extra mile for projects that I believe in, which clients can sometimes take advantage of. Therefore, I’ve found that I have to set boundaries for my clients for the sake of my mental and physical health. These boundaries usually appear in the form of expectations, such as replying to any e-mail sent to me within 24 hours during the work week, but letting clients know that they will not find me online at all during weekends.
- I charge what I know I’m worth and my rates are no longer negotiable. I’ve also started to refrain from negotiating my rates for most projects. The rate that I propose varies from client to client and is based on my own expertise, the type of project I’ll be working on, and the client’s financial situation. For example, I wouldn’t charge a small start-up giving me free reign on a project the same rate I would charge a large corporation that expects me to adhere to a strict contract. However, my value doesn’t change, and I give estimates based on what I believe is fair for both myself and the client.
Right now, I’m finishing up two projects and I’m working on an extensive marketing plan for my business. Last year I spent a lot of time sowing seeds that I’ll be tending to this year in the hope that they’ll blossom into fun and lucrative opportunities. Therefore, for the next couple of months at least, I’ll be working on ways to land more clients and looking forward to making travel arrangements so that I can spend the remaining half of 2019 visiting new places!