Freelancing: The Multitasking Economy
I do not advocate multitasking. In fact, I think it's one of the best ways to get less done. When you try to focus on too many things you end up focusing on none. But that's not what this post is about. It's about your income(s) as a freelancer and the proverbial baskets for your eggs.
Gone are the days of having one job for one company, at least in many fields. If your expertise lies in an industry with shrinking opportunities or if you've passed the age where you're considered cool for your job, you may decide to become a freelancer and being a freelancer means you have to multitask. Not in what you do but in how you earn. You can't rely on one source of income because that can be catastrophic if anything changes. There are a number of ways to do this. David duChemin explains it much better than me in his book How to Feed a Starving Artist. And Corwin Hiebert has created outstanding business planners for freelance photographers and designers.
Having at least five streams of income is key. Those can be things like prints (if you're an artist), digital media, ebooks, affiliate links, consulting work, and the list goes on and on. I don't know who came up with that number (five) but it seems like a good idea to me. That way, when one thing falters you still can make a living.
Freelancing also means that you may have to take jobs you don't want in order to keep working or to do work for free in exchange for exposure. But be very careful with the last one. Exposure, in my experience, rarely leads to anything other than more free work. They will promise you all sorts of things and most of them will not happen. It's okay to say no to an opportunity that's not right for you, that's one of the benefits of being a freelancer. Doing so will leave you time to go after the work that matters to you. And if you choose to work for free make sure there is something in it for you, even if it's something you can't take to the bank.
One thing I have found to be particularly helpful is to talk things over with other people in similar industries and situations. Discussing your business plans gives you a different perspective and ideas you hadn't thought of. You can gain insight from each others' experiences and keep each other accountable when you might otherwise not follow through on your plans. Freelancing is challenging and even more so if you're doing it alone.
Aside from the usual tactics, when it comes to finding work I recommend telling as many people as you can what you do. You never know who might know somebody that knows somebody. There are also lots of networking groups and artists organizations both online and off where you can meet people that could lead to your next gig. Freelancing is a constant hustle and not for the financially risk averse. You have to prepare for it in a different way than you would for a "normal" nine-to-five gig. But if you can manage it, it has many perks.