Being self-employed is far different from having a traditional career. Unlike a regular nine-to-five job, it’s often more difficult to see the merits of your work. For example, those who work at a business are more actively looking at ways to climb the corporate ladder. How does a freelancer know he or she is heading in the right direction?
The “Right Direction” is Subjective
Your opinion of the “right direction” is based on your ultimate goals. If you’re a freelance writer, are you looking to make a higher dollar amount every year? Is it your goal to publish a certain amount of content?
In many ways, being self-employed is far more difficult than following a corporate career path. At least in that regard, you know exactly what you need to do to achieve greater success. As a freelancer, success is driven by effort and personal desire.
So, how do you know when you’re heading in the right direction in terms of freelancing? Here are a few things I focus on and work to achieve.
Continual Rise in Income
Many of us get into freelancing because it is often more lucrative than a regular job. I started writing full-time because I made more money as a ghostwriter than I did as a network technician for the school district.
Heading in the right direction involves a continuous growth of income. If you’re losing money each year on your trade, then you either need to make changes or seriously consider doing something else. Bills will continue to come whether you’re working or not.
I base my financial success on a fiscal year report. How much money I made this year as opposed to last gives insight to things I might need to change or continue. This year, I’ll make more than I did in the last – which shows me I am heading in the right direction from a financial aspect.
Exploring New Opportunities
Are you content in maintaining current practices, or do you expand? If you’re truly happy with the way things are right now, then you can call it successful. However, growth and expansion usually lead to even more opportunities down the road.
Take me, for example. I consider myself a successful ghostwriter and am capable of sustaining my lifestyle. However, I want more. As a result, I dive into obtaining more clients, boosting the popularity of my blogs and working on my own novel.
It’s all about a continual flow of growth, whether it’s professional or personal. For me, surpassing the number of words I write each week moves me further along the right direction. It may be something completely different for you, though.
Understanding Your Ultimate Goal
What is it you want to ultimately achieve before retiring? I know, it’s a long way off. However, this question will lay the groundwork of what you need to accomplish in the meantime. It’s never too early to build a strong plan for your future.
As long as you keep your goals realistic, it’s easy to achieve them. I doubt I will have the popularity of Stephen King, but that’s not going to stop me from being a competitive author. Be realistic, but don’t sell yourself short.
Once you reach a specific milestone, there’s nothing stopping you from creating another one. Keep trying to improve your workflow, income and happiness. After all, that’s what’s really at the core: how do you feel about yourself as a freelancer?
Expanding Your Knowledge
Never assume you know all there is about your industry. No matter if you’re self-employed or CEO of a large corporation, there is always room for improvement and growth.
Keep your thumb on the pulse of trends, technologies and practices within your freelancing career. As a blog writer for major corporations, I constantly read up on latest SEO trends and creating effective content. Ask yourself, “What did I learn today?”
The more you learn, the more effective you are as a freelancer and the more valuable you become to clients. Knowledge is a key indicator of heading in the right direction, and you want to stay ahead of the competition.
One of the hardest things for many freelancers is judging their own value. It’s not always about dollar amounts. In fact, I am more successful than a lot of freelance ghostwriters not because I charge more, but because clients keep me busy.
In reality, you should focus on three major parts of being competitive: price, skill and the customer experience. Because of this, you need to monitor your competitors and client interaction with them. If you can surpass your competition, then you’re definitely moving in the right direction.
The real crux, though, is determining what plays into making you competitive. In some ways, you may not be able to keep up because of a lack of funding, time or effort.
For instance, many online stores cannot compete with Walmart simply because they cannot buy in bulk to reduce prices. However, offering something Walmart doesn’t have keeps other eCommerce sites competitive.
Evaluate Your Time
Another way to determine if you’re heading in the right direction while self-employed is to evaluate your time throughout the day. Are you consistent with what you would achieve in an eight-hour workday?
Personally, I keep track of all my projects on a daily basis using a spreadsheet. At any given time, I know exactly how much I make as a freelancer compared to an eight-hour day. This is how I determined I made more per hour as a freelancer than my old job.
It all comes down to how much money you make compared to the amount of effort you put in. If it takes you 12 hours to make $100 and I can do it in three, then you need to figure out what’s going wrong with your practice.
In this instance, the right direction is one where you make money in less time. You shouldn’t have to push yourself to physical limits just to make ends meet. Be flexible and look for other ways to make it easier on yourself.
You Are the Judge
In a nut shell, you are the judge of what the “right direction” is as a freelancer. If you’re focused on income, then having a financial plan is ideal. Myself, I want to see my name on the spine of a book…so that is where my effort lies. What direction do you want to go?