I would like to create a series of articles, named Freelancing Success Stories, to give you all examples of people who were able to make it in the freelancing world and maybe encourage you to also take the plunge. While I gather ‘intel’ from other successful small business owners I know, let’s start with my own story.
Can you please give us few details about yourself?
I’m a graphic / web designer, who’s been focusing on her freelancing career in the past 5 years and was able to get out of debt, travel a lot and support my family. I currently live in Romania (where I was also born), am married and have an almost 9 month old daughter.
What made you start freelancing?
‘Made’ is indeed a great word to be used, I was almost forced by my financial situation back in 2009. I’ve actually started web design 12 years ago, it was more of a hobby than anything else. I’d spend a lot of time online, learning and running my own web sites.
After a while few people noticed my talent and asked me to do web design work for them, so I started earning some money. Never pursued it seriously though, since I had a well paid job and never thought I’d come to run my own business.
Then, in July 2009, my job was gone and I had nowhere to go. One year before that I decided to take an expensive car loan and also got a .ltd for my small business, so here I was: deep in debt, owing a lot of money for my car, having to pay taxes and .. having to eat, clothe myself etc.
It was a horrible time and it’s the moment I actually thought that running my own small business might not be such a bad idea (it was the only solution anyway).
For 3-4 months I worked very waking hour, while my folks pitched in to pay for my food, utilities etc. I was still living at home, but usually, when still had a job, I’d pay my share and help them with money. Well, long gone were those times, so they made an effort and helped me get through.
How was the beginning?
As already mentioned, it was VERY difficult. I had to work a lot, for very small fees. Got myself an Elance account and did the best I could. Slowly my ranking started to rise, as I finished more jobs and got 5 star reviews from my clients. After few months I was able to increase my rates and not have to work for 16 hours/day.
Slowly, my reputation got better and I was on the first page in the search results for my chosen category, which is amazing, given the fact there are at least tens of thousands of other freelancers. As you can guess, I got to pick the jobs now (would get at least 5-6 invitations/day) and work at way better prices.
Would you consider you have reached freelancing success?
For me, running my own small home based business is THE BEST thing that happened (except for the birth of my child :)).
My small business allowed me to travel for 20 months since 2010 (while still earning a buck from any location), I have earned enough to become debt free, pay for everything I needed to give birth in a private clinic, was also able to support my husband’s business for the first year and a half, when it didn’t quite take off. We’re both working from home now and doing well, so this gives us a really good feeling about our future.
What are the 3 top things you love about freelancing / running your small business?
- FREEDOM – I can schedule my time as I want to, based on the deadlines and family plans. I might work for 3 days straight and then just take some days off to play with my baby or travel. It’s an amazing thing to never have to count your vacation days or try to convince your boss you need a day off.
- MONEY – my worst months got me at least 2 times the money I used to earn as an employee. I had some amazing months too, overall the earnings are enough for us to live comfortably and not have to worry too much about tomorrow.
- PEOPLE – I have worked with some outstanding people, most of my clients are really good people and businessmen. Sure, some were slow to pay for instance or tried to be abusive, but they were soooo few. The majority are absolutely a pleasure to work with and I have learned so much from them.
What are the top 3 things you don’t like about freelancing?
To be honest I really have not pet peeves, I have understood all the challenges one needs to face to accomplish freelancing success and made my peace with it. Anyway, if there should be the 3 dislikes, here they are:
- not being able to really take a break. When I used to work as an employee, once my work day was done, I stopped caring about the company. Now, I am constantly thinking about my business (which at the end of the day is not that bad anyway)
- having to do all the work myself. Sure, this is good, since no one can really mess things up for me, but I also have to take all the responsibility for my actions.
- not having a fixed income. Work and you earn, take a vacation and you don’t.
Do you have any plans to develop your business further?
Right now I am very content with my small business and I don’t plan on developing further (hiring people, getting an office etc.). I do work on expanding my earning options though (create some digital downloads, grow few web sites to increase my advertising revenue).
Maybe, when my daughter will get older, I’ll start a web design studio in the city, but right now I get all the flexibility I need when it comes to time management and I do earn enough for a comfortable living.
What would you say is your best advice for someone to reach freelancing success?
WORK hard! Don’t let anyone convince you it’s impossible to make money. It’s not, there are millions of people from all over the world who are running their small businesses and earn a living. It’s not easy, but it can be done. Just find out what your real talent is and learn how to ‘sell’ it.
Do you have your own freelancing success story? Please contact me to have your story featured on PFToday. I’d like us to prove that, with hard work and dedication, ANYONE can achieve success. Thank you for reading Gabi’s story, please share it, if you find it’s inspiring.