Why you shouldn’t be scared of going freelance

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Hello there! This is a post to help you overcome your fears and start your freelance career, right now. I was also scared of going freelance, and struggled with the same fears you are probably struggling with right now. First, let me start with one of my favorite quotes from Steve Jobs:

Your work is going to fill a large part of your life, and the only way to be truly satisfied is to do what you believe is great work. And the only way to do great work is to love what you do. If you haven’t found it yet, keep looking. Don’t settle. As with all matters of the heart, you’ll know when you find it. — Steve Jobs

Some time ago, I decided to take the leap and start my career as a full time iOS freelance developer.

The Story Behind My Decision

It was not an easy decision for me.

I have been developing for years, making Apps for companies, and even releasing for the App Store, so I knew I was ready for making a living out of it. However, I was in a safe, steady job (yeah, everybody would say you that there’s no thing such as a safe job, but I really had one).

Besides, here in Spain we were (and still are) going through a severe crisis. Unemployment rates are sky rocket high, and our politicians are too corrupt for doing anything else but taking all the money they can accumulate. Thus, it was not really the best moment for embracing an uncertain adventure.

Digital Leaves. Why you shouldn't be scared of going freelance

I Was Paralyzed By My Fears

The truth is, I was not just scared of going freelance. I was completely terrified about quitting my job and pursuing my full time freelance career.

Nevertheless, something inside me was telling me that I needed to do it, and I needed to do it at that very moment.

It might sound absurd, but I couldn’t work in a gray cubicle any longer, dealing with traffic jams every single morning, working on the same uncreative, repetitive tasks every single day.

Some nights, I was so stressed that I couldn’t sleep.

I woke up one morning, looked at myself in the mirror, and thought: “I don’t want to live my life this way, I don’t want to spend the entire week waiting desperately for the weekend to do something I really enjoy…”.

So putting my fears aside, I decided to do it. And I had quite a lot of fears and doubts going through my head at the time.

Fearing By Numbers

To enumerate some of the reasons why I was scared of going freelance, these were my biggest concerns:

  • Fear of loosing everything. I have a mortgage and bills to pay, and I was really worried about not having money to pay the next bill or being able to keep my house.
  • Fear of not finding customers. We live in a globalized world, which is great, because it exposes you to the global market. However, it can also be a curse, because there are thousands of skilled developers out there. As a result, you have to somehow stand out of the crowd for getting a contract. Besides, there are lots of developers out there that are really cheap and, even though they probably don’t deliver software of the same quality, I was scared that people would not appreciate quality and would only go for the cheapest bid (this is specially true here, in Spain).
  • Fear of not being good enough. I have something to confess. I am a perfectionist, to the point of the obsession. This is something good, because it always pushes me for giving my best when developing a product, but it has a dark side, that I always tend to think that other people has more coding skills and knowledge than me, and can develop and deliver faster and better than me. I was scared to find out that my skills were mediocre at best, and not good enough to sustain my career.
  • Fear of not being able to go backwards if I had chosen wrong. I was really scared that, if I quit my job (especially in this economic situation), I would not be able to find another job.

Analyzing My Fears: Why You Shouldn’t Be Scared Of Going Freelance

As I am writing this, I realize how absurd most of these fears were. Nevertheless for me, at that very moment, they were very real. So real in fact that they almost discouraged me from going freelance.

I am writing this to encourage you to put your fears aside as well.

I am not telling you this is going to be an easy walk, I am not telling you that you will find yourself getting loads of money and lazing around all day in the yard.

Don’t get me wrong. You will have to work, and work hard. You would probably find yourself working more hours than on your previous job (at least at the beginning). Probably working nights, and taking care of things you don’t really enjoy (like marketing, accounting, finding customers, etc).

However, trust me, it’s worth it, because, if you do what you love, you wouldn’t have to work a single day in your life.

Fear Of Loosing Everything

You shouldn’t be afraid of loosing everything. If you are good and (most importantly) passionate at what you do, you will eventually find customers and work to do.

When I decided to start my freelance career, I had literally no savings, a mortgage, and a rent to pay. In fact, I was not living in the same city where my house was, because I had to move for my previous job. However, I started to work hard and, after some time, job offers and customers started to appear.

Fear Of Not Finding Customers

You shouldn’t be afraid of not finding customers. Believe me, there is a lot of work out there waiting for you.

If you are good enough, work hard to prove it, and invest some time in getting yourself known, customers will eventually find your work and ask for your services.

First, you have to spend some effort in building a good portfolio. Then, you need to let the world know of your abilities. Don’t be afraid of marketing yourself, that’s something that you will need to learn in order to succeed.

Fear Of Not Being Good Enough

You shouldn’t be afraid of not being good enough. Let me tell you something: there is always going to be someone better than you, always.

You don’t need to be the best developer (or writer, or graphical artist, or whatever you do). However, you do need to work hard to improve your skills.

Indeed, you have to make sure to keep up with the latest trends and technologies of your profession. Also, you will need to keep on learning and recycling your skills, and acquire new ones that would add value to your services.

I do really believe that, if you spend enough time and dedication in something, you will eventually be good at it.

Fear Of Not Finding A Paid Job Again

You shouldn’t be afraid of  not finding a paid job again. When I launched my freelance career, I started to look for corporations and business that would need my services as a freelance developer, in order to build a customer portfolio.

What I found is that there are lots of corporations offering jobs (well paid jobs) for qualified professionals.

I found that I could be working again in a cubicle at any time… something that I didn’t (and still don’t) want.

That gave me peace of mind.

In Conclusion

To summarize, if you are reading this, and find yourself in the same situation that I was in, paralyzed by your fears, scared of going freelance, deciding whether or not you should embrace your personal endeavor, I would like to encourage you to avoid being blocked by your doubts.

Think deeply in the pros and cons, but don’t be scared of going freelance. Consider if this is the kind of life that you really want.

Keep in mind that it’s not going to be easy, but don’t let your fears take over the decision.

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Comments(13)

Digital Leaves | Being a full-time freelancer, pros and cons
March 2, 2014 At 2:08 pm

[…] grow as a person. For me, it was a difficult decision to start my freelance career. I was really scared. But I had to face my fears, and develop some capacities, such as self-confidence, organizational […]

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September 29, 2015 At 2:08 pm

[…] I love what Ignacio Nieto Carvajal shared when he discussed his freelancing fears: […]

Roy
September 29, 2015 At 2:08 pm

Hi.I rarely comments in blogs,buy cannot held myself.Am exactly in what you just described(Am also in IT) and its no coincidence that I’ve come across this article.Am sure that i’ll succeed in my en-devour .

Thanks a lot Ignacio!

    Ignacio Nieto Carvajal
    September 29, 2015 At 2:08 pm

    Thank you Roy, of course you will, and I wish you the best of lucks!
    Cheers.

Freelance Software Development Tips – Ray Wenderlich
February 26, 2016 At 2:08 pm

[…] Why you shouldn’t be scared of going freelance, by Ignacio Nieto […]

Freelance Software Development Tips | All Of App
February 26, 2016 At 2:08 pm

[…] Why you shouldn’t be scared of going freelance, by Ignacio Nieto […]

Mike Chapman
March 1, 2016 At 2:08 pm

Hi Ignacio,

I have been thinking about this for a while and this post has now given me the confidence to go ahead and go freelance. Cheers for a brilliant article.

All the best

Mike

自由程序员的 3 个开发技巧 | 冰雪.俊构
March 21, 2016 At 2:08 pm

[…] Why you shouldn’t be scared of going freelance, by Ignacio Nieto […]

自由程序员的 3 个开发技巧 | 客家网络
September 9, 2016 At 2:08 pm

[…] Why you shouldn’t be scared of going freelance, by Ignacio Nieto […]

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March 28, 2017 At 2:08 pm

[…] In order to dismantle this fear, let me quote you something I wrote in one of my previous articles: […]

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December 31, 2017 At 2:08 pm

[…] I discovered that most of my fears were completely unfounded. There is a vast world of opportunities out there. Don’t let the apparent competition of the […]

Adam Freeman
February 15, 2018 At 2:08 pm

I am new to freelancing as well. I have only used two websites so far: upwork and toptal. I have a *ton* of experience in industry but only contracting and as permanent employee. I have worked for major companies and helped build successful startups. But on upwork even though I believe I put together a really good portfolio I have applied to about thirty different things and not gotten one I guess either because I am charging too much at $50 an hour or becasue I do not have a reputation. Seems kind of difficult given my experience level. And I passed toptal’s first interview but I failed their online codility test. I can retake the test in about another month or so. I am new to taking those sort of online tests I was not really ready and had not really prepped for it because I thought it was going to be super easy but it was actually pretty tricky. Anyways this has kind of gotten to me a little bit. What do you suggest I do? I do want to be a freelancer.

    Ignacio Nieto Carvajal
    February 16, 2018 At 2:08 pm

    Hello there Adam.

    I would recommend you to stay away from places like Upwork or Toptal. They are thought for cheap outsorcing, not for quality professionals, and you will be fighting in bid wars agains a lot of other people.

    Additionally, customers looking for freelancers at those platforms are not looking for your quality services at $50/h. They are looking for the cheapest pakistani developer at $5/h. Of course, nothing against that, but not probably the place you want to be at.

    Instead, invest in building a good portfolio and look for other places, like linkedIn, meetup groups, local contacts, technological hubs and startup hubs or coworking centers.

    My two cents.

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