When I first started freelancing, it was hard. More than hard, in fact. I felt like a stranger in my own skin. I was broke, and I was lost. Three years have gone by since then. Although at some days I’d reasonably experience anxiety after seeing the amount in my bank account stagnant (or even depleting) for months, it gets better. Somehow.

The above paragraph is a brief story of a real-life freelancer in Singapore.

And it barely tells the hardship that an independent worker faces.

Of course, we still do hear lots of successful freelance stories.

Like those who earn a high 4-digit fee per project, and spend the rest of the month traveling, planting, gaming. Or just doing nothing.

freelancing hard
Envy much? Wait till you know the s*** I went through.

It’s these success stories that got freelancing its cult-like following.

It’s not impossible, but we supposed they didn’t have it easy.

We see (and write) a bunch of stories about freelancing, like facts you should know about being a work-from-home freelancer. But this article will be different: it’s to reveal the cold, ugly truth about being a gig worker.

What Does It Really Mean To Freelance?

Freelancing is easy, after you’ve gone through the hardest part of it.

Freelancing is great until real life catches up with you. Tangibly, you don’t get consistent income, you aren’t entitled to health benefits, and you don’t get CPF contributions (unless you do it yourself).

Intangibly, you’d have to be prepared for the nasty anxiety when you don’t get new work for weeks. Or unfortunately, months.

In other words, there are things that you’d have to give up so just you can pay the bills. At least for the first couple of years, you may have to forgo the weekly restaurant dinners, empty those shopping carts, and weekend drinking sessions.

Weekend binge-drinking? Not happening anymore.

One question to ask yourself why you’re thinking of freelancing, “Why would you want to do it?”

You could have a very valid reason like having to take care of 3 young toddlers that don’t give you time for a 9 to 5 which entails hours of commuting and overtime, on top of endless responsibilities.

Or just because you can’t stand your micro-managing boss any longer.

It requires superman-like (or superwoman-like) courage to fire your job and take the plunge. If you’re not willing to pay the price, then it’s best to rethink your options.

Indeed, it’s not cheap to survive in Singapore. And loads of people are side-hustling somehow. If needing to bring in more money is one of your major concerns, suddenly a part-time job isn’t such a bad option after all.

Yes, it may be tough. But at least you have something to hold on to if you can’t afford to give up the clockwork salary. Refrain from doing it if it’s against your company’s policy; your reputation should always be your highest priority. Just remember to measure the pros and cons of having a full-time job while having a full-time job.

How To Freelance

Freelancing is an anxiety-filled process that will sit in your bones for at least awhile.

Going crazy is part of the deal. Get over it.

Unless you’re some kind of psychic, you’ll never really be prepared for the unforeseen challenges. You can either be knocked down by them, or you rise up, stronger and braver than before.

That said, you’re not defenseless. There are several things you should do to smoothen your freelance career.

Regulate your work hours

There shouldn’t be any major differences between working at home and in the office when you’re an employee.

Everybody works differently. For instance, if you’re more alert in the morning, you don’t want to waste an hour or two checking your email. You’d want to focus on finishing important work instead.

It’s easy to spend loads of time trying to rush through work, but it’s not healthy to sit in front of your work desk (if your gig requires one) all day. Neither is procrastinating.

How To Reverse Procrastination and Really Get Things Done

Make it a habit to dedicate certain hours to really work on projects rather than letting it bleed through the hours. Those hours can be of better use, such as marketing yourself, which is crucial for getting more gigs.

Reclaim your mental space

Working independently gives you ample freedom, but it also comes with piling bills that you aren’t sure if your bank account can sustain, and not to mention that scaringly near deadline for that project.

You want to make sure your sanity stays intact throughout the months.

In the past, you may have the luxury of traveling thrice per year when you were employed. But that doesn’t mean you should deprive yourself of a break.

Taking your mind off the stress doesn’t necessarily mean it needs to be costly. It can be something therapeutic like baking, Netflix-ing, or hanging out with your buddies during happy hour.

A healthy mind gives you more amplitude to handle stress, which in turn improves your productivity.

Record your income

freelance hard
Money, money, money.

Unlike holding on to a full-time job, your money comes and goes too quickly without even knowing how much you’ve earned.

Proper bookkeeping can not just help you avoid excessive usage of money which can be catastrophic in some circumstances. It also helps you plan ahead of your schedule like whether you should spend more hours next week marketing yourself or finishing jobs.

How To Market Yourself As A Freelancer

Marketing is inevitably part of the job if you’re thinking of reeling in gigs full-time. If you’re thinking of working on your craft only, we’re sad to tell you that’s not going to work.

To sustain your freelance career, increasing your clientele should be at the top of your list. And marketing yourself is the only way to do it.

First, put in extra effort updating your profile, because you have no idea who’s going to check up on you.

Whether you’re on Linkedin, iTask, or other platforms, give that online profile of yours a good round of polishing.

Be as detailed as possible for your profile. Add in samples of work you’ve done and include real reviews by your clients.

Truth is, most freelancers depend on word-of-mouth to get new clients. And when decision-makers introductions, the first thing they usually do is check up their options online. That’s your chance if your profile is nicely done.

freelance hard
Your reputation matters.

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