3 Years of Freelancing Full-Time: What Have Been The Biggest Surprises?

My friend Melanie asked me at happy hour tonight what I thought the biggest surprises of freelancing were for me. It’s an interesting question to think about. And to be honest, it’s a little hard to remember back to when I wasn’t freelancing.

But I know I’ve had a few good ideas all along. So if you’re thinking about freelancing full-time, here are some things I learned that may help you.

It takes a while to get started

I planned about 8 months ahead of time to quit my job and go freelance full-time. And yet I thought once I started, I’d be booked solid in no time. But that wasn’t the case.

I quickly realized one key thing: I had no idea how to get clients. Sure, I had found some clients that came my way organically. But that was through networking and other long-term means. Finding clients when I needed them wasn’t something I had done before, and it took months to get a system going.

Thank goodness for my $8,000 quit my job fund.

Marketing yourself is a long-term strategy

Going along with the point above, I realized after a while that I could get clients without even trying. And they’d come from the strangest places!

One found and hired me because I had worked for a competitor of theirs in the past, and they noticed this on LinkedIn.

The weirdest referral: a client found me in a testimonial I had left on a site completely unrelated to personal finance. And the kicker: I didn’t even mention I was a freelance writer in the testimonial!

This was an important lesson. Being everywhere does count. You just might not see the results right away.

I hate working at home in my pajamas

This one has turned out to be the biggest myth for me. When I quit my job, I was like “Great! No more commuting in to an office! I’m just going to stay at home and work in my pajamas!” Damn did that get old fast!

Instead, I found myself getting really bored and lonely. I also wasn’t very productive since working out of my apartment (that I shared with roommates) didn’t leave me much space for a dedicated workspace.

About 6 months in I joined a coworking space, and I’ve been commuting to an office for my freelance work ever since.

Working on a schedule (like 9-5) actually makes the most sense

Another thing I thought I would love before I quit my job: flexible scheduling. I would just work when I felt like it. Nights, weekends, whenever. I wasn’t doing the 9-5 thing anymore, that was for sure!

But again, this just wasn’t great for productivity. Instead, I’d get more stressed, especially without clear boundaries between work and free time. I soon found that having some sort of work time scheduled was best. And what’s worked best has resembled a 9-5, M-F schedule or something similar.

However, I do take time off when I need it and wouldn’t be able to do at a normal full-time job. I’ll roll into my office at 9:30 am if my workout runs late. And unless I have something super urgent to do, I’ll take Friday afternoons off. Don’t get me wrong, I love this part of freelancing. But I do need some structure to work within.

Do you freelance? What’s been most surprising for you?

Easy ways to cut the cost of your lunch hour

Update: Even though it’s four years since I first wrote about this, I’m still very aware of it today. The streak has ended (can’t pass up $6 food truck lunches in Portland), but I’m still very far from buying lunch every day.

125 Days.  That’s how long since the last time I bought myself lunch on a workday.  That’s 92 consecutive workdays (and counting).  To me, it’s a huge feat that I’m proud of and has also saved me a ton of money.  Conservatively assuming that eating out for lunch costs $5 more than bringing my own lunch, I’ve saved …

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Why Understanding APR is Important to Your Finances

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interest-aprFor most of us, we look at the APR, or Annual Percentage Rate, of our loans and other financial obligations and usually don’t see much difference in them over the actual interest rate. In fact, it’s all too easy for someone to just casually compare the two and figure that they are paying more or less the same. However, this is not true. Failing to consider the APR, especially in a variable interest rate loan, is something that will cause you to slowly lose money over time, because you’ll be paying extra interest.

That’s because where an interest rate is …

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The Next Chapter…

As you may have noticed, Money Spruce hasn’t seen many updates lately. After quitting my job in May 2012 and becoming a full-time freelancer, there’s just been less and less time to write on here.

Today, I’m announcing the launch of my new business: Content Strategy for Do-Gooders.

CWAM is a one-stop shop for content strategy and creation for social mission-driven businesses and organizations. CWAM’s focus is to help these businesses amplify their social impact using effective content to tell their story, find more followers, and develop a loyal tribe of supporters.

Why am I making this change? There …

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Updated: How I Used Free Frequent Flyer Miles to Get $9,000 Worth of Airfare — Twice!

Update: I just booked another trip using frequent flyer miles. This time I’ll be flying to Japan, India, and Nepal — for just $120! The real cost was just 80,000 miles that I earned from a couple of credit card offers.

For those who missed it last year, here’s my strategy that I posted in October 2012. Enjoy!

I’m excited to share how I’m spending a month traveling to Paris and Bangkok – and spending only $140 on airfare (just the taxes). How? It was really easy, actually: Free frequent flyer miles.

No, not the kind you earn from flying …

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Beyond Money: How to Find Happiness in Your 20s (or Any Time)

find-happiness-Thailand

find-happiness-ThailandI spend a lot of time thinking about how to be happy, and I think I’ve finally cracked that code.

Sometimes I even spend more time thinking about how to be happy than anything else, including my business. Why? Because that’s what matters most. We don’t really want to just have more money, more friends, or more freedom — we just want each of these things to make us happy.

Whether you’re struggling with money, a job, or just surviving daily life, here’s my best advice for being happy no matter what.

Don’t wait – choose to be

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Why I’m Writing One Letter A Day to Thank 365 People

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Today, I’d like to announce a new project that I’ve been working on and keeping a secret for over a month now. It’s called “365 Letters of Gratitude.”

The concept is simple: every day, I spend a few minutes writing a letter to a different person whom I’m grateful to have in my life. Usually it’s just a few paragraphs detailing why these people mean so much to me and the ways they’ve affected my life, large or small.

It’s been hard, but I’ve kept it going for 45 days now. And I’m so grateful that I’ve done …

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How You’re Lying to Yourself Every Day About Your Spending Priorities

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I’ve heard a few great arguments made lately about how we make liars out of ourselves all the time with our so-called “priorities.” Many of us say “Travel is DEFINITELY a priority for me” or “I’m serious about getting in shape.” But are these things really priorities? And does the time and money you spend on these things really back up what you’re saying.

JD Roth of Get Rich Slowly first brought this to my attention at the World Domination Summit 2012 when he said “It’s not what we say is a priority, but what we actually DO that’s a …

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Thinking of Quitting? Self-Employed Lessons, 2 Months Deep

oregon-welcome

That first two months after (finally) quitting my job definitely flew by! I’ve had a successful move from New Haven, CT to Portland, OR! Life has been memorable in a gazillion ways, and the fun is just getting started.

Today I bring to you lessons I’ve already learned and that you’ll need to watch out for or can look forward to for yourself.

Self-Employed = Awesome!

So far, 99% of the time has been freakin’ fantastic. You’re probably thinking I’m exaggerating, but I can honestly say I couldn’t be happier with life right now, and I’m committed to doing every …

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I Did It! I QUIT My JOB!

yup-i-freakin-quit

This is the post of I’ve been waiting to write and, after 9 months in the making, it’s now official: I quit my job! It feels like a huge relief to finally be done and to move on from New Haven, too.

Why I Quit

There are a few reasons I decided to leave my job:

1) I was bored and unhappy. While my job wasn’t stressful and my boss was great, I was bored at my job. I felt like I wasn’t going anywhere and wasn’t making a difference in the world on a daily basis. I’m sure …

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