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Looking Back and Looking Ahead

Navigating the freelance life into 2018

Back Web Only Nov 10, 2017 By Cherise Henry

As we near the end of the year, you may find yourself checking in with your freelance business to take a look at what you’ve been up to and where you want to go in the coming New Year. (hashtag New Year Things.) Honestly, I find this time of year both inspiring and empowering when it comes to navigating the freelance life.  

The annual Freelancing In America study, an independent study commissioned by Freelancers Union and Upwork, shows what many freelancers already know: The freelance workforce is growing rapidly and adapting quickly in a fast-changing economy. We contributed $1.4 trillion to the U.S. economy in 2017, an increase of almost 30 percent from the previous year.

How was 2017 for your freelance life? What do you have planned for next year? Share with us @comstocksmag using the hashtag #FreelanceLife

At the current growth rate, the majority of the U.S. workforce will be freelancing in some capacity by 2027, according to the study, with younger generations driving the acceleration of freelancing — nearly half of millennials (47 percent) — more than any other generation. While the freelance work available might be anything from a one-time opportunity to a full-time contract, freelancers are increasingly opting in, with main motivators being freedom and flexibility (sounds familiar), and earning extra money.

Although a force to be reckoned with, freelancers also face unique financial challenges: income predictability, which may be in part reason why we increasingly think having a diversified portfolio of clients is more secure than one employer (63 percent agree) and have an average of 4.5 clients per month. This is the million dollar question — how to create consistent income — and probably the most common conversation among freelancers, new and old, including those running in freelance circles here in Sacramento.

If you’ve been following my freelance journey here at Comstock’s for the last 18 months, you know this year included an immense pivot in the direction of my entrepreneurial and freelance life. During my professional “Year Of the Pivot,” I completely shifted what my freelance business looked and felt like, from clients and projects to marketing and networking.

Being an inquisitive solopreneur (and journalist), I of course wanted to know what my freelance colleagues around Sacramento thought about this year when it comes to their freelance life. I asked: What has 2017 looked like for you? And looking ahead to 2018, what do you hope to accomplish in your freelance life? How will you get there?

Here’s what some Capital Region freelancers had to say.

“2017 was good to me. I scaled back on the number of projects and clients I took on as we adjusted to having another new baby and becoming a family of five. This is truly what I love most about a freelance career: the freedom to choose, and the flexibility you have in determining how big or small you want to be. I just took my first retreat this last month since starting out as a freelancer almost five years ago. I dusted off my really old business plan, created a goals document for 2018 about the type of clients and work I want to pursue. I plan to revisit this document throughout the year, and definitely make a retreat an annual occurrence (if not twice a year). It’s such a good exercise to reflect on the year, see what goals you achieved and think about what’s next!” ~ Christina Kiefer, communications consultant and writer

“For me 2017 has been all about balance. My wife and I undertook a fairly large remodel project on our home this summer. We handled a lot of the project ourselves, including the general contracting. I figured it would be somewhat difficult to manage both a full-time freelance schedule and a remodel, but I definitely underestimated how tough it would be. It has been a challenge to manage time between work and construction, but it has improved my time-management skills quite a bit. I’m hoping to apply those time-management skills better in 2018, to help increase and expand my freelance business.” ~ Ted Angel, freelance graphic and web designer

“As a stay-at-home mom I have dabbled in freelance work over the years. In 2017, the professional relationships I have established created the groundwork for building my portfolio with even more meaningful pieces. In 2018, I hope to challenge myself by writing for more publications. To do this, I will need to research and have courage.” ~ Amber Pryor, writer

“In 2017, I quit my teaching job and focused on just freelancing instead of trying to juggle both. It was bittersweet because I love teaching, too, but with a second baby at home I had to let something go. Looking back, I know I made the right choice even if I’ve been typing away since I got home from the hospital. That’s the reality of freelancing as my primary work — the boundaries are harder to create at home. However, in the last couple months, I’ve hired help with my girls and everything feels like it’s falling into place. For 2018, my goal is return to some fiction writing instead of using every available minute of my work hours to try and scale my business. I’m going to do this by setting aside one afternoon a week where nothing has to be billed to anyone. My three words: I matter too.” ~ Olivia O’Bryon Mackey, writer

“Freelance life is more positive now that the union [Freelancers Union SPARK Sacramento] has formed. There is so much positivity surrounding freelance life now, compared to when I started six years ago. In 2018, I hope to continue to build consistent clients and income, while expanding my freelancer referral network. I will get there through helping other freelancers.” ~ Erin Gordon, freelance web developer

Sara Horowitz, founder and executive director of Freelancers Union, said it best in a recent blog post for the organization: “The world of work is changing, and freelancers are at the heart of our new economy. As the workforce experiences challenges like never before, it’s up to us to envision and build a new support system to make sure independent workers are able to thrive.”

Let’s continue to thrive, freelancers. Cheers to you and to another year in the freelance books.

Follow Cherise’s journey as she navigates the freelance life.

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Buzzwords: Pivot

Generally refers to a shift in entrepreneurial approach; describes the strategy most businesses employ to find the right customer, value proposition and positioning

For this month’s column, I thought I’d reach out to people who made multi-tasking an artform and get them to explain how they so easily “pivot” from one task to another on a daily basis. But I found out that’s only one definition of pivot, and so I pivoted this column to another, more business-oriented version. (See what I did there?)

Jun 5, 2017 Robin Epley