Imagine you had six weeks ahead of you and you decided to finalize a project within those six weeks. What would it be?
As for me, I always wanted to write a book, so that’s exactly what I did. In November of 2014, right upon the start of my new life as a freelancer, I decided to write a book about – you guessed correctly – freelancing. I didn’t have any specific goals with that project. I just knew it was the right thing to do in that very moment.
Today, exactly one year later, I can say that realizing a project on my own terms was the best decision I’ve ever made. Sure, I must admit, it might not have been such a great decision from a financial perspective. At least, not when looking at the direct ROI as a financial analyst would do. However, having published This Year Will Be Different (#TYWBD) has opened doors to exciting opportunities, incredible clients, and many wonderful new projects. Writing #TYWBD paid off. Just differently.
If there’s just one thing I’d like you to remember from this article, it’s that you should start something you want to see attached to your name. The sooner, the better!
Of course, being self-employed isn’t just ups and more ups all the time. There are moments when you don’t have anyone knocking on your door. Moments when no one cares you’re available for freelance work. It’s unexpected free time, and you can either panic or be smart and strategic about what you do next.
So, what do you do?
Many retreat to platforms that promise to connect them to clients fast. However, it’s these platforms where every single user competes on their price point, which, in my honest opinion, isn’t a good place to be.
In the ideal world, or in my ideal world at least, you probably want clients to come to you because they believe in your work and your capability to solve their problems. And you want to work on something that fulfils you in a deeper sense. So, how do you get there?
In this one year of freelancing, I’ve realized that those lulls when no one needs your services are actually great. These moments are a chance for you to improve your skills, start a side project, and think about how to best monetize it. There are many platforms out there, such as the Creative Market, Skillshare, or EyeEm, that help you generate a scalable income with your creative work. It’s platforms that can give you stability if you invest your time and your creativity, if you do the work, and if you’re okay knowing that you won’t see a return on investment immediately.
From today’s perspective, now that I’m a year older and a little wiser, I know it makes sense to work on projects without knowing whether they’ll pay off or not. However, I probably wouldn’t have had this realization if it wasn’t for this one moment at the end of last February. Three months into my life as a freelancer, I had a dry month. I didn’t invoice anyone, nor did I have any clients lined up. Suddenly, it occurred to me that if I really wanted to feel stable as a freelancer, I had to build multiple income streams.
I simply didn’t see myself waiting tables on the side while trying to make freelancing work. I knew there had to be different ways to make a living. I knew that, but I just didn’t know how.
Because it worked well the last time with #TYWBD, I began writing another book, one that’s fully focused on creative entrepreneurs who have built multiple income streams to support themselves. Not waitressing.
From the interviews I conducted about these entrepreneurs’ creative work, I’ve learned a great deal. I’ve learned that a writer doesn’t just write books. They produce content, which they can then monetize as audiobooks or courses. I’ve learned that a graphic designer can apply patterns to different objects, or better, have someone else apply their creative work and sell it to others for them. I’ve learned that skills are fluid; that you can do a lot with what you know. It’s just often about changing perspectives. About doing the work. About investing time in your side projects and doing so regularly.
There’s so much I’d love to tell you here, however, I’ll keep it short and just say this: start a side project, choose one that allows you to do whatever you want to pay your rent with, talk about your project online, and then think about how to best monetize it. If you need additional inspiration, you know where to find it! Make this year different; start a side business. Or two!