Where freelancers should focus their time when getting started

Enough small steps, over time, lead to massive strides. Photo used under creative commons, courtesey of  Giuseppe Milo

Enough small steps, over time, lead to massive strides. Photo used under creative commons, courtesey of Giuseppe Milo

One of the biggest questions I get from aspiring creative freelancers is that they don't know where they should be focusing their time.

They jump from task to task and get completely overwhelmed by all of the things that they feel like they need to be doing.

This ends with them spreading themselves too thin, getting stressed out and often many of them just give up.

The truth is, it doesn’t have to be this way when you are getting started.

Running in a million directions and working around the clock isn't going to get your career going.

Instead, clear goals, small steps and consistent action will get you there.

My goal with this post is to share with you how you should be spending your time and what you should be focusing on when starting up a new freelancing career.


Set Small Goals

Often people come to me and say that their goal is to quit their job and freelance full time.

That is a great goal, but for someone who is just getting started or only has a few clients, that can seem pretty far off.

For most people, full time means at minimum $2.5-5k in personal income every single month from freelancing.

While full time is a good goal, it can seem unrealistic and insurmountable at first. This often leads to becoming discouraged and feeling like a failure.

The key is to set small goals.

Enough small steps over time lead to massive strides. Photo used under creative commons courtesy of  Sebastian Latour

Enough small steps over time lead to massive strides.
Photo used under creative commons courtesy of Sebastian Latour

Set a goal of landing your first client.

Then set a goal to land your second.

Then set a goal of $500 per month, then $1000 per month.

Keep setting small goals and achieving them.

Write these goals down on paper, and as soon as you achieve them put a big check mark by them.

The joy and satisfaction of making forward progress will keep you motivated and moving forward.

Setting huge goals can feel intimidating.
chieving a series of small goals feels like progress.

Enough small steps over time lead to massive strides - Click to tweet



Focus on one marketing project at at time

Aside from the actual act of landing clients, you will need to also dedicate time and energy toward marketing yourself.

At first, marketing yourself can feel intimidating. There seems to be a million social networks you should be on and tactics that you must be using.

This is where most people get overwhelmed and as a result make no progress marketing themselves.

They key is to set small goals

Make it a goal of doing one marketing project at a time.

Focus on rebuilding your website.
Then focus on reaching out to friends and acquaintances looking for quick wins.
Then create case studies from past projects.
And so on.

Target one major marketing task at a time and don't move on to other tactics until you have finished or made significant strides on the first.

One of the biggest mistakes many people make is spreading themselves too thin. They try every marketing tactic under the sun and end up doing a whole lot of work that yields little to no results.

If you keep tackling one small project after the next, eventually you will have a marketing funnel that provides you with an endless supply of work.

Enough small steps over time lead to massive strides - Click to tweet


Learn, practice and read

The third area you must focus your time on as a new area is in learning and skill development.

Committing yourself to constant improvement is the foundation of a successful freelance career.


Set yourself on a learning schedule to improve your craft. Websites like Lynda.com and Skillshare.com are amazing to pick up new software skills and there are plenty of other sites for all different crafts.


Passively learning new skills only goes so far. Get seriously about practicing your craft every single day. If you can, practice in public and show your work to the world.

Sean McCabe, a well established hand-lettering artist and blogger, calls this deliberate practice where you focus intently every single day on becoming better at what you do.

Practice the small details and practice the hard parts. Small sessions of deliberate practice every single day will turn you into a master of your craft.


In addition to practicing your skills, you should make time for reading as well. Reading just 1000 words per day will add up over time. 

If the world of entrepreneurship and running a freelancing business is completely new to you, then it is essential that you learn the basics of the business of freelancing.

The good thing is there are a handful of great books that will help you get your bearings on this entrepreneurial and freelancing mindset very quickly.

The Creative Freelancer Curriculum

These are the books that taught me the ropes, and gave me the knowledge to work professionally and focus on getting things done. If you can read these four books, you will be well on your way to a profitable business producing incredible work.

The Designers Guide to Marketing and Pricing - By Ilise Benun

Book Yourself Solid - By Michael port

The Accidental Creative - By Todd Henry

Million Dollar Consulting - By Alan Weiss

Being a creative freelancer is more than just doing creative work, it is also about running a business and being an efficient person.

These books will teach you the skills to handle the business & productivity side of freelancing.

In addition, I am working on my own book on this topic called The Creatives Guide to Freelancing. Coming March 2015, sign up to be notified when it launches.

Balancing these three components of learning, practicing and reading will do wonders to help you achieve your goals and build the freelance life you want to live.


The bottom line

When you are getting started it can be overwhelming to figure out where to focus your time.

Set small goals and achieve them.

Get one client, and then the next.

In addition, you must commit yourself to continually learning, practicing and reading about your craft.

Do a small bit every day, and soon you will be a master of your craft.

Enough small steps, over time, turn into massive strides. - Click to tweet

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