Freelance work : how was my first quarter?

Hello everyone ! Today, I want to start a new series of articles on this blog. A series of articles where I will talk about my freelance work on a regular basis. These articles will have two goals. One which is personal : a summary of my experiences during the focus period of the post (here, the last quarter). I will talk about my successes, the things I could have done better, and my lessons learned from these experiences. Then also, in this first part, I’ll set a few goals for the following period. The second goal, totally focused on the “you”, will be to give you tips to take with you, in connection with all this. Hopefully, after reading my articles, you can apply these tips to your own freelance activity, perhaps, or, it can maybe give you an idea of ​​what life as a freelancer could be. So… let’s go ? I started as a freelancer at the beginning of June 2017. How was quarter 1, June-July-August?

My freelance work – quarter 1

I am a baby freelancer. I’m just starting. So I don’t pretend to know everything about it, far from it. Nor do I pretend to give you advice of an indisputable truth. All that will follow in this post is only my own feeling. I’m currently learning a lot on the field, and it’s just as exciting as threatening, as fulfilling as stressful. Energy wise, I am at the top of my form some days, other days I am tense or afraid of not getting there. Money wise, I have never had such a low salary, but that’s normal, it’s the beginning. But I can tell you one thing: I don’t regret my train-office-sleep days, and my employee routine. I am constantly challenged, I learn every day, and all this exalts me! One wish: “hope it lasts!” and that my business can grow in time, especially monetary.

But let’s try to talk about it all by themes, so that I can present you something a little bit organized.

1. My successes

This quarter, I literally “jumped into the ocean”. I decided in April to leave my job in Marketing, to devote my May month to my move to my new apartment and to the creation of my self-enterprise. Yes, that is a LOT of change! But that is not all : all this in a foreign country of which I knew absolutely no administrative methods, nor language (yes, yes, I know, I’m crazy!). I started taking Swedish classes only after I left my job in May. Before, I did not have time for it, with my 12h work days transport included. I had been living in Sweden for almost two years, but by working every day in Denmark, working with French clients on the phone (and French colleagues) and speaking English at home with my darling because too exhausted to make the least extra neuron work to try some Swedish … well … not the best way to learn the language.

This quarter, I also re-learned to do accounting (first year of business school nightmares that catch me back … haha), because I can not afford to pay an accountant at the moment so I do it all manually myself. #wonderwoman (I swear to you, I discovered some hidden resources in myself).

This quarter, I have approached a lot of potential customers. Former relations, word of mouth, freelance platforms like Hopwork or social networks like LinkedIN or even Facebook groups, I sent a lot of messages. Many have fallen into the water, but some have led to discussions and then some discussions on opportunities.

So this quarter I found my first customers. 2 in marketing consulting (one in France and one in Sweden, which is a real victory because I am really looking for a local network here), and no less than 5 at the blog level, on one-time sponsored operations. 7 customers my first 3 months, I would never have believed. Yet it happened!

I therefore generated my first income. Very low still, compared to what I was used to, I’m not going to hide it from you. But who expects to make 2000 euros after tax per month the first quarter of freelancing ? Nobody, unless you are extraordinary or have already had leads of contracts before launching (if you did this, or even somehow different, bravo!). No, I’m far from my former salary. But for the moment I have some savings, and I see the income curve going up in June – July – August, so I pray that it will continue until I get a decent salary that will allow me to self – finance my life with my company, without affecting the savings. Ideally this would happen quickly, not to squander everything I have aside! Even if, in my opinion, using savings for such a life project is worth it.

So, if we summarise, this quarter I : 

  • Founded my freelance company getting some precious help from a Swedish government association, Almi Partners (free and absolutely great)
  • Began the Swedish classes and saw myself practicing it in the administrative paperwork (rather bitter as a method for learning… haha!)
  • Decided to auto-hire me as accountant of my company (I do not hide that I am not very fan of this – help!)
  • Sent a lot, lot of emails
  • Found 7 clients, including 2 regular contracts and 5 one-off operations
  • Generated my first incomes, growing in June – July – August: so, rather positive.

2. What I could have done better

I do not like to talk about “failures” because this word is really negative. I find that when something we do does not satisfy us as we would have liked, it is not a failure, therefore not an “end” but rather something to improve for the future. We learn a lesson from what we have done less well and we use this to do better next time.

This quarter, I could have : 

  • Stressed less. My main concern was stress, especially in the consulting part of my job. First customers = first real responsibilities where I found myself managing projects on my own … yes, it is impressive. Several times, I panicked, without showing it to the customer, but I panicked deep inside me. Many times, I thought I was not doing “enough” when finally everything went well. Many times I should have feared less and had more confidence in myself. That would have saved me a lot of sleepless nights and bad emotionnal moments.
  • Gotten more organised. When we are freelance we tend to do a lot of different things: reaching out to potential customers, accounting, emails, missions, blog (for me) etc. etc. It is easy to do everything at the same time, to mix everything and therefore lose in productivity. From now, I will try to plan time in my agenda. For example: Monday morning = emails, Monday from 14h to 15h = accounting. Tuesday = client A. Wednesday = blog and emails. Well, you got it ! Dedicate slots to a single task, for more concentration and less scatter.
  • Done more breaks. Another big mistake when working for yourself: work all the time. And especially too much. like, “I start at 8:30 and I do not look up until 2.30 pm and I have not even had lunch”. Or I start responding to my mails at 9pm, right in the middle of the film with the boyfriend. NO ! NO ! NO ! There is no worse like error and nothing better to get disgusted very quickly of what you do even if you are passionate! My boyfriend told me about a working method used in his company in Sweden: breaks of 5 mn every 30 mn, then after 3 times (1h30 of work), a break of 20 mn. It is believed – wrongly – that breaks slow down our pace, but it is just the opposite. This will boost your efficiency. This quarter I have not applied this advice enough and I will try to do it more in the next quarter.

3. My goals for the next quarter

Logically, if we take my “I could have done better quoted above”, we have:

  • Stress less in front of new challenges
  • Get more organised and block one time slot = one task in my agenda for more productivity
  • Take more breaks and not work more than 8-10 hours a day (even being passionate, personnal time and resting are super important !)

To which I’d like to add :

  • Have a wage average equivalent to my month of August over the months of September – October – November (which will not allow me to live exclusively on my salary but at least to touch very little to my savings what would already be a beautiful beautiful victory!)
  • Find a 3rd regular client at the consulting level
  • Have an average of 3 sponsored blog contracts per month, on single operations

These are somewhat optimistic but achievable goals. Far from being the ones I would like to get within a year of freelancing for example, but for a quarter 2 it would be a great start.

4. My advice for you, freelancers or willing-t0-become

Again, I am a baby freelancer and do not claim to bring you a revolutionary news that has never been told elsewhere. Or something absolutely true. Only my feelings, about what I think can help you succeed if you are freelance or help you get started.

  • Use networking! As a freelance, you must not be alone all the time ! It is necessary that you meet other freelancers. Sign up for events in your city, attend conferences, workshops, go to Facebook groups and be active, talk around you and never hesitate to offer your services as soon as the opportunity arises, go to a co-working a few days a week to work outside your home (I’m for example going to the beautiful Box Space in Malmö)… in short … move yourself 🙂 Don’t stay behind your desk, at least not always (it’s ok to do it most of the time – I do it!) ! This will help you meet some people, getting known in your area, but most importantly to exchange and learn from others, which is super important when starting your freelance career and even after.
  • Have confidence in yourself! In the beginning especially, we have the impression not to be legitimate, not to know “enough” to be credible and good. But in reality, this is not true! Every freelance started like this, and at the beginning you just have to trust yourself and give the best of what you know! Your client has chosen you because he trusts you, so trust yourself too. Spend twice as much time if needed to self-train at the beginning, but do it all at your best and it will go fine! If you have started all this, it is because you know things! You have your place in the world of self-entrepreneurship, so believe in yourself !
  • Pay attention to having “normal” work schedules. Yes, you like your job. Yes, you work a little bit when you want. But be careful not to find yourself doing days of 15h, common fact among freelancers, and to work 7 days a week. In the long run, you will get tired of your activity. And you definitely loose productivity!
  • Take breaks ! Try this Swedish method : breaks of 5 mn every 30 mn, then after 3 times (1h30 of work), a break of 20 mn. This will boost your brain and productivity! I’m going to try it myself !
  • Listen to yourself ! You have not chosen this life to work under pressure, and to do things you do not like. Sometimes, especially at the beginning, we are so looking for the least euro more that we would be willing to accept anything! But no, you did all that to be fulfilled with your job. Choose missions that inspire you, and clients who respect you. And that’s all.

That’s it, it will be everything for this quarter 1. I hope this article will have pleased you, and I give you an appointment around the end of November for a review of quarter 2.

+ Wish me luck ! +

* I am curious, is there any freelancers / entrepreneurs or desire for entrepreneurship among you?*

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