It’s OK Not to Chase Constant Growth With Your Freelance Business
All too often within business, we chase the idea of more – more work, more responsibility, more money. While an ambitious growth mindset can be great for a business with the resources to back it up, it can be exhausting for an independent freelancer.
Sometimes, when running a freelance business, it’s more realistic and less stressful to be content with what you have. Freelancing is notorious for the feast and famine cycle that generates unstable income, so simply generating a constant, predictable amount month-to-month, year-to-year, is actually a big achievement.
This post came about after speaking to fellow freelancer Zack Neary-Hayes and realising that we had a lot in common, mainly due to how we view our businesses and our ambitions for them.
The rest of this post has been written by Zack and is an overview of a conversation we had back in August 2018.
How much is freedom to work your way worth?
When Mike and I were talking, we realised that even though the services we offered to our clients were different, there were quite a few similarities between our businesses:
- We both run service driven businesses direct to clients, and there was a lot of overlap between the things we liked and disliked about this.
- The freelance and remote working lifestyles are extremely important to both of us. Neither of us felt particularly driven to try and target significant growth within our businesses. We’re both content with how things are going.
- We both agreed that we prioritised having the freedom to live a lifestyle that we choose, to work on projects we find interesting, and ultimately, to earn a living on our own terms.
- We’ve both recognised that we have skills that businesses need, so we sell those skills directly into businesses, which grants us a level of freedom we generally wouldn’t have through normal employment.
Do you want a growth or lifestyle business?
For me and Mike, the idea of having a lifestyle business is much more important than chasing growth. It’s important for us to produce great work, have good relationships with clients, but also to enjoy as much time outside of our freelance work as possible.
And with this mindset, it becomes much easier to be OK with not being obsessed about aggressively growing your business. Work can become a healthy process that enables us to dive in and enjoy hobbies, interests, and passions outside of work.
I find it relatively easy to build a ‘church and state’ like separation between work and my personal life. I know the reasons why I work – why I freelance – and I keep this motivation front and centre of everything I do.
I think this key: you don’t need to feel like you need to chase growth to be a successful freelancer. Maybe this is why both Mike and I feel content with our businesses the way they are; we’re not driven by growth targets and financial forecasts, so we don’t feel the need to dig in and grind with work unnecessarily.
Work should be a good fit for your lifestyle
If you can look at your work and feel truly content with how it’s going, then that’s great. You’re doing something you enjoy and making money in the process, a win-win situation.
If you’re in this situation and you’re earning enough to comfortably cover all of your living, business, and lifestyle costs, then do you really need to aim for more next year? Sure, you may put up your prices as you gain another year of experience and have reduced capacity, but do you actively need to set your ambitions on growing more? And would it be deemed a failure if you missed those targets?
Freelancing is a two-way street. It needs to work for your clients – you need to be able to confidently deliver your service – but more importantly, work needs to be a good fit for you.
As long as you can draw some sense of fulfilment from your work, and have plenty of things you enjoy outside of work, then you’re on the right path for a balanced lifestyle. Money may motivate you. Working reduced hours may motivate you. Having as little stress at work as possible may be your prime goal. The trick is to hit whatever goals you need to to make you feel comfortable and content. These goals may not always be financial.
And what works for others in this situation may not be the right fit for you. If the grinding, hustling, getting up at 4.30am lifestyle isn’t for you, no problem, forge your own path and work on your own terms. Don’t feel pressured by how other people present their work and freelance businesses.
Remember: you’re in control of your own business, and the most important thing is that the business works for you.
Thanks to Zack for the post. I’ve also written lots about Freelancing over the years, you may also enjoy reading ‘Be a better freelance designer‘, ‘Reflecting on 10 years as a Freelancer‘ and ‘Better ways to manage your design leads‘