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Freelancing without water: personal experience of a freelance engineer
Freelancing without water: personal experience of a freelance engineer

We invite you to read the story of Mikhail Tsarev, an experienced freelancer, who will tell you where to start for those who want to work for themselves.

Freelancing without water: personal experience of a freelance engineer
Freelancing without water: personal experience of a freelance engineer

After reading many articles about freelancing on Lifehacker and other resources, I wanted to share my view of the life of a modern freelancer. I will try to write on the case, and not in the style of "7 mistakes", "3 reasons", etc., but there will still be a little lyrics. The article is addressed to everyone who relates (or plans to relate) to freelance as your main activity and perhaps as a step towards starting your own business. At the end of the article, there are practical recommendations for those who are just going to join the lifestyle of the "self-employed population".

Why did I leave the office?

Very often one comes across the opinion that freelancers are some losers who did not have any career prospects, "nondispecialists" who do not bring value to the enterprise and cannot get along in a team. Are you about to quit? Yes, we are only glad! And out of despair, a person goes to freelance. Many people really believe in this myth. But I disagree with him. In my case, they offered to stay, and the conditions were very interesting, but there was no longer a desire to stay. Why? The problem for any person is that no matter what he does, sooner or later he will get tired of it … If you came to the position of an engineer - sit yourself, “engineer” year after year and do not stick your head out - what is your design, what is your marketing? Of course, the projects will be different, but the problems with them within the framework of one organization will be the same: “this is how it is accepted in our country”. Over time, it starts to feel sick. In addition to this, your growth as a specialist will be very one-sided and will quickly hit the ceiling. Change organizations, occupy leadership positions? Alternatively, yes. But you still have to play by someone else's rules and in a rather narrow corridor.

In this sense, freelancing is an excellent way out for those who are interested in constantly developing in several directions and, most importantly, adjusting these directions flexibly and painlessly if desired. In my opinion, there is no more sad fate than doing an unloved business all your life. And the choice made at the age of 18–20 is not so often the right one. A person's destiny is a lifelong project, and I personally want to have complete control over it.

Is this real freedom?

Opponents of freelancing argue that "free swimming" is not so free, because now every client is your new boss. But the fact is that this will be true only for those who themselves agree with this statement. Everything comes from the head. My freelance is the I Corporation. The client is my contractor, my partner, but not my boss. We are equal, period. And maybe it’s just luck, but I haven’t come across customers who would argue with that.

Freelance is real freedom. It's just too early to rejoice. After all, now, among other things, you are also free from the regular flow of finances, stable workload with projects, insurance, sick leave, communication with colleagues and other components of the life of an “office slave”.

What's in store for you?

At first I wanted to divide the list into two parts - positive and negative points, but in the process of writing I realized that most of the points will be a plus for one, but a minus for another. Everything is very individual and depends on the character, so decide for yourself:

  • You will have to take full responsibility for your life.
  • You yourself will decide when, where and how much to work.
  • You yourself will decide when, where, how much and, most importantly, what to rest for.
  • You will be paid only for the work actually done, and not for the time "at work", therefore, the freelancer lives (supports his family) and eats / does not eat only for what he could / could not earn.
  • You will be able to choose and change the scope of your activity and further development yourself, but you will be deprived of the right to stop developing.
  • You will move very little and begin to get fat (yes, the travel time was not so useless), you will be forced to play sports even harder and take even more careful care of your health and body.
  • Even an introvert will lack communication with people.
  • It will be easier for you to set aside time to meet with friends (but if most of your friends work on five days, don't be surprised that you start to drift away: common problems (topics for conversation) will become less and less over time).
  • You will have to constantly develop in areas that you might not have thought about (or didn’t want to think about): sales, marketing, accounting, negotiation strategy and tactics, personal branding, and much more.
  • Competition will swallow you as soon as you stop developing.
  • You will not be able to stay afloat for a long time, if you do not create for yourself (or find and modify existing) systems and methods of accounting for time, clients, income, expenses, as well as a pricing policy and a strategy for further development.
  • Among other worries, you will never forget about these: budgeting and finding clients.
  • You will have to learn how to communicate with people.
  • The circle of acquaintances will constantly expand, and interesting, but sometimes very unusual people will join it.
  • You will understand how much a quiet and comfortable workplace means, and it is not a fact that your apartment fits these criteria.
  • Responsibility and punctuality should become synonymous with your name.
  • Your income level will directly depend on how creative, talented and diligent you are at work.

If you are still wondering if freelancing is for you, just honestly answer your question: Is 80% of what you read above is a plus or a minus?

How to start? Practical advice

There is a lot of controversy on the topic of work + freelance or only freelance. I am of the opinion that if you already have a permanent place of work, then you should definitely start with combining. And this does not mean doing "hack" during working hours - you have evenings, weekends and, in extreme cases, nights. You should quit only when the income from freelancing grows and this activity brings pleasure, and the work really begins to interfere with the further development of your business.

Before leaving, be sure to save up the amount that you (and your family) can live on for at least six months. My mistake was that I had only saved up for two months of "autonomy" and by the time this money ran out, there was still no constant flow of clients. In general, do not repeat this mistake, it can be expensive: there will really be nothing to eat, nothing to pay for housing, and relations with loved ones will begin to escalate. Well, if it works out and you immediately start making good money, then still do not rush to waste your savings. Let this be your personal stabilization fund, which will come in handy during a period of calm among clients (for example, in the summer), and you will mentally thank me more than once for this advice. All in all, it is worth preparing for the transition, and prepare in advance.

If you already know what services you will sell to people, make sure that there is a demand for them (there is a lot of information about testing niches on the Web - I see no point in retelling). Again, if you don't know, resolve this issue before you write a letter of resignation. And, most importantly, first try: find a client, receive and fulfill an order. After you have tried it, calculate the time to complete the order and compare with the payment at the current place of work. It may turn out that the game is not worth the candle at all. For example, engineering freelance in Russia is very poorly developed, since engineering activity, as a rule, is very strongly tied to a specific production. It is almost impossible to find orders in the field of mechanical engineering. It is for this reason that I have been combining freelancing with my main job for so long. Be ready to change. I myself am slowly moving on to projects related to real estate and design, since there is much more work in this sector.

Customer search, exchanges and competition

Most of the time a novice freelancer spends in the mode of constant search for clients.

Many recommend that beginners go to exchanges. To be honest, I have no idea how a beginner can get an order on the exchange, given the current state of affairs. A profile without reviews and completed orders can attract a client only at a meager price. But, firstly, working "for food", you will very quickly lose interest, and secondly, dumping, as you know, kills any market. This is what we now have on most modern freelance exchanges: spoiled customers in search of free labor and newbies, foaming at the mouth for any order.

Competition with freelancers from Belarus and Ukraine will become a rather interesting task for you: can you prove to the client that you are reasonably asking twice or even three times more for the same job? It will not always be possible to put pressure on “quality”, since the quality of these guys is very often really “on the level”. How to solve this problem? Think for yourself: a lot depends on the specific industry, but the problem exists, and this is a fact.

It would be unwise to criticize the exchanges and not offer anything in return. My answer - social networks … This is a really very convenient way to find customers: you can search and segment potential customers by age, profession, geography and send your offers to a targeted address (not to be confused with spam), communicate directly with people, create your own community and receive orders through it. choose to whom, what and on what terms you can offer.

It is also worth mentioning message boards and forums. At the initial stage, do not neglect these methods of attracting customers - it really works.

The main challenge for a freelancer in their first year is to make a name for themselves. To do this, you should collect feedback. Moreover, social networks come to the rescue here too: reviews left by "living" people in your group or public are a very good contribution to creating a personal brand.

The next step is to create a website: on it you can post more detailed information about yourself and your services, portfolio, reviews from social networks and reviews left directly on the site. If done correctly, then over time you will get new clients from search engines.

Someone can argue with this approach, someone will defend the merits of exchanges, but I described my personal experience, and now just saying: “This will not work” will no longer work. In the end, everyone solves the problem of finding clients for himself. This is a rather complex but interesting and creative process. Obviously, the higher your level as a specialist, the less you will be worried about the problems of competition and finding customers.

How much will you earn, or Where are the promised millions?

You shouldn't be under the illusion that freelancers are very wealthy people. It is often said that the average income of a freelancer is higher than the average salary of a specialist of his level working in an organization. This is essentially true, but it is often forgotten to add that this is true given the same number of hours worked. A freelancer, especially a beginner, may simply not have enough orders to work 160 hours a month. More honest, in my opinion, would be the following assessment: having adjusted all the processes, you can earn no less than on a permanent job, spending half the time on work. For example, I used to spend 3.5 hours a day on the road. I counted, and it turned out that in 8 years I spent 8 months of my life in the metro, traffic jams, buses and minibuses. The discovery impressed me. At the moment, I usually work 3, 5-4 hours a day, 5 days a week. That is the time that I used to spend on the road. In this case, the income is comparable to my income at the enterprise at the time of my dismissal. But it is worth clarifying that it was directly about working on projects, but several more hours a day are spent on working with clients and developing the project. A few more hours - to develop oneself as a professional: reading thematic books and forums, watching various video tutorials. There is no getting away from this, but in total we get only 8 hours a day. And the main thing is that I work in a convenient schedule: I do something early in the morning, something in the afternoon, if I wish, I can work on creative tasks in the evening. I no longer have "Mondays again" and "Fridays at last".

As you can see, there are no millions here. But it was not in vain that I wrote at the very beginning of the article about the attitude to freelancing as a step towards creating a business. The next stage of your development (if, of course, you want) will be transition from direct execution to project management. After all, no matter how professional you are, you cannot sell more than 24 hours of your time a day, and even this is unlikely. So the financial ceiling is considered very easy. And if the number of your orders grows, and time starts to run out, it's time to think about creating a team. Finding reliable performers is not so easy, but nevertheless, this task is quite doable. If things go well, it makes sense to open your own LLC, officially hire people and even rent an office. Working in a team, you will understand that a million in profit is not so much. Just be prepared for the fact that one fine moment your best employee will put a letter of resignation on the table - nothing personal, he just decided to start a new, free life …


The main thought that I wanted to carry through the entire article: freelancing is very cool but this very not for all.

Someone is ready to live his life on "autotuning", but if you prefer "manual mode", then think, analyze, act - everything will work out!

All of the above is my personal opinion, I do not pretend to be true. I would be happy to discuss the details and argue in the comments.

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