You can be a freelancer. Don't worry. You don't have to quit your job. You can act like a freelancer without giving up the steady paycheck. You just have to think of your job as a gig that pays you biweekly and covers your health insurance. And remember that it can end at any time if you'd like it to.
Having a freelance attitude has never been more important than it is today. In the unfortunate event that downsizing or restructuring affects your position, you'll be more prepared if you follow these guidelines.
I also believe you'll find yourself doing things you've always wanted to do. People will wonder where you get all your energy. And you may even find yourself making more money.
1. Stop complaining.
A freelancer knows that complaining is a waste of time, especially complaining about work. A freelancer never does that , because work is where the money comes from. And money is the stuff that makes all other things possible. The habit of complaining attracts other complainers, too. And they tend to be energy-draining, vampire-like people. So stop complaining now. This one step will transform your life.
2. Know your day rate.
Freelancers always know their value. Their day rate, their hourly wage. What is your time worth? Figure it out based on your salary. Then understand that all the time you spend watching TV is money you're spending. And you can't put it down as an entertainment expense -- I checked. So what could you be making if you used the hours between your job and sleeping? Make it your second job to do something you've always wanted to do.
3. Know the problem.
Freelancers are always clear on what problem they're being paid to solve. If they're not clear on that , they can't get the work done. And then they won't get paid, or at least won't get called back. Understanding the problem is crucial. That means a freelancer listens really well. A freelancer also asks questions. A lot of staffers don't do this because they're happy with things being confused. They're still getting paid, after all. Be the staffer that wants to solve the problem and you will be like a golden god to your boss. You may even be asked to freelance after you quit.
4. Write down your goals.
Freelancers are always looking for the next project. Once they've solved this problem, what's next? Freelancers always have several goals to reach for or problems to solve. That way, they always know what to do with their valuable time. Get a book on goal-setting. Brian Tracy's "Maximum Achievement" is a good one. But they all say the same thing: Write down your goals in the first person and in the present tense. Imagine what it would feel like to have achieved your goals. Try to envision them as accomplished. Read your goals every day. Set out concrete steps to get to your goals. If you don't know how to arrive at a goal, ask someone who has done it. Have giant goals as well as smaller ones.
5. Make everything "work."
While freelancers have a flexible lifestyle, it seems as if they're always doing something. That's because when work is slow, they turn to personal projects. These are things that may not make a lot of money now but may turn into something down the road. Or that can garner attention, or are just fun. What do you like to do? It doesn't matter if it's profitable. You should treat it just like work. Make it a goal, with a list of action steps to reach it. Hold yourself accountable. Or, if you need to have a boss, get someone else to hold you accountable.
6. Do one thing at a time.
Freelancers do one thing at a time. When you're charging for every hour, you have a real grasp of this truth: It is impossible to do two things at once. Block out distractions. Try putting everything you have to do into your calendar. Say no to people interrupting you for "a quick question." Adopt the Getting Things Done habit of putting all your "to-dos" into one physical inbox on your desk and one virtual inbox on your laptop or phone, instead of having them all over the place.
7. Use the network.
Freelancers see opportunity in everything and everyone. They're not just random people you met at a party or on Facebook. They're connections. They're leads. And they could be the people that help publish your novel. Or join your Rollerblade gang. Or introduce you to the guy who knows the guy who builds the helicopter you've been designing in your head. People are opportunities. Does it sound cold? Because it isn't a bad thing. You have stuff to teach them, too. Give and ye shall receive. By the way, I'd like to add you to my professional network on LinkedIn.
8. Sing your own praises.
Freelancers are their own salesman and PR machine. They're always looking for ways to promote the business. How could you promote yourself better? Start a blog. Or a funny Tumblr. Or a bowling league. Build a website of your work. Start a mailing list and send out emails. Brag about the work you've done, because it's awesome.
9. Make time for your favorite people.
When you're on staff, you end up having to spend eight or 10 hours a day with people you may not like. Freelancers make time for the people who matter. Schedule lunch with a friend every week. Carve out a night to get home early and play a board game with the kids. Again, scheduling is the key. And keep these just as if they were work appointments. In the end, they are more important.
Freelancers are always smiling, because they're masters of their own destiny and 100% responsible for everything that they've accomplished. If they're having a down day, they know a good day rate is right around the corner. If they make a mistake, they own up to up to it and learn from it. And they keep smiling. Freelancers laugh at themselves, because they know that fear is evil and that a smile is magic.
This piece was adapted from Tom Christmann's blog, wereallfreelance.com. Mr. Christmann is an award-winning creative who worked full-time at many agencies in the business including BBDO, Taxi and JWT, and is now a full-time freelance creative.