The Freelance Issue No. 5 // How to stay sane
As you can imagine, freelancing is quite a journey. A crazy ride for being honest. Planning is hard, you have to be flexible and you should have the ability to adapt quickly to different circumstances. When I first started, I did not feel ready at all. Truth is, I assume no one ever feels ready to get started. Therefore you have no other choice besides - well, you guessed it, just getting started - as scary as it is.
Probably the beginning is much easier if you have worked in the industry before and you already have contacts. But that's just my guess, I started freelancing completely out of the blue. I never worked in the industry before even though I studied media design. You ask me why? Well, I did not feel ready right after university - on the other hand I also did not see myself working in agencies, I just felt it was not for me. So instead I worked in other different jobs and industries and promised myself to start out as a graphic designer, but as a freelancer. That had been my dream ever since I was in high school.
Staying sane sometimes feels incredibly hard. In the beginning you are full of self-doubt and don't really know what you are doing anyways it seems. It is a completely new challenge, a challenge that is completely different from every employed job you ever worked in. How to make money? How to pay my bills and health insurance? You cannot imagine how many sleepless nights full of worrying about finances I had spent and quite frankly often still do. But I can tell you, you get sort of used to it. Be prepared that this will haunt you as well once you start your freelancing journey but I guess at a certain point once when us freelancers establish ourselves things eventually get better - but getting there takes some time for sure. It is crucial not give up even though it often is very tempting when you go from one slow month into another slow month and another...from what I have read most people give up after one or two years. For being honest, I understand them.
Bureaucracy is crazy for us freelancers in Germany, the fees you are supposed to pay from day number one once you start are just ridiculously high. And after one or two years of barely making money and just trying to figure out how to pay the bills and health insurance, it is not a surprise that many people just can't deal with it anymore and decide to look for another 9 to 5 job again. I don't want to be one of them but I understand completely how tempting it is. Save enough money before you quit your job. I can't say you how much but save an amount that you feel comfortable with when you leave your job. I saved around 10.000 Euro before I quit - but the money is gone quickly if you don't have an income in the beginning, that was an amount I felt well with before quitting. But you have to decide for yourself.
So my advice for staying sane is; try not to worry too much about everything. Just work hard, do as much as you can, network with other freelancers and also keep your eyes open for other freelancer jobs or job opportunities in general so you can make sure to earn some money while you work on establishing yourself as a freelancer. I often read about the advice to best still have a part-time job while establishing your freelancer career and this sounds like a good advice, I'd go for that option immediately if I found a decent part-time job but so far I did not have luck here. Not everyone enjoys working alone from home either, so maybe a side job where you have some social interaction with your clients or colleagues might also be good for you. Just figure out a solution that works for you until you got your freelance gig running (which takes a while, believe me).
Try thinking outside of the box, so you probably come up with different business ideas as well. Ever since I quit my 9 to 5 job I got quite a few other business ideas besides just offering design services, something that would not have happened to me while I was still employed because my mind was just so blocked at that time from a job that made me feel sick and miserable.
Another advice is to treat yourself well. Make sure you get enough sleep and rest, even if you have lots of work to do, but you have to be good to yourself because otherwise you burn out and that won't help neither you nor your clients. So even while working hard and a lot, sleep enough, rest enough and eat enough. Give your body and soul what they need in order to function well so you can be productive.
So, are you ready to freelance?