When you don't have a traditional salaried or hourly wage job, you don't get a regular paycheck. That comes with a lot of flexibility -- and numerous risks.
Assuming you have linen up enough work, being a full-time freelance worker can be wonderful. In many cases, you have the freedom to work when and where you want. That can be great, but it can also make it hard to stay on track: Because you have so much freedom, it's easy to slack off. It takes hard work and good planning to make sure that does not happen.
1. Have a budget
I'm a full-time contract writer for The Motley Fool. That's a wonderful situation and the work is plentiful but I only get paid for what I actually produce. If I don't write, I don't get paid.
To make sure I earn enough money each week, I keep a budget. I know how many stories I need to write and the exact dollar amount I need to produce.
2. Be flexible, but rigid
I almost never work a traditional Monday through Friday 9-5-style work week. I live near the beach, our building has a pool, and there are other things that come up during the day.
In order to be able to do those things and still make a living, I have some rules I live by. First, I start every weekday around 7:30 a.m. Even on days I plan to not work much, I still put in a couple of hours and write at least one story.
I also allow myself flexibility by working weekends. If I finish my weekly quota by Friday, I start my new week on Saturday. When I haven't, I allow the weekend to be part of the week. That means my work week can be five days or nine -- it doesn't matter, as long as at the end of the month I have put in the budgeted dollar amount of work.
3. Pay yourself
Freelance work can be feast or famine. Something as simple as getting the flu might stop your income for a few days.
To handle that, I looked at my annual income and started paying myself a salary every two weeks. It's a number that's reasonable based on my earnings history and allows for the occasional time off or illness.
When I have a good week or month and get extra work done, that money goes into my bank account to cover for times when things go wrong. If that never happens I can give myself a bonus at the end of the year.
It's all about you
As a freelance worker, you are essentially a small business. You need to treat everything you do professionally, and recognize that you only have yourself to rely on.
You can succeed doing this, and it can be an amazingly rewarding lifestyle. To make that happen, though, you need to be organized and disciplined. Yes, you can have your fun, but you need to make sure you do the necessary work too.
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