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Longtime Freelancers Have A Ton Of Advice For You And It's Awesome

Starting out is tough — but your taxes don't have to be. Save time and put more money in your pocket with Intuit QuickBooks Self-Employed.

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Paige Worthy, writer

Courtesy of Paige Worthy

On doing what's right for you: "My longtime mantra has been 'let go of the monkey bars.' My first-ever client gave me a bracelet engraved with the phrase; it's now tattooed on my inner wrist. While it originally was a call to be brave and take the terrifying leap to my professional freedom (and say goodbye to my three-hour daily commute), it's also reminded me more than once that it's okay to leave freelancing behind for a while. Succumbing to the lure of stability in the form of a steady paycheck, vacation pay, or a company-subsidized PPO isn't weakness. It's making the choice that's right for you at the time.

"Nothing is permanent in this world. Client relationships don't last forever. If you've made the leap to freelancing full time once, you can do it again when it's time. This wild marketplace will always be here for you, and you will be okay."

Alyne Halvajian, makeup artist

Courtesy of Alyne Halvajian

On the hustle: "Have faith in yourself and keep hustling — keep promoting yourself! I used to be afraid of taking a job I couldn't give 110% to, and instead of turning those jobs down, I decided to teach myself what those jobs asked for — even if it wasn't my speciality.

"Teach yourself everything there is to know so you can confidently say yes to everything. Even if you're not a competitive person (and I assure you I'm not), I've learned when your life and bills depend on it, you better hustle. Otherwise, there's plenty of other people who are waiting for that opportunity whether or not they're qualified for it. Their hunger fuels their hustle, so let your hunger fuel yours too!"

Sean Malony, animator and co-founder of Apartment D Films

Courtesy of Sean Malony

On asking for help: "A freelancer should never be afraid of asking for help, which admittedly can be terrifying sometimes. Who I am as a person and an artist is the result of countless others helping me, inspiring me, and pushing me to become more awesome. Whether at Apartment D or other studios, on freelance work or personal projects, the best work I've done has always been a collaboration, both in terms of the final product and the fulfillment of the experience itself.

"There's plenty I'm not an expert on, from lighting to finances to how to paint a landscape that pans smoothly into '90s-style cartoon speed lines. Asking for help is a humbling experience, and it is really rewarding to then help someone else when they ask you. Show no fear!"

Tom VanBuren, writer and social media strategist

Courtesy of Tom VanBuren

On putting in the time: "Don't be afraid of research. Making assumptions about your subject never goes unnoticed — and even if you’re working on something you already know a lot about, there are probably some other perspectives on it that can do a lot to enrich your own. Deliberately seek out what others have done, and are doing. Ask questions. Admit you have a lot you can learn, and start learning it!"

Kevin Corstorphine, realtor

Wyatt Daily / Via Courtesy of Kevin Corstorphine

On knowing what you're getting yourself into: "Being self-employed/freelancing is more than having just one job; it is running a company. This is something that I knew going in, but it’s difficult to truly understand until you are doing it. One day you realize that not only do you have to be a real estate professional but a product manager, a sales team, an accountant, a servicing department, a CEO, etc."

Prescott Gadd, game designer

Courtesy of Prescott Gadd

On marketing and believing in yourself: "Marketing is everything, and networking is everything else. Lots of people across the country would love your product/service, but they don't know about it yet! Agree to a gig that is above your skill or experience level. I always say yes to every opportunity while secretly terrified and then figure everything out once the deposit has cleared."

Andrea Fernandez, art director, illustrator, character designer, and concept artist

Courtesy of Andrea Fernandez

On not giving up: "I'd wish I had known how important it is to be persistent. I think sometimes we are scared of bothering the person on the other side, but the reality is the person on the other side probably has a lot going on and hasn't had the time to get back to you. It really doesn't hurt to send them a reminder of your work or a previous correspondence. It's important to follow up and also resubmit after some time has gone by, even if the first time you submitted for work was a no.

"New projects come up, creative direction changes, a 'no' is just a 'not right now.' I think to have a successful freelance career you have to be communicative and personable when corresponding with potential clients and existing ones, without being obnoxious of course. Keep growing and keep hitting people up; things will open up."

Bailey Poland, author of HATERS

Courtesy of Bailey Poland

On swinging for the fences: "A freelancer should never be afraid of trying something new and pitching to unexpected places. Some of the best opportunities I've found have come from taking shots I never thought would work out. It isn't a guarantee of success (because nothing is), but when taking a risk or stretching for a big goal pays off, that's an amazing feeling."

Alexis Asplundh, fashion designer and owner of A2Swimwear

Caleb Kerr / Via Courtesy of Alexis Asplundh

On taking the time to figure out what you really, really want: "I was fortunate that, soon after I graduated from Savannah College of Art and Design, I was approached by people who wanted to invest in me or who wanted me to create custom pieces for them. The problem was that I had spent so much of my time and effort working hard to be successful and learn as much as I could that I hadn't spent enough time thinking about what I truly wanted to do. When you're young and you first start your career, it's difficult to take the time to figure out what path you want to make for yourself, but it's so important."

Kristiina Wilson, photographer

Courtesy of Kristiina Wilson

On the reality of protecting your work: "Early on in my freelance career, I didn't realize how much time I would spend chasing my money. We currently work with a system that is often net 90 days after publication (for visual editorial work), so you're essentially giving away your work (and any leverage you have) for free, initially. This can put you in a rough place later on, when clients have used your work and now have a bill for work they no longer need and now don't want to have to pay for.

"What I think is super helpful is to be ORGANIZED. Have all your impending invoices in a chart. Current ones in another chart. Overdue ones in another one. Every morning the chart of money owed is the first thing I look at and the first thing I address — emailing truant clients and, if necessary, getting my lawyer involved. Having good, airtight contracts is another — you'll save money in the long run having a lawyer draw up a good standard contract for you even though the initial outlay can be a lot. Get a book about the law in your field (there are different ones for all kinds of creatives and freelancers) and actually read it.

"Even if you do all of those things, I'd still say you need to build in at least a 10–15% expected loss rate into your budget for the year from truant clients or those that declare bankruptcy. This loss rate can also apply to clients that you take to court, win a judgment against, but have no way of collecting from.

"Also, whatever it is that you do, make sure you keep doing it for yourself as well as for your clients. Take time to make work for yourself and to make yourself happy. The freelance climate can be a slog, and while it's rewarding in so many ways, it can be difficult in others, and it's important to always remember why you started out in the first place. 😉"

Sulagna Misra, writer

Courtesy of Sulagna Misra

On budgeting like your own boss: "A freelancer should never, ever, ever be afraid to talk about money. That can mean negotiating payment, discussing rates with other freelancers, figuring out budgets and savings, calling the bank when they do something wonky or annoying, researching accountants and tax options, filing those taxes, following up on payment owed, and just keeping track of finances.

"There's this misconception that certain people are good at money and others aren't based on their personalities. But it's really based on how often you think about, talk about, and worry about money and finances. And as a freelancer, you have to do that constantly."

Doing your taxes when you're self-employed or freelancing can feel overwhelming, but don't worry — Intuit QuickBooks Self-Employed is here to make it easier and put more money in your pocket!

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