It seems like everyone has a side hustle these days. In fact, roughly 59 million workers did some form of freelance work in recent years and the number is estimated to reach 90 million by 2028. Though everyone is freelancing, it doesn’t mean everyone is a freelancer. On the contrary, picking up a side gig is great, but only a select few actually dive in and make freelancing a full-time career.
For anyone who is already doing so—or thinking of it soon—here are 5 factors that contribute to long-term success for your full-fledged freelance business.
1. Embrace Your Craft
If you’re freelancing, chances are you wanted a greater degree of enjoyment out of your work. Rather than dragging yourself through the corporate rat race, you launched out on your own and are trying to “make it” doing something that you love.
If that’s the case, one of the most important factors to keep in mind as you go along is to preserve your passions. This may sound easy for some and impossible for others—and the truth is, it can be both.
While both of these attitudes are common, though, it’s also possible to find a sustainable middle ground—if you try. No matter what stage of the journey you’re in, always strive to remind yourself that you’re doing something you love. Jack London is a good example of this. The author had countless responsibilities, but throughout it all, he still loved to write—to the point where he wrote so much that he forgot to eat at times.
Remember, even though many responsibilities come with running a freelance business, at its core, you’re doing something you’re passionate about. Is it hard? Sure. Are there challenges? Of course. But that’s always true with professional pursuits. The important thing is that you’re pursuing a form of employment on your terms. It’s an encouraging and empowering mindset that can be critical in keeping you motivated over time.
2. Create Long-Term Infrastructure for Your Freelance Business
You may be a solopreneur with a tiny, one-person business but that doesn’t mean you should ignore the corporate side of your business activities. On the contrary, it’s important to invest in the business side of things, including putting long-term elements of your freelance business in place.
For instance, if you send a lot of invoices, create a template to streamline the process. If you need to build a network, invest in things like social media and measure your success over time. If your job is location-dependent, consider things like moving nearer to an important client or living in a city center where you can easily access clients who are within walking distance of one another.
If you’re serious about freelancing, take the time to look past today’s workload. How can you invest in the long-term infrastructure of your growing business?
3. Adopt an Entrepreneurial Attitude
It doesn’t matter what your freelancing activity is. You could build websites, walk dogs, write blog posts, and the list goes on. But at the end of the day, there’s one thing that all contractors share in common: they’re business owners.
That said, it’s important to adopt an entrepreneurial attitude as you go about tending to your business. This includes practical elements, like paying bills and communicating with clients promptly.
It also requires some more nuanced activity. For instance, it’s wise to spend time understanding, identifying, and managing potential risks. Do you have long-term clients? Do you have money saved up for temporary lapses in income? Should you purchase business insurance?
Along with risk factors, consider your mental and emotional state. Look for ways that you can cope with failure—because chances are it will come. When setbacks happen, how will you respond? Work on building resilience and positivity to help you get through the slow or difficult times.
4. Stay Organized
If you want to both attain and maintain a successful freelance business, you need to figure out how to stay organized. This applies to every area of your professional activities. Networking, paying bills, doing your taxes, maintaining equipment, creating a schedule, and of course, doing the work that you’re hired to do all require organization.
There are many ways for freelancers to stay organized. One of the most essential of these is pulling together a commitment tracking system (or CTS for short.) This can be something as simple as using Trello to track open loops and keep your short-term activities and long-term projects in one place.
Your CTS should be a system that helps you track all of your personal and professional activities. As a freelancer, it’s too easy to blur the lines between personal and professional work. Using a CTS helps you tend to your responsibilities without being controlled by your work and personal commitments all of the time.
5. Define Success for Your Freelance Business
Finally, take the time to define success—to you. Don’t look at what others have set as their own benchmarks. Take the time to personally define what it looks like for you to have officially “succeeded.” Is it a financial goal? A time-based goal? A certain lifestyle? A combination of these and other factors?
This isn’t just a fun exercise to see how high you can fly as a freelancer. It’s a critical element of maintaining your own sanity and stability over time.
By defining your terms of success, you establish parameters for you to work within. You can set attainable goals that can keep you motivated. If you’re a workaholic, these boundaries can also help you avoid slipping into an endless pursuit of “bigger and better.”
Setting the Stage for Freelance Business Success
Freelancing is popular, but it’s also tough—especially if you want to freelance full time. Nevertheless, there is a high ceiling for those who go about building their freelance businesses thoughtfully.
So, use the tips above to make sure you’re setting the stage for long-term success with your freelance business. That way you can dive into each day’s work knowing that you’re working toward something that will be sustainable far into the future.
Tell us in the comments: How have you set up your freelance business for success?
Indiana Lee is a writer and journalist from the Pacific Northwest with a passion for covering workplace issues, social justice, environmental protection, and more. In her off time, she enjoys hiking with her two dogs. You can follow her on Twitter @indianalee3, or reach her at email@example.com