How to Work for Yourself Full-Time

How to Work for Yourself Full-Time

The 7 things you need to break into full-time freelance
Finding Work
Jérémy Chevallier
May 16, 2019 2:25 PM
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When we’re first starting off, we’re usually focused on just getting some kind of paid gig. We measure our success by our ability to get the first gig, and then the second, and then the third. These baby steps are crucial to feeling successful, so how can we get started on them today?

Here are the things you need in order to break into freelancing.

(Expand each to read the full passage)

💰 Positive cashflow (Some kind of existing income or savings)

Building up freelance income takes time, and life is expensive!

You should have some kind of job or other situation bringing in income, or a reliable spouse/savings account :)

This ensures that the issue of money is off the table, which allows you to focus entirely on building your portfolio and sales pipeline.

💸 A willingness to spend money to make money

When we’re intentional about how we spend our money, we’re really investing. This helps curb the anxiety that can come with having to spend money to make money.

Examples of things worth investing in:

  • Lead generation (of course; like paid listings on some niche marketplaces)
  • Tools to save you time (which gives you more opportunity to make money)
  • Tools that save money (like KeeperTax, a software that writes off your taxes)
  • Experiences that enrich your life and decrease stress, like yoga classes, vacations, and simple trips to the park and restaurant with your family or friends

Once you realize that how you spend your money, time, and attention is actually an investment into the person you want to be, it becomes more clear on what you should spend money on.

We’ll dive into this more later.

💁‍♂️ A confidence in what you bring to the table

In the beginning, it’s natural to tuck our tail in relation to clients. Humility is important; just always remind yourself to be confident in what you know. Eliminate self-doubt and that back-of-your-mind talk that tells you you’re not capable, or good enough, or whatever it says.

That voice is your survival instinct, your negativity bias, which is great in life-or-death situations, but really hinders our opportunities for growth. Listen to Applying Awareness Podcast host Adam French talk about this negativity bias starting at about 22:45 until about 24:45.

💪 Discipline to always keep improving

When we don’t have any visible proof of our quality of work, it’s really hard for people to trust us. Clients also like to make decisions by themselves or with their team, without you in the conversation.

The best way to earn trust is to build your portfolio.

Building a portfolio is the single fastest way to get hired for new gigs. Why? It proves to potential clients that you’re not only able to do the work, but good at it, too.

When we’re first starting off, our work isn’t always the best. We know what good work looks like, and we know we’re not quite where we want to be. This is a good thing! Listen to Ira Glass explain why this “gap” exists, and how you can push past it.

So how do we earn trust? Break through the gap?

By going through a large volume of work.

Steph Smith makes the case for how to become great:

I’ve come to learn that it’s not about overnight successes or flashes of excellence, but periods of repeatable habits.
How to be great? Just be good, repeatably.

Just be good. Repeatably. The entire article is about the “one step at a time” philosophy to getting better at things.

So if you’re still asking the question, “How do I become great in life?”, I would ask you to reframe the question as “How do I become good in life” or even “How do I become decent” and focus on developing those habits to repeat over time. Transform these habits to be your baseline.

The cool thing to me about this?

The “greatness” is almost less about how high you climb those stairs—and more about how long you’ve been climbing.


At the core, it’s about being willing to put that work in. Let’s borrow from Sahil Lavingia in its simplest form:

To run better, run. To paint better, paint. To write better, write.

Be willing to put in that work and it will pay off.

🙋‍♀️ A small but enthusiastic market of people to serve

No matter how amazing you are at something, the blunt truth is that you’re only going to get paid if other people want what you do. If nobody wants your excellent anthropological fan fiction, or the most creative haikus they’ve ever read, you’re toast.


On the other hand, things are really easy to sell if someone appreciates their value. You also shouldn’t aim to please the masses, either. Seth Godin’s wisdom again, starting at 6:52 until 8:39.

🙌 General aptitude, hustle, and resourcefulness

Whether you want to be a writer or an architect, working for yourself takes the ability to figure things out on your own.

Freelancing is not the easy path. Things like GigLoft can make it simpler, and more fun—but the process is grueling. You must understand that it takes patience, determination to succeed, and resilience not to get discouraged. Scott Belsky, cofounder of Behance and 99U, explains in The Messy Middle that we must “short circuit” our reward systems.

Stephen Kelly also explains how we can do this:

As he says, even just opening up a special bottle of spring water, when done with intent, can help you feel more successful about what you‘ve done.

Resources vs. resourcefulness

Listen to Tony Robbins explain the difference between what we think we need (resources) and what we really need. Watch from 4:50 – 6:30 (or all the way 😋).

So, resourcefulness trumps any number of resources. All day.

😈 Grit when things get tough, to keep pushing through and putting that work in

Let’s face it—things get tough. Sometimes, we lose clients, or have trouble finding new ones, or hit a legal snag, or taxes, or… 😱

The #1 thing that will save you from the lows is grit.

Listen to psychologist Angela Duckworth explain from the TED stage, from 3:01 - 3:28:

How will you know when you’ve “broken in” ?

Everyone defines success differently. How will you know when you’ve “made it”? Legends and Losers Podcast host Christopher Lochhead describes his view in this super quick read:

“Making it” is not about a particular financial outcome. It’s a way of being in life.

Once you’ve broken in, the going gets a bit easier—but if you want to keep growing, you’ll have to keep putting in the work. It’s one thing to break in, another to become full-time, and a very different thing to be the best in the game.