Here’s the freelance career dream.
Work for yourself. Possess a recession-proof skillset. Earn fat stacks. Do what you want.
Here’s today’s reality.
- You can’t afford to quit a job you don’t like.
- You went solo but lack of income stability is giving you second thoughts.
Well check this out. The opportunity is there. The money is there. Last week, I earned $4,000 just sitting in my chair writing skyscraper articles. Easy peasy. And I’ll tell you a secret if you promise to keep it between the two of us. I didn’t even work all that hard.
In other words, you can do this too. But how?
Well, the answer is NOT that you just have to want it bad enough or some silly nonsense like that.
What you need is a plan. You need a step-by-step guide to going from present reality to tangible dream in a reasonable amount of time, because ain’t nobody got time for soul-sucking jobs or bill-paying anxiety.
Been there. Done that. No thanks.
So that’s what I’ll be giving you today. A no-nonsense guide to launching a sustainable solo career in under a year.
I’m done yapping. Let’s get to the plan.
Step 1. Find Something That Brings You Enjoyment AND Comes In Green
I don’t want to burst your bubble… wait, no, that’s exactly what I want to do. The truth is that 99% of you can’t simply “follow your passion” and make a stable income. There’s ALWAYS the 1% to whom the rules don’t apply, but let’s not mistake anecdotes for legitimate evidence.
Here’s what you CAN do. You can pursue something you are interested in and adjust course to catch a fulfilling mix between passion and profitability.
When I first started as a freelance writer, I wanted to write about sports and religion. I quickly discovered, however, that I wasn’t the only would-be writer interested in those topics. In fact, there were SO many people clamoring to write sports editorials and religious op-eds, that many writers in these niches work for pennies.
Here’s an email I received from a fairly successful sports blog editor who had enjoyed my guest post and was hoping to bring me on as a regular writer.
I’m obviously not familiar with how much you normally make, so I apologize if this offer is low.
Based on offers we’ve made in the past in similar situations, i’d be willing to do something like a 10 articles/$100 per month deal. Considering most of our writers make about $3 per articla, I think $10/article is a fair rate as long as you continue to product engaging, long-form content similar to your LeBron piece.
Let me know what you think and we’ll go from there.
$10 per article was his “hey, you are really good” price offer.
So I had to make a choice. Do I try to “make it” with my top-choice topics or should I adjust and try to find something different? I decided to keep looking, and I discovered that marketing was a topic I really enjoyed AND had some legitimate income attached to it.
Today, I am 5 years into a marketing career and won’t even consider writing an article for less than $200. I love what I do, and I make a great living.
But imagine if I had been stubborn about my initial passion?
Remember, don’t abandon your interests altogether. Find something that meets your unique requirements for both passion AND profit—your own personal niche.
If, for some reason, you have zero idea where to begin looking, stop being a doofus and just go do a bunch of stuff, try a bunch of things, read a bunch of books, and talk to a bunch of people. You’ll come across something profitable that interests you at some point.
Step 2. Begin an Extended Period of Focused Learning
A lot of people never figure out Step #1, but Step #2 is where we see the biggest drop-off.
I’d also guess that this is where you probably find yourself. You’ve identified something that will hold your interest while making you money, and now it’s time to FOCUS. It’s time to stop flirting with everything that catches your attention, particularly if you are already holding down a job while trying to launch a brand new career.
This is where our guide really begins. This is also where most people fail.
It can be hard to focus on one thing and one thing only for 6 months straight, but that’s your job now. So what are you focusing on?
Find 10 top blogs covering the niche you are interested in and just read. Read, read, read, read, read. Or listen to podcasts… you can do that, too. Or watch videos. You get the idea.
What you read, watch, or listen to doesn’t matter, so long as it’s focused on your niche.
Now that you’ve spent a full month devouring content, it’s time to narrow your focus just a bit. Identify a few subsets in your target niche and dig deeper. Where Month #1 was about breadth, Month #2 is about depth.
Explore deeper into a few of the subsets that were most intriguing to you and see what continues to hold your interest and what fades away.
By now, you should have a fairly solid general understanding of your niche. You know some of the influential players and have an idea of which area is most appealing to you.
In Month #3, devote your focus exclusively towards the niche subset that intrigues you most. Go as deep as possible. Learn, learn, learn.
At this point, if you are serious about launching your new career in under a year, you really need to involve some mentorship in your learning process. There are two primary ways to do this:
- Learn from someone you know
- Pay someone to teach you
Most of you probably won’t be lucky enough to already know someone in your selected niche, so at this point, you’ll need to pay someone to mentor you.
Depending on your budget, this could look like a private mastermind or a general course. I’d recommend doing something in the middle if possible—a preset training progression combined with limited personal mentoring. This should give you the most bang for your buck.
Step 3. Start Doing Some Actual Freelance Work
“Classroom” learning is valuable, and you don’t want to dive into freelance work without it, but it can’t compete with real-world experience.
At some point during your mentorship process, you need to begin actually getting out there and trying stuff out. You need to begin pitching clients or utilizing your skills to help actual people and/or businesses.
Your ultimate goal may not be freelancing, but that’s where you should start. If you want to start a business, freelancing in that business’s niche is fantastic experience. If you want to begin a new career as an employee in your selected niche, freelancing is essential to your resume.
And of course, if you want to be a soloprenuer, you will be doing a lot of freelancing.
By Month #7 you should absolutely, no excuses have landed a client. This doesn’t have to be a high-paying or even acceptable-paying client. It’s fine if you are doing something for pennies, but by Month #7, if you don’t already have a paying client, now is the time to hustle and grab one.
In these next few months, it’s important to merge your previous or ongoing mentoring with your actual freelance activities. Too often, people learn and then forget. You have to connect the insights with the real-world activities if you want to succeed.
If your Month #7 client was a recurring client, focus on improving in one aspect of your freelance activity every week. Improve a little here and a little there. If they were a one-off client, make sure you get a new client each month.
I can’t emphasize this enough, but it is SO MUCH MORE IMPORTANT to be improving in your skillset than making money at this point. Yes, you need to have a paying client, but don’t focus on the level of compensation. Focus on the level of value you are able to provide and increase it every week.
By this point, you’ve had 8 full months of focused learning in your niche subset. You’ve also spent 4 months doing actual work. You’ve either held a client for 4 months or landed 4 different clients, which means you have a basic feel for generating your own businesses.
Month #11 is all about putting the pedal to the medal and seeing how high you can fly. Every single second of your spare time should be devoted to seeing how many pitches you can send out, how many clients you can land, and how much business you can acquire in one month.
Step 3 and Month 12: Evaluate and Make a Decision
If you followed all the steps up to this point, you will be incredibly surprised at how successful you are in Month #11. You will land more clients than you expect, and depending on how confident you are, you will probably earn enough money from freelancing to begin believing that you just might have a shot as a soloprenuer.
Many of you will be ready to launch at this point. You’ll put your 2-4 weeks notice in and continue building your freelance portfolio. In other words, you’ll have finally qualified to drink coffee and look at MacBooks for a living.
Others will want to spend another month or two building out their portfolio and confirming they can make real money from month to month.
Regardless, you will have launched yourself into an entirely new career in under a year. Congrats!
Your turn! Have you broken free from your job? Did you have an action plan? Any tips you can add? Let us know in the comments below!