In the age of the internet, self-employment is now easier and more accessible than ever. Today there are more independent artists, freelancers, musicians, business starters, founders, consultants, and other self-employed professionals than ever before. And it’s easy to get started, all you need is a following, a few mentors, some social media skills and you’re good to go! So the usual freelancer would get started…and then they get nothing.
Freelancing is very often advertised and there’s a lot of information out there, including on this blog, about how to get started, but much less about sustaining yourself.
In most industries, especially for anyone who’s self-employed, income won’t come right away. Instead, it will be the result of years and years of farming. So what do you do in that in-between period where you’re building a loyal customer base (which is very different from a following!!) and not making an income?
The most important thing is to be prepared. Businesses still aren’t free, you should expect expenses and to lose money in your first one or two years. We advise you to be careful in the beginning and be judicious in your business expenses. A lot of businesses fail because they were not prepared for the initial slow period.
In this period, it’s easy to feel like you’re stuck. Sometimes we can be so used to instant gratification and meeting the short-term goals that we apply those same standards for long-term goals. The idea that “if I do this, something will happen right away” isn’t always true in business. You will likely spend a lot of time advertising, creating social media posts, hiring agencies, buying ads, writing blogs, and networking at every event you can find and not see any direct results at all.
That’s ok. It doesn’t mean you’re a failure. It means that you’re growing your business.
Farmers know what I’m talking about here. Some plants grow right away, you can plant them one season and see them bud in a few weeks. Others can take years. Instead of thinking of your business as a machine, you put work in and results come out, think of it as an olive tree.
Olive trees take years to grow, and you will not be able to sell the olives until the tree has fully matured. To say that you’re a failure because your initial effort didn’t yield results right away is like being upset at an olive tree you planted a month ago for not producing olives. You need to wait, you need to keep farming.
And that’s our advice to you during this period. Do whatever you need to do financially to stay afloat, it’s normal and expected to carry multiple jobs during this period. It sucks, but you need that support while you farm. After a few years of dedicated effort, you will start seeing results grow from almost nothing to something much more sustainable. In the meantime, just keep farming.