Every freelance career is different, and yet…
Somehow everybody seems to talk about the same confusion, fear, worry and doubt that slows them down and sometimes, completely ends their pursuit of independent work.
Successful freelancing requires that you develop a curiosity, a tolerance for rejection, a love of solid habits, and an ownership of your career. If we’re going to be real about what this freelance life is, it’s easy to get lost trying to pull all that off.
Easy to get discouraged, and frustrated, and lonely, and confused, and just decide that freelancing is for everybody else but you. This might be true for a few people, but you’re probably not one of them. Chances are, if you’re even reading this, there’s a way that freelancing can enhance your life and your career…you just have to stick around long enough to figure that out and I want to share something with you that can make your journey just a little more clear.
I put together this list of stages I’ve seen myself and other freelancers go through. Use it to identify where you are and even formulate the next steps you need to take to find your spot in the growing world of freelance work.
Phase 1: The Basics
Stage 1: Dissatisfaction
Everybody knows this one.
This is that moment in your job when you wonder if you can deal with boring projects, authoritarian managers, or subtly racist coworkers for another 15, 30, or even 40 years. It’s that feeling in school where you look at the careers of your friends and relatives and wonder if there isn’t a better way. It’s that phase as an entrepreneur where you want something more reliably profitable, but aren’t ready to return to employed life.
Congratulate yourself for admitting that even a life, job, or business that everyone else might think is great isn’t working out for you. This is an incredibly important step, especially if a “good job” is something people around you think you should simply be thankful for.
Start paying attention to the lives of real Black freelancers who are out there, building flourishing, independent careers. Here are some folks to get you started.
Stage 2: Consideration
You start to think that maybe, just maybe, freelancing can play a part in your life. Problem is, you probably have no idea where or how.
You know you’re at this stage when you find yourself doing things like looking for articles on freelancing and wondering what your life could look like as a freelancer.
Phase 2: Fleshing Things Out
Stage 3: Research
You’re at this stage if you don’t know what niche you want to specialize in, whether you want to freelance part time or full time, or even if you’re unsure of what kind of work you should be selling as a freelancer. (Which is all totally fine.)
It’s important to just get out there and do your thing as a freelancer, but it’s even more important to do that in a way that’s based on an understanding of yourself and what you’re trying to accomplish. If you already know someone who freelances, great! You probably have some insight here that a lot of people don’t. If you don’t though, don’t worry…that’s why BlackFreelance exists.
Stage 4: Trial and Error
IMO, this is the hardest one to work through, especially if you don’t know you’re in it.
This is the place where you put together what you’ve learned in the research stage and see what sticks. Much of freelancing is just finding where what you do clicks, and that can take a few rounds of returning to Stage 3 and rethinking your path.
You’re in this stage if you’ve likely earned a couple of a dollars but are still haven’t found a rhythm or comfort zone yet.
Get on LinkedIn. (no seriously, it’s a whole different world for freelancers and they’ve made a lot of changes since the last time you took it seriously.)
Phase 3: Refining and Building Strong Habits
Stage 5: Refinement
Once you get comfortable, you’re going to want to start pushing yourself forward by doing things like earning more, making your marketing easier, establishing your brand as a freelancer, and even going deeper into your niche.
You’ll know you’re at this stage when you’re starting to worry less about making it as a freelancer and more about what the best “next step” should be.
Stage 6: Thriving
This is a great stage!
This is where things start to gel, you’re hitting monetary goals and you feel confident as a freelancer. You’ve probably noticed yourself talking about your freelance business more and maybe even encouraging others to get started. Plenty of people live their entire freelance lives at this point but others push things just a bit further…
Join Freelancers Union for good advice and resources on freelance careers.
Start paying deep attention to your niche by attending conferences, signing up for newsletters, and joining professional organizations.
Stage 7: Fine Tuning/New Goals
It’s important that you keep growing as freelancer…markets change, economies have bumps, big clients fade away.
It’s at this stage that you can consider
- Shifting into more interesting or more profitable niches
- Adding new niches or freelance skills
- Entrepreneurship and passive income through teaching others your freelance skills and encouraging new freelancers in your niche (on a platform like the one I use for BlackFreelance…affiliate link btw.)
- Bringing on employees or contract workers to your freelance business
- Becoming a consultant to help clients best use your freelance services
- Turning your work as a freelancer into a product
Remember that this journey isn’t a straight line. You might start at Stage 3, but find yourself going all the way back to Stage 1 because of changes in your life and business. Regardless, just keep going and know that if you ever have any questions or need support this site is here for you as a resource.