Want to be a successful freelancer?
You have to play the long game.

by: RJ McCollam


I remember when I launched the first episode of my podcast. I had taken time putting together some cool artwork for it, setting up a site, finding intro music that I liked, and recording the first episode.

I was proud of getting to this point.

After everything was ready, I submitted my podcast to iTunes and waited for it to show up in the store. While not expecting instant downloads in the millions, I was anxious to see the numbers go up, and up, and up.

Here’s what really happened…crickets.

Let’s circle back to reality here:

  1. Had I done anything to promote it outside of tweeting about it? NO
  2. Had I put the site up at least a month before with some content to build up a launch list? NO
  3. Had I really spent time researching what my audience wanted to hear and taken the time to craft truly useful content based off of that? NO

What I had done is try to get everything together as fast as I could to get it launched so I could watch the numbers go up.

What I wanted was that instant gratification and when I didn’t get it I became discouraged.

I went through a similar situation when I decided to become a freelancer. I rented an office for a day, posted an ad on Craigslist, and held interviews so I could hire a designer or two and start an agency. My cart was miles ahead of the horse.

Deciding to become a freelancer is a tough choice for a lot of reasons, but one of the biggest is that your success and failure rides completely on your shoulders. Not anyone else’s. To make things worse, we all have those that we look up to who are doing the same thing as we are, but have found success. There is a feeling of failure when we do something and it doesn’t match up to these people we look up to.

You see Porsche doesn’t hit a MAKE CAR button and it automatically goes from 0 to 60mph in 3.8 seconds. They have been making cars for years and over that time have refined their process, learned from their successes and failures, and benefitted from advances in technology in order to accomplish this feat. While we just see those 3.8 seconds there are millions of hours that went into making that possible.

The people that you look up to didn’t wake up one day and be this successful accomplished person. Re-read that sentence, but say it aloud to yourself. What you didn’t see is the times they use to charge $300 for their work that they now charge $3000 for. What you don’t see is the years they have spent practicing and improving their skill set.

Here I am currently 7 years into my freelancing career. As I have put myself out their more recently through publishing content and launching a product, people have begun to notice me a little bit. I stress a little bit. And now I am finding myself in a position where people look up to me and my ability to support my family 100% from freelance work.

What they completely missed were the years that I spent holding down a full-time job, coming home from that job and immediately going straight to my freelance work for a few hours every night. Let’s also not even pretend that I relaxed on the weekends either. What they miss is the fact that I have kept learning and improving my skill set so what once took me 15 hours to do now only takes me 5.

What they don’t see is the fact that I committed to being a freelancer. As much as I wanted to quit my job so many times I knew I had to be patient. I knew that I needed to be in this for the long haul if I wanted to get to that point one day.

There is no substitute for patience and hard work.

If you want to be a successful freelancer then you need to play the long game. You need to not focus on the metrics that only have an impact on this immediate point in time. A successful freelancer is someone that takes pride in their work and their craft. Someone who understands the value they can provide their clients and truly wants to help instead of trying to make a quick buck.

Always be improving by adding tiny blocks to your freelancers toolbox and in time you will reach that level of success you are wanting to achieve.

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