Based in Chicago, Illinois, The Freelance Beat is a blog exploring the triumphs and challenges that freelance journalists encounter in their early and mid-careers.

Employee Habits to Drop Once You're a Freelancer

Employee Habits to Drop Once You're a Freelancer

My first few months of full-time freelancing were bumpy. Without at part-time or full-time job to sustain me, I relied heavily on my savings and pitched like I’ve never pitched before. Some months were quite profitable, but other weeks were desert dry.

In the beginning, it was odd not having a single boss to go to for feedback, tasks, and a steady paycheck. While meeting with potential clients, pitching and writing stories, and freaking out, I had to unlearn my a lot of staffer habits to build a functioning freelance business:

Billing Hourly

Yes, hourly or yearly is the standard. But as a freelancer, you have to charge for value. (Contently has a better explanation of what I mean by that). Of course, you need to think of how long a project will take to complete, but you’ll also need to factor in administrative duties, delays and how much you need to make annually. Build those factors into your rate.

Waiting for feedback

Staffers typically have yearly evaluations of their past performance or, depending on how good or bad a task was completed, they’ll get feedback in the moment. As a freelancer, you have to seek out constructive criticism from your clients. Ask them how you can make their lives easier? What projects were they really pleased with? How can you improve overall?

Fear of losing income

With a full-time job, your employer is responsible for your wages, health insurance, retirement account, and other benefits. Plus, it can take a while to get a new job. So it's easy to feel trapped or stuck if things aren’t going well at work. But as a freelancer, you have to spot and remove bad clients from your business. The longer you keep them around, the more stress they’ll cause you. Not sure what signs to look for? Start here. You want to do what you can to keep your clients happy, but you also want to make sure that you’re not taking time away from other clients who want your services and treat you well. If you feel the need to walk away, make sure you have a healthy savings account to sustain you while looking for new clients.

Fear of sales

Okay, so selling yourself feels a bit sleazy, but it’s an important part of freelancing. As the saying goes, closed mouths don’t get fed. Now that you’re no longer working for a company with a marketing department, you need to sell your services to potential clients on the spot or in detailed pitches.

Avoiding numbers

With the exception of data or financial journalists, reporters are generally not fond of math. Plus, the publishing and editorial sides of a publication are traditionally separate. But just as social media and SEO decisions have increasingly crept into editorial decisions, freelancers have to pay attention to the numbers that affect their business. Pay attention to your revenue and expenses. Track your time and see which projects are less profitable than others. Know your numbers, and you’ll see which clients are actually worth your while.  

What staff/hourly worker habits have you had to unlearn as a freelancer? Tell me in the comments or email me at

There's money in journalism

There's money in journalism

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