Awesome freelance advice: What 38 freelancers would tell their younger selves


I’ve interviewed over 140 freelancers now for the Being Freelance podcast, and each episode ends with the same question:

“If you could tell your younger self one thing about being freelance, what would that be?”

That’s a whole lot of advice that I’ve collected over the years, and it’s advice that’s coming from the best possible source: personal experience.

The following insanely useful quotes are from Season 5 of the podcast (yeah, just one season!) So if you enjoy these do yourself a favour, hit subscribe wherever you get your podcasts and go back and listen! Don't let your older self answer the same question by saying 'I wish I'd gone back and listened to all of the Being Freelance podcast sooner!'

So, let’s kick things off with some of the more practical advice we’ve been given, shall we



Know your finances and understand them. I wish I had paid more attention in the early years. I think I would have been more intentional about the direction of the business and about my growth if I had understood it better from the beginning.
— Virtual Assistant Jess Ostroff
Know your numbers before anything else, and I say this as a creative person who used to be absolutely terrified by everything financial. But I actually found that the most empowering thing to do is to look at your numbers – whether that’s every day, week, month – whatever works best for you. I have found so much power in being able to take some of that fear out of the money part.
— Copywriter Kayla Hollatz
Freelancing is going to be the hardest, but the most rewarding thing you’re going to do. Enjoy the nine to five and the steady paycheck while you can. Take all the holidays, spend money on things that you probably don’t really need but you want because there will come a point where you won’t have that kind of financial freedom, but you will feel so much more fulfilled with what you do.
— Social Marketing Consultant Sam Burgess
Life’s more than the money you’re making. When I was 16 or 17, I was so absolutely determined to make it – and I valued my success based on the money that I was generating. Whereas now, I’ve realised that life’s much more than your day rate or how much you’ve earned this week. That side of things is really important, but it’s not all that life is.
— Filmmaker Ben Warburton
Don’t be afraid to say no. I think in the first year or so, I just said yes to everything and I was busy and badly paid. It took a while for me to realise that actually, that’s not quite how it works. It’s only now, three or four years in, that I’ve set myself a minimum hourly rate that I will not go below. Don’t take everything on and be a bit more savvy with money.
— Editor Rose Parkin


Don’t be impatient. Get some more skills under your belt. Get some more experience before you go out and do it. You will do it. You’ll make it work, but you’ve got to put the time in.
— Web developer Mark Steadman
Don’t go freelance from day one. The toughest thing I’ve ever had to do was leave college and be freelance from day one. I think I could have learnt a lot more if I had started at the bottom in a studio, worked my way up and learnt from other people who knew what they were doing.
— Ben the Illustrator
Do the agency life for four or five years before going freelance. The education you’ll get from real-world experience will make a difference.
— Graphic designer Chad Michael
Start learning. You’re never too old to start coding or to get into new habits or new practices.
— Developer Elliot Taylor
Don’t be afraid to specialise and focus on what you’re good at. I spent too much of my career trying to put my fingers in too many pies, and I think if I had just focused on doing animation and illustration earlier then I’d be a lot further along in my career than I am now. It’s really easy to get scared of not having enough skills, and so you spread yourself too thin. But I think there’s value in specialising in the thing that you really like.
— Animator Chris Phillips
Learn from others. The best way to learn is to look at other work and emulate it. Don’t directly copy, but learn from it.
— Graphic designer Jacob Cass


Set yourself goals and work towards them, it will help you to focus. I know when I do it I work so much better.
— Social media consultant Uli Schulz
Get in the driver’s seat, take control and build something you love from the outset. Get ballsy and don’t ask for permission. Don’t waste time waiting to be told what to do.
— Copywriter Kirsty Fanton
Plans change. Things change. The path that you take is going to change. And that is okay. Stick to being you. Do what you want to do.
— Artist Roxanne Coble
The more love you put into something the more you’ll get out of it. Spend more time figuring out what it is you’re really passionate about. It’ll give you a clearer view.
— Photographer James Melia
When things are going well you don’t tend to concentrate so much on the background work. You should make sure that you’re protecting yourself for when things aren’t going so well.
— Athlete Gianni Frankis


Hang on in there - which sounds very much like that cat poster. What I think I mean is that at the start of your career, you don’t really have any contacts, so that’s the reason you’re not getting any work. The more people you meet, the more chance you have of working with them in the future. So just keep meeting people and it will work out.
— Podcast producer Matt Hill
Don’t be afraid to ask the hard questions. And that includes asking people for help on different tasks, or how they put their packages together, or what they charge. And don’t be afraid to show yourself more. People are going to hire you for you and your personality.
— Social media consultant Tia Meyers
I would have invested earlier in more learning resources and also in travelling overseas to meet clients and attend conferences.
— Copywriter Prerna Malik
Get out there and find other freelancers, online or in person. Network, ‘cos it gets lonely. It gets real lonely. Since I’ve linked with other copywriters on Twitter it’s been a hell of a lot easier, to have people knowing what you do and what you go through on a day to day basis.
— Copywriter Gareth Hancock


Don’t be a dick. I was pretty impulsive at a younger age, and as a designer, you tend to think you know everything. I should have sometimes been a bit more careful. I’d tell myself to remember that everything I do has my name on it.
— Designer Jonathan Da Costa
Write a contract for every client - even if it’s a portfolio project. It’s great to get in the practice of doing that and protecting yourself.
— Social media marketer Latasha James
Don’t talk about anything that isn’t confirmed yet. Because obviously anything could happen - stuff falls through at the last minute all the time. Don’t gloat about something that hasn’t happened yet.
— Photographer Ron Timehin


Stay true to yourself, and don’t forget the passion or the purpose that encouraged you to hone your skill in the first place. Continue to play and experiment in your field and have purpose. I suppose if you do that, you will never work a day in your life.
— Photographer Natalie Field


I’ve gotten into a bit of a pattern of negative thinking, and it’s really hard to break. I’m only recently learning not to be so negative. So I’d probably tell the younger me not to be so hard on myself and that it’s all going to work out.
— Illustrator Holly Exley
You’re doing a great job. Slow down. Maybe not even slow down, but just lessen the grip, because you’re going to be fine. It’s going to be fun, and you’re allowed to enjoy it along the way.
— Brand Strategist Jenni Heffernan Brown
Everyone is figuring this stuff out as they go along. Even the experts that have been doing this a long time still sometimes don’t know what they’re doing, so don’t feel intimidated.
— Web developer Carson Shold
Just be kind to yourself. Don’t work too hard. Just because there are 24 hours in a day doesn’t mean you have to fill them all with work.
— Brand designer Emma Sheppard


You will not do your work after you go to the pub. That was a lie I used to tell myself when I first started out. I’d be like, ‘Oh, I’ll just take my laptop down with me and I’ll do the work there.’ Then I’d get there, and I’d be like, ‘I’ll do it when I get home.’ Then I didn’t.
— Copywriter Karen Marston
I would tell my younger self that she has the drive and the determination to do the work and make the career successful, and that she should capitalise on that motivation as much as she can before things get much less flexible in her life.
— Illustrator Michelle Kondrich


You have to take the knocks, you have to be very confident in your own abilities and just persevere, persevere, persevere. Get on with it. Don’t put things off until tomorrow as well, that’s a good one.
— Illustrator and designer Dan Bramall
(After being made redundant...) There is life after the dream job. Stop. Reset. Have a think, and just learn some new skills and meet some new people and do something fun for a year.
— Infographics designer Caroline Beavon


Always say yes. Always. If people ask you to write a kind of music you have no idea how to write, you say, ‘Yeah, that’s my favourite kind of music, I write it every day, I love it to death,’ then go home and Google it and find out about it. You don’t want to have any degree of ‘maybe,’ they don’t want to hear that. They don’t want to hear, ‘I’m not sure.’ If they hear that, they’ll just get somebody else to do it. Just go, ‘Yeah. That’s what I do all the time. I’m in. Fantastic. Can’t wait.’ Just say yes.
— Media Composer Grant Kirkhope
I’d tell my younger self not to be afraid and get out there and do it. I’m more of a worrier and a thinker and rather than just doing it, I have just sat on things longer than I should have done. I’d tell myself that I’m good enough and I can do it, I think it’s that positive thinking and that mindset, it really is.
— Photographer Nisha Haq
You can do this. Have the confidence and believe in yourself. I didn’t have that supportive voice in my ear telling me that, but I do think that is what freelancers starting out need to hear. I think they need that, and that’s why I value the Freelance Heroes Facebook group so much.
— Virtual Assistant Annie Brown
Have confidence in yourself. You can have the skills, but having the self-belief is really important too. Don’t be afraid to try things and don’t be afraid to fail. It’s all part of that journey to getting closer to the thing that you really love doing.
— Business coach and digital marketing specialist Chichi Eruchalu
I wish I got into it sooner because I love it so much and I think I’m just living on a high right now of being a freelancer and of having this freedom and control over my projects. Get into it now and don’t delay if you want to do it.
— Graphic Designer Amber Asay
All I would say is that you are absolutely right to go down this path.
— Photographer Penny Wincer

So there you have it!

That's just one season's worth of the freelance podcast your older self would definitely recommend you subscribe to.

Freelance tips and wisdom straight from the source – from the freelancers who are out there gathering experience and giving things their best shot.

What one piece of advice would you give your younger self about being freelance?