52 Lessons From 52 Weeks of Being Self-Employed

Reflections on what it takes to be a full-time writer.

52 Lessons From 52 Weeks of Being Self-Employed
(Image from the author’s Instagram)

Reflections on what it takes to be a full-time writer.

When I quit my job one year ago, the biggest fear in my heart was for money.

Would I earn enough to sustain the new lifestyle? What if all my income streams run dry and I’ve to resort to borrowing from my family? What if no one's willing to pay for my words?

As it turns out, money should have been the least of my worries.

The biggest lesson in this yearlong journey is that if your heart’s into it and you're willing to adapt and improve, the money will keep flowing.

In this post, I’m sharing 52 lessons from 52 weeks of being self-employed. These lessons come straight from my heart and are in no particular order. If you’re considering going down a similar path, I hope you find inspiration and strength in them.

  1. Freelance writing is not easy. You have to adapt to the whims and wishes of the client. But if done right, it can be your most potent income stream.
  2. Relying on platforms for your paycheck every month is stupidity. Algorithms change, and no one owes you any money. The most innovative option is to diversify.
  3. The most lucrative skill you can learn is the art of networking. Most of my highest-paying gigs have come through referrals.
  4. Having a presence on multiple platforms is crucial. Learn to repurpose your content to avoid burning out.
  5. Treat your passion like a 9-to-5 job. Don’t work when you feel like it. Impose deadlines on yourself to maintain discipline and some semblance of a routine.
  6. Always keep pitching for new gigs, clients, and services.
  7. Don’t hesitate to spend your savings on upskilling and marketing your services better.
  8. Look for fulfillment in other avenues as well. You'll end up feeling frustrated if you seek pleasure, money, and creative challenges from a single source (your passion).
  9. Learn to recognize the early warning signs of burnout. Take enough breaks, so you wake up each day with motivation.
  10. Have the confidence to ask for a pay raise. The worst thing that can happen is your client says no. There’s no limit to what good things can come your way if they say yes.
  11. Don’t spend all day, every day in your room staring at your computer screen. Allocate weekly days when you step out of the house to work from cafes or co-working spaces.
  12. Nurture other hobbies to provide mental stimulation.
  13. Have at least one hobby that you don’t do for money.
  14. Have another hobby that promotes physical fitness.
  15. Constantly explore new ways to diversify your skills and widen your digital footprint.
  16. Nurture your community as they’ll stick with you even when platforms and algorithms change.
  17. Don’t get stuck in a comfort zone. Freelancing rarely guarantees a stable income source. Keep looking for new side hustles to add to your skill set.
  18. Have friends with whom you can have in-person conversations.
  19. Build an online community of fellow creators to see you through dark times.
  20. Explore different formats (images, text, video) to present your message to your audience.
  21. Save your money for rainy days. Build an emergency fund first, then invest in schemes that multiply your wealth.
  22. At the same time, use a part of your income to give yourself a better lifestyle.
  23. Be open to new experiences.
  24. Collaborate with other creators. This exposes you to a new audience and expands your network.
  25. Learn to outsource work before you start feeling burdened.
  26. While building a team, hire fast, fire faster. It might be the biggest entrepreneurial cliche but also the most effective.
  27. Spend time training the people with whom you see a long professional future. It might drain your time and energy at the start, but it will surely give back much more than what you invested.
  28. Keep exploring new platforms to present your work.
  29. Learn to be platform-independent by building your email community.
  30. Take inspiration from fellow creators. But if their success stories make you feel bad about yourself, understand that taking a break is okay. Every creator’s journey is different. There’s no reason to let envy take root in your heart.
  31. Clients come and go. Always ask for testimonials or LinkedIn recommendations that you can later use to promote your services.
  32. Building digital products is a fun way to test the waters and see how much your community is willing to pay for your services.
  33. But remember, give away a ton of value for free before you start asking for money from your community.
  34. Don’t shy away from using technology to cut your content creation time in half.
  35. Many writers and content creators fear the rise of AI. But if used correctly, artificial intelligence tools can expand your online business manifold.
  36. Consistency can be your biggest superpower. On the days you don’t feel like doing anything, just showing up can put you ahead of the competition.
  37. Learn to adopt a mindset of abundance. Just because someone reached the top before you doesn't mean you’ve lost. There’s enough room for more than one person at the top.
  38. Use project management tools like Notion or Trello to keep track of all the work in progress.
  39. Async meetings with your team work better than hopping on a daily call. However, set aside time once a week to meet with your team, understand their challenges, and praise their progress.
  40. Remember that it’s okay to feel clueless at times.
  41. Sometimes, the most boring skills will get you the most money.
  42. Finding your niche isn’t a one-time thing. To live a life no one else is living, you must be prepared to constantly keep reinventing yourself to suit the ever-changing taste of your audience.
  43. Building a daily ideation habit will save you on days you don’t feel creative enough.
  44. Books often teach you more than courses. Pick the right books, but don’t forget to read fiction for pleasure and to expand your mental horizons.
  45. Choose your friends wisely so your circle constantly inspires you to be a better version of yourself.
  46. Don’t let excuses like “I don’t have time,” “My hobby can’t be monetized,” “It’s too late to start,” etc. ruin your chance of having the life you deserve.
  47. Stop getting affected by haters and online trolls. From marriage proposals to death threats, I’ve seen the worst the internet can offer. The only way to move ahead is to know that you can’t let yourself get affected by comments that aren’t constructive.
  48. Don’t rely on “passion” to sustain you. Build a system around your work. Discipline can push you ahead on this journey, not how much you love what you do.
  49. People will say all sorts of negative things to bring you down. Don’t take advice from people who haven’t done it themselves.
  50. Understand the difference between “scalable” income and “passive” income. Stop hoping for the latter and work on ways to build more sources of the first.
  51. Rejection is inevitable. Leverage it to move on to the next big opportunity instead of wallowing in self-pity.
  52. Never blame yourself for needing a break. You aren’t competing with anyone else. Your growth pace might be slow, but it’s still valid. You don’t need to burn yourself out to deserve to take some time off for yourself.

I hope you enjoyed reading this list. Do let me know in the comments which point resonated with you the most and how you plan to apply it to your own journey.

Want to be a successful freelancer but struggling to find good clients? Check out my 90-day guide to finding your first high-paying freelance client. You’ll find 5 pitching secrets, 2 email templates, and a framework to start your freelancing career.

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