Top 5 Ways to Survive as a Freelancer

Top 5 Ways to Survive as a Freelancer

by Sherry Heyl

Whether you call it freelancing, contracting, consulting, or running a very small company, going out on your own and earning your own paycheck is not only the fastest growing employment trend right now, I do believe it will be the primary employment option in the very near future.

As someone who has been on my own for over a decade I know that as many benefits that there are to this way of working, there are just as many emotional, rocky drawbacks.

You can go for months, even years with a healthy cash flow and then lose that one client or find your skills have become outdated or less relevant.

You can go through days loving your job and not believe how lucky you are that you get to live life on your own terms and then all of a sudden realize how lonely it is working in your home office or at the local coffee shop.

Besides the fact that you are responsible for marketing, sales, delivering, keeping your skills up to date, accounting and more, you are also your own coach, mentor, boss, and you are ultimately responsible for pulling yourself into the office to give yourself a pep talk when you hit a rut or things are getting a bit rough.

Here are my top 5 ways to get through the twists and turns.

Focus on the Now

When you lose a client or get hit with a big expense you may begin to start thinking about how that will affect the future. Will you be able to pay your bills? Will you be able to go on that vacation you promised your family?

These thoughts just begin to build on the anxiety. Anxiety keeps you focused on the things that are causing your fear and blinds you to where other answers and opportunities may be close by. You also may start feeling a little desperate to win that next deal, but no one wants to hire a person that comes across as desperate. You have to pull yourself together and regain your confidence. I have found the best way to do that is to focus on what is going on at this exact moment and begin counting the blessings of the moment. I still have a home. I still have electricity. I still have some money coming in. I still have people who know and respect me. By focusing on what you still have you will be able to see the pieces you need to put together to rebuild what you may have recently lost.

Get Social

It is vital that you have a group of people, whether through an association you belong to, volunteer activities, or a peer group of friends, that can inspire you. Recently I was at a board meeting listening to someone talk about how they were dealing with and handling a particularly tense situation. It was a good reminder for me that these are my people. This is who I am. When you work by yourself for long stretches of time you might lose some of the professional identity that breeds confidence.

Meet with a friend for breakfast to share experiences, join association boards to learn from other leaders, share your experiences with others who can learn from them and at the same time, you will be reminded where you have been and how much you have grown.

Spend at Least 20% of Your Time Learning

Don’t allow yourself to get knocked over by a new technology or a change in an existing technology. Focus at least 20% of your time learning about your industry as well as other related industries. Take classes online, many of them are free. Attend events where you can learn from your peers.

Not only will this keep you relevant, but you can begin to write or speak about your thoughts on the industry and keep yourself positioned as an expert.

Continuously Grow Your Network

First, this is not about selling. As a recovering salesperson, I have come to realize that sales is a dead profession. No one cares about your cold calls or your pitches. When people have a question they look up the answers online (this is why it is a good idea to publish your thought leadership) or ask a friend or acquaintance. The more friends and good acquaintances you have the more referrals you will bring in.

Be sure you can concisely say what you do and the value you bring to your clients. This will help others to know when to think of you when they see an opportunity to refer business to you. And be sure you are actively helping others in your network. As a famous salesperson once said,

“You can have everything you want if you just help other people get what they want.”

– Zig Ziglar

5. Keep Track of the Magic

This last point might feel a little woo woo for some of you. I get it. It is woo woo. But that does not mean magic does not happen and the more you begin to keep track of the magic the more you will feel comfortable relying on it to swoop in and bail you out when you need it most.

Every time, without fail, that I start making calls to people to try to drum up business, I get a deal. You might be thinking Duh!

The thing is the deal never comes from the people I am calling on. It almost always comes from a person I would never expect, such as a referral from my childhood friend’s mom, or a person I have not spoken to in over 10 years.

There have been a half dozen times when I was running on financial fumes and I get a call from someone or meet with someone who happens to have a checkbook with them ready to hire and pay me for my services on the spot. Weird and wonderful things happen. Believe in them. At a minimum, it will help you keep calm and focus on solutions.

If you are thinking or preparing to go out on your own, I have one final bit of advice for you. You will never be ready. Never. So you have to make the decision if you are willing to wear every hat and coach yourself through the rough, rocky, rollercoaster of self-employment. When I started out I used to have a quote hanging over my desk, “jump off cliffs and build your wings on the way down.


Published April 24, 2018

About Sherry Heyl

Sherry Heyl is an award-winning marketing manager with in-depth experience developing marketing plans and managing campaigns. Her expertise is in social media marketing, content marketing, and influencer marketing. She works primarily with start-ups, small businesses, and non-profits. She is also the founder of Amplified Concepts. 

You can contact her at



I am a sales and marketing consultant, helping business leaders with limited budgets clarify and prioritize where they should spend their sales and marketing budget to obtain the best results. Contact me at

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