You may or may not know that I currently work freelance as a private educator (think tutor). This means that I’m my own boss, I set my rates and my hours, and I pay for my own expenses. And today I’m sharing about what I’ve learned so far.
I never expected myself to be a “freelance-r.” The idea of working freelance has often reminded me of that sleazy blond guy in The Devil Wears Prada who seduces bright-eyed Anne Hathaway in Paris. “Freelance” seemed to mean “dilettante,” and not in a good way. Who wants to write that down as their career?
But, while I am by no means an expert, this almost-year of working freelance has humbled me and forced me to grow– as a professional, an adult, and an educator.
As a private educator, I’ve found myself working with diverse families. I love the students and parents I work with, but navigating the ups and downs with each family is different. Such is the experience of a freelancer– clients vary greatly and exhibit a wide variety of needs and patterns.
In order to keep myself going through weeks where I’m quite busy as well as weeks when I have very little work, I’ve compiled some of the lessons I’ve learned this year.
6 Lessons I’ve Learned About Working Freelance
1) The “Economy of Relationships” is real.
When it comes to working freelance, relationships with clients are all you’ve really got to go on. They’re the ones that recommend me, rely on me, and trust me to do the very best I can in enhancing their child’s education. What keeps my job secure is that relationship— and of course, the fact that I achieve results. Read more about the Economy of Relationships in this Forbes article.
2) Going the extra mile will get you further than a mile.
There’s a fine line between exceeding expectations and overworking, but I’m talking about the former here. Just because someone doesn’t ask you to do something, doesn’t mean that you don’t do it. In fact it’s the opposite. It’s done wonders for my business and my relationships to go the extra mile for my students, whether it means putting together a review packet, helping them find sources, or choosing books for them from the library.
3) Being a professional sometimes means assessing your clients’ value.
Believe it or not, sometimes I say no to an inquiry, and not always because schedules don’t line up. I’m able to tell when a client is going to be a good client— someone who communicates, does their end of the work, shows up on time, pays without complications, cares about progress, etc. If a potential client seems unlikely to make the most of my services, I kindly let them know that I am not available.
4) Give something a try before you choose not to offer it.
Sometimes we decide we’re not fit for a task before we give it a whirl. And we can be right about that, but we don’t know for sure until we’ve tried. I worked with a student last week to study for the SAT’s the afternoon before. I had never done it before, and felt bad that she was literally cramming for a long test (a huge no-no). But the session went well! That said, I learned that I probably wouldn’t do it again, and have realized I do not enjoy offering test prep services.
5) Earn flexibility with consistency and appropriate boundaries.
Sometimes people forget that a freelancer is not their personal assistant. While I want them to feel cared for and catered to, they have to realize that I serve other students throughout the week. Balancing customer service with earning their understanding means that I have to be on top of it all the time. I’m never late, I check in often, I always respond quickly, I ask for feedback– and then when I need to go out of town for a week, no one questions my dedication.
6) It’s only worth it if you love it.
Freelance is hard. I personally have found it quite preferable to having a boss, but there’s much less scaffolding holding my business up. It’s unlikely that all of my students will cancel my services within a week, but clients do come and go, and I have to continue to look for them. I’m also in charge of my own professional development, marketing, content and client relationships. Furthermore, working part-time usually means a smaller spending budget and slower investment. All of these things are only worthwhile if you love the job.
Have you ever worked freelance, or are you planning to one day? What tips and experiences do you have? I’d love to know!