10 mind-shifts you MUST have today to be a successful and happy freelancer

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Stop beating yourself up over little things. Realize that you’re good enough. And acknowledge that your work is worth paying for. These are just a few of the key mind-shifts you’ll need to have if you’re truly going to thrive as a freelancer.

Below, you’ll find ten mind-shifts you must have (about your clients, about your work, about your rates, and about your business) if you truly want to be successful.

If I’ve left anything out, please let me know by leaving a comment.

About your clients

1. Your clients are not aiming to upset you.

Some days it may be hard to remember, but your clients are not actually aiming to frustrate or upset you.

When they ask for changes you just don’t understand, can’t explain what they’re looking for but they’ll “know it when they see it,” or are simply hard to get a hold of, they’re not doing it on purpose.

Few clients lie awake at night reading design blogs and trying to figure out how to really tick you off the next day.

In fact, your clients probably don’t even think about you that often. So stop flattering yourself and realize that they are NOT out to get you.

2. Your clients are not “from hell.”

Ever since the notorious Clients from Hell web site hit the scene, we’ve fueled our passion for talking trash about our clients.

Guess what: your clients are not “from Hell.”

They’re humans. They (most likely) run businesses. And, for the most part, they aren’t designers, copywriters, photographers, etc. like you. They simply live and work in a different world.

3. Your clients are not dumber than you are.

Lastly, and maybe most importantly, your clients are not dumber than you.

Do they know less about Photoshop? Probably.

Do they shrug when you ask “How’s the kerning on that type treatment?”

Almost definitely.

But if your clients don’t know the terminology you’re using, who’s fault is that? Not theirs.

Your clients aren’t dumb. They’re likely extremely smart … in an industry entirely different than yours. Let’s see how long you can intelligently talk about dental work, laser engraving, movie theater concessions, or the business of mini-golf.

About your work

4. Your work is good.

You’re an artist. Ergo, you doubt yourself.

We all do it.

We wonder if our work is stacking up. We wonder if it’s good enough.

I’m here to tell you that it is. Your work is good.

Is it the best work in the whole world? Probably not. But maybe.

And if you’re working hard to improve your work all the time, live by standard design principles, and accept constructive criticism, then you’re doing just fine. Your work is good.

5. Your work is improving.

Since your work is good, there’s always room for improvement.

But your work is most likely improving.

Not sure? Take a look at your portfolio pieces from one year ago…two years ago…five years, a decade…

Scary, right?

Don’t worry. You’re getting better all the time. Remember, practice makes perfect.

6. Your work is worth paying for.

Lastly, remember that your work is worth paying for. Stop giving away your work for free. Once you start believing your work is worth real money, other people will start to believe it as well.

About your rates

7. Your rates should be high.

You deserve to make a healthy income from freelancing. You provide a quality service for your clients. A service that (usually) makes them money in return.

When your clients pay you, they’re making an investment in their business. There’s no shame in charging for that.

8. Your rates can fluctuate.

You’re running your own business. Therefore, you can set your rates at whatever you want. Charge some clients more or less depending on how important they are you to or what percentage of your business they represent.

There are no laws that say you must charge the same rate to each client.

About your business

9. Your business can be anything you want it to be.

You are the owner of your own destiny.

Whether you want to start a huge design firm or just run a profitable one-person shop out of your basement, you can do it.

Think BIG.

10. Your business provides value to the world.

Last, but not least, you have to believe your business provides value to the world.

That single mind-shift will have you waking up earlier out of shear excitement, working harder during the day, and being generally more happy about the work that you do.

There you have it

Well, there they are. Ten mind-shifts you must make today in order to make the most of your freelancing career. If I left any out, please let me know in the comments.

And if you know any designers, freelancers, copywriters, entrepreneurs, etc. that need this advice, please do me a favor and share this post with the world via twitter, linkedin, or Facebook.

About Preston D Lee

Preston is a web designer, entrepreneur, and the founder of this blog. @prestondlee

Comments

  1. This was actually a pleasant read. It was nice to receive this in my inbox and feel better about what I do and the pros of freelancing. It’s easy to start having negative feelings about so many of the things you bring up in this article. Thanks Preston!

  2. Thank you for this post! It was good to hear on a Monday morning when my week is beginning! Now…on to do the work!

  3. Thank you for this up-lifting article.

  4. Thanks for that. It was touching. really. I needed it and it improved my temporary despair.

  5. Great article, Preston. I chuckled when I read this: ‘Few clients lie awake at night reading design blogs and trying to figure out how to really tick you off the next day.’ :-)

  6. Finally!! I hate all the “clients from hell” articles and the constant whining that goes on from fellow freelancers about their clients. I love all my clients and I have never considered them as “dumb” or “annoying”. It’s ridiculous how egotistical some freelancers are towards the fellow business owners who keep their services alive. Yes, some test you more than others but that’s part of the whole package and the better you are at working with that then the more successful your business will be.
    Well said Preston!

  7. Thank you for this valuable blog post. I just printed it and I’ll hang it on the wall, right above my desk!

  8. A refreshing article to read – self doubt often creeps in (usually until that eureka moment when you finally recognise that you’re on the right lines) and it’s just nice to hear other designers acknowledging similar thoughts and feelings!

  9. I really appreciated this post. I’ve been in a rut for some time about whether or not I should continue trying to freelance. I’ve had a client here and there, and they always fall through with the job. It’s been a real struggle to even have the desire to keep going. This post really inspired me to keep it up – something I really need right now. Thanks again man! You’re the best and you’re timing (or maybe God’s timing) is impeccable!

  10. “There are no laws that say you must charge the same rate to each client.” — This is something that I struggle with on a daily basis when giving quotes to potential clients. I always second guess myself, and have the usual ‘did I quote too high / low’ battle in my mind. It’s good to hear I’m not the only one that worries about that!

    Great article Preston!

  11. Excellent post Preston. I do agree that it’s all about attitude. Your post helps us to keep things in perceptive and not to take it personally with the clients (when things don’t go as per your fancies).
    It also reinforces that my prices are fair and justified :)

    thanks a lot

  12. Some really good points made here and one which I think many designers (myself definitely included) should take on board. The one which I think is doubly-true is that “clients are not from hell” and that “they are not stupid.” I tell my team to have a “jargon free” approach to handling clients…. they are a source of future business and new clients, so it’s incredibly important to keep them on board and keep treat them with the respect they deserve.

  13. Great article! Every designer should read this!

  14. “People are counting on you”. You were hired because you have the skills and these skills are usually valued (even if some days it feels like they aren’t!). You can help someone getting results. That’s valuable.

  15. A Wonderful read Preston! Each paragraph is very true! Thanks for posting this brilliant article!

    I have made over 10-15 changes with one client many times. And will happily continue to do this because the client is awesome, pays well, prompt with finances and is guaranteed-income for me on a monthly basis. Plus the client lets me do whatever I want with my design from the get-go. What more could one ask for?

    It’s very true: it’s all about attitude. I got this perfect client the moment I stopped whining. If you’re going to complain all day, then that’s all you’re going to attract. Pure and simple. Maybe you’ll want to join particular blogs ;) and complain some more. That’s how you create your own reality of ‘clients from hell’, placing yourself in a never-ending perpetual motion.

    All of my clients have been great and the roster continues to grow for me!
    I learn from them and they learn from me, it’s amazing!

  16. Thank youuuu! This is a very up lifting article. Self-doubt is not a good feeling. So it really makes me feel better when i read point 4-6.

  17. Thanks for this master piece :-D. I was getting demotivated by several other freelancers, but now I believe there is a way to over come my clients. :-D

  18. Some of the best advice ive heard in a long time, and its good across all media creatives.

    4. Your work is good.

    You’re an artist. Ergo, you doubt yourself.

    We all do it.

    We wonder if our work is stacking up. We wonder if it’s good enough.

    I’m here to tell you that it is. Your work is good.

    Is it the best work in the whole world? Probably not. But maybe.

    And if you’re working hard to improve your work all the time, live by standard design principles, and accept constructive criticism, then you’re doing just fine. Your work is good.

    5. Your work is improving.

    Since your work is good, there’s always room for improvement.

    But your work is most likely improving.

    Not sure? Take a look at your portfolio pieces from one year ago…two years ago…five years, a decade…

    Scary, right?

    Don’t worry. You’re getting better all the time. Remember, practice makes perfect.

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