What I’ve learned in one year of full-time freelance work

One year is a very small milestone, hopefully the first of many, but it was enough to change my perspective on certain aspect of the job. Please don’t mistake this for advice: this isn’t about you, it’s about my personal experience. Also bear in mind that none of the following content refers to anyone or anything in particular, these are just general considerations.

With that being said, allow me to elaborate on my most important findings of the last twelve months…

Money = Time

We all know that time is money but we don’t necessarily think that the opposite can be true as well, time is intangible but it can be purchased and this was one of my first breakthroughs.

As an employee I was only concerned with my free time because I had no control over my office hours and my salary was a fixed amount, coming into my bank account at regular intervals. I didn’t see a correlation between my savings and my time.

But as soon as I started freelancing I had to figure out:

  • how much I was going to spend every month for the basics
  • what sort of regular investments I was willing to make for my business
  • the impact of inflation
  • a way to keep a safety allowance to the side for unexpected extras

All this, just so I could come up with a budget ad calculate my buffer.

It changed everything for me, because at that point I realised that whenever I spend money, I am not just subtracting it from a possible down payment for a house, from my retirement or leisure funds but I am also shortening the lifespan of my business….on the other hand whenever I earn money that’s not just for buying groceries or new equipment but I am extending the life of my business.

This is oversimplified of course, the point here is that I didn’t have to take these aspects into account when I had a day job.

The problem with Exposure Bucks

I don’t work for exposure, but I really value exposure. Some people say “I can’t buy groceries with exposure bucks”…well, I don’t think that’s 100% accurate so let me explain what kind of exposure I value and why I ultimately prefer not make custom soundtracks, or mixes, for free.

Whenever I run a Facebook advertising campaign I am actively paying for exposure.

Whenever I create content, such as a YouTube video, a tweet or even a blog post I am allocating some of my time to a job that has the ultimate goal of promoting my music or services. I could have spent that same time doing some paid work. In other words I am investing the equivalent of my hourly rate, multiplied by the number of hours I spend writing that article, in order to entertain others, hopefully offering solutions and helping them, ultimately trying to increase my visibility.

The only reason why both organic and paid traffic are so valuable is because they are measurable. You can literally monitor every aspect of your website, blog, paid advertising campaign and so on. They are valued to the point that all businesses of the world spend money and time everyday chasing these things and finding the right balance between the two.

Unpaid projects can be a lot of fun and good portfolio work in general, but measuring the exposure you get from them can be really hard, it is for me at least. I have to allocate my time very wisely so if I really feel like doing something for free I’d rather work on my personal projects, or make assets that I genuinely believe will help others.

Content Planning

Many content creators have a strategy, regardless of whether they do it part time or full time. I always neglected this aspect in the past: I used to release what I could when I could and I was happy with that. It was obviously much better than not doing anything so I would still work that way if it was my only option.

Being suddenly able to make/promote music all day, forced me to organise my creative workflow, I had to decide what to release and when because I didn’t want to release everything in one go and then remain silent for too long so I started creating a timeline of short term goals, as well as mid term and long term. Believe it or not I have my next two projects planned already and I am going to be busy for the next 18 months at least. Obviously I need to be flexible with my planning because I never know what other opportunities may arise in the meantime but setting macro and micro goals helps a lot.

In addition to that I had to learn that content often needs other content before it can “go out”, it literally needs packaging albeit completely digital these days. It needs graphic design and other visual content, it has to be presented in a certain way on social media and the different platforms all have different tones, so a lot of time and energies go into social listening, trying to understand my demographics and preparing videos, audio previews and other forms of content for weeks to come. I really enjoy it.

Time Management

More planning, huh? It’s never too much. This time last year I was overwhelmed by the number of things I wanted to do: I wanted to compose music, mix music, redo my website, build a social media presence from scratch, work for others, reach out to other artists for collaboration, release my Multiverse EP, the list goes on.

It really is too much and content planning is only a small portion of it. To me the worst part of not having a clear timeline was the feeling of constantly being behind…I had to neglect my social media marketing if I wanted to make music, I couldn’t improve my website if I was busy working for a client and vice versa. Resting was never an option obviously.

After 3 – 4 months of crunch I figured out how to organize my schedule, make time for everything, be flexible when needed, establish a hierarchy within my workflow so that the most important tasks would always stay at the top. It goes without saying that making music is the n°1 priority.

Enjoying all the steps

After breaking down the workflow in all its components, I found myself really liking the different aspects of this job and the variety, I believe that’s really important. Marketing and music production complement each other, composition and mixing are very technical and creative (which is fantastic) but they are also high intensity tasks. Social media work, as well as the small web design bits and blogging allow me to recharge my music battery between projects. Plus I truly love spreading some mixing knowledge: I get comments and messages about my mixing tips and I can honestly talk about that kind of stuff forever so it’s always a pleasure. Hopefully at one point I am going to be able to incorporate 101 mixing lessons into my schedule.

Do you have any questions about this article? Send me a message.

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