10 Lessons I Learned in My First Year of Freelancing + My Top Tips!

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Freelancing is nothing like I expected- and my first year of freelancing has been a wild ride!

I’ve had lots of ups, including:

And I’ve also had a few downs, including:

  • Experiencing burn-out for the first time
  • Imposter syndrome and self-doubt
  • Times when I took on way too much work!

In this blog post, I want to look at 10 things I learned in my first year of freelancing.

At first, I titled this post “10 Mistakes I Made in My First Year of Freelancing- and How You Can Avoid Them!”

However, that felt a bit negative. Everything I experienced in this past year has helped me grow my freelance work into something that makes me feel very proud!

That said, if you’re a freelancer or you’re thinking of taking the leap, I hope you can learn a little something from the ups, downs and, yes, mistakes I made in the past year.

In this blog post, read about 10 things I learned in my first year of freelancing + a few top tips from my experiences!

1. I need to take regular time off

In my first 6 months as a freelance writer, I think I took about a week off- and that includes weekends, too.

It’s no wonder I ended up burned out, anxious and in need of a rest.

In my first year of freelancing, I learned that I really need to take regular time off.

freelancing first year

Instead of only taking time off when I have something going on, such as my family holiday or my graduation, I learned that I need to take time off at the weekend and reognise when I need a break.

2. Basic negotiation skills

I’ve learned so many skills from freelancing- including a few basic negotiation techniques.

One of my freelancer friends really helped me out with this, as I was a little stuck about where to start.

When I first went into freelancing, I think I expected to be writing all day, everyday. And I do try to write or edit for the majority of the day.

But that’s not all that freelancing involves.

In this first year, I learned how to advocate for myself, negotiate with potential clients- and have those dreaded pricing conversations!

3. How to file a tax return

This year, I went through the dreaded process of applying for self-assessment, and filing my first tax return.

This took a while as I had to enter details from my part-time jobs, as well as my freelance income. Hopefully next time, it will be a bit quicker!

These kind of life admin tasks cause me real anxiety, so I got it sorted as soon as possible.

4. Everyone has a different work/life balance

Although I knew everyone needs a healthy work/life balance before I started freelancing, I don’t think I really thought about the fact that this is different for everyone- and it will depend on so many different things.

I don’t have to be all work or all play, I can be a good mixture of both. But that mixture has to be right for me.

freelancing first year

I know now that I need to prioritise my mental health, while also sticking to an effective, productive work routine.

5. How to improve my writing

My writing skills are constantly improving, and I know in a year’s time my writing will be much better than it is now. That’s the way it should be!

In this first year of freelancing, I learned how to make my writing more engaging, well-researched and effective, for my clients and for my own blog.

6. Money isn’t everything!

When I first started to build my freelance career, I got very caught up in the numbers.

I wanted to earn as much as possible, to keep my work going. However, I did this in an unsustainable way.

In my first year of freelancing, I learned that money isn’t everything.

As long as I can pay my bills and do the things I love, I would rather focus on jobs I enjoy for people I like to work with.

As I grew my client base, I also focused on clients that were meaningful to me.

I love helping bloggers create content for their site, and I love to research and write articles that really test my writing skills, so this helped to improve my focus.

7. My blog will always be there for me

When my work picked up earlier this year, I stopped posting on my blog as I poured my energy into client work.

However, as I took a step back from some of my clients during burn-out, I turned back to my blog again.

Although my stats aren’t in the same place as before, this was a fantastic reminder that your blog will always be there for you.

first year of freelancing- lessons I learned

Whether you need to take a break or you just want to post occasionally, blogging is a great place for you to develop and enjoy your writing in a pressure-free place if you’re a freelance writer like me.

My blog is where I write posts that interest me, and it gives me chance to practice, hone and improve my writing skills, too.

8. Freelancing is nothing like I expected

I think I had quite a naive view of freelancing at first.

Although I knew it would be hard, I didn’t realise which aspects would be the hardest for me.

Writing is just one part of working as a freelance writer. There’s also a lot of admin involved, as well as building the right mentality towards yourself and your work.

Turning to freelancing full-time definitely led to a lot of self-doubt for me- and that’s something I didn’t think about as much before I started freelancing as a career.

That said, I have absolutely loved this past year!

I’ve made money using my writing- something that is so amazing to me- and I’ve kept my work going throughout the year, making enough to cover all my bills.

9. I need to get out of the house as much as possible!

When I first started freelancing full-time, I always worked from home.

Even when we moved into a bigger flat, sitting at the same desk every single day took its toll.

Lessons I learned from my first year of freelancing

In this first year of freelancing, I learned that I need to get out of the house as much as possible.

This includes going for long walks, meeting my Mum for lunch and working from cafΓ©s.

Now that I’ve reached the one year mark, I like to think I’ve implemented a more sustainable, effective and balanced work routine- and I regularly get out of the house or socialise!

10. You never know where your next job will come from

I was recently referred for a great content writing job from another client.

This reminded me that your next job can come from anywhere.

Whether you provide remote translation services or you write like me, nurture your client relationships and make connection.

You never know what will happen!

Are you a freelancer? What did you learn in the first year of your job? Do you have anything t add to my list?

Let me know all your thoughts in the comments below πŸ™‚

Happy reading x

60 thoughts

  1. These are the ten things I learned as well as a freelancer. And I also experienced the same ups and downs. However, I love being a mobile person and which to be successful as a freelancer. I don’t want to stick at one place anymore. Being a freelancer makes me able to be myself and know myself better.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I really needed to read this Eleanor! I have just starting working again and I find it difficult balancing work and being a mum. I know I’ll get there in time, but I probably need to be kinder to myself and take regular breaks. I too have experienced burnout and Imposter Syndrome. Great post, thanks for sharing. Jade MumLifeAndMe


  3. Oh I love the mention that ‘work-life balance’ is different for everyone, that is SO true! Also the fact that money isn’t everything, we don’t work just for the sake of money, we work to make the Dream Life possible for ourselves ❀ Which obviously includes taking breaks, which I too learned when when I found myself on the brink of a burnout. It's a hard lesson but a lesson worth learning! Thank you for sharing these points, really interesting to see other people's journeys πŸ™‚

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yes that’s so true, we need to remember that money isn’t everything- and lifestyle is super important! I’m sorry to hear you almost struggled with burn-out too, it’s tough but definitely an important lesson forlife. Thank you so much for sharing Teresa x


  4. I absolutely loved reading this and the information and tips you’ve provided are great and helpful. I loved what you said about finding a work/life balance that suits you as every ones balance will be different and you’ve to find what that suits you.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Congratulations on your first full year of freelancing! Some great tips here. I’m sure that you will continue to grow your freelancing – you deserve to reap the rewards of the hard work you’ve put in this year : )

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Amazing post Eleanor! I can see why filing taxes can be so daunting, I’m glad you get it sorted quickly to speed up the process. Taking time off is so important, it can be hard to recognize that when you’re freelancing too. Thanks for sharing!

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Congratulations on your first year and for taking the plunge in the first place.
    You’ve learnt some valuable lessons and life skills. I freelanced for different radio stations years ago and it’s so easy to burn out through panic of thinking next month might be quiet.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Congratulations on your first successful year! These are great lessons, especially the one on having a proper work life balance and getting out the house.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Congratulations on your first year as a fully fledged freelancer! I’ve been freelancing for about 6 years now, and your point about taking breaks and time out really resonates. I started doing that at the end of last year and it’s made things so much more enjoyable. Also standing up for myself in terms of pricing – that’s got easier too, thankfully! Here’s to us, and many more years to come πŸ™‚

    Liked by 1 person

    1. That’s great to hear, I’m glad those pricing discussions get easier haha πŸ™‚ thank you so much Lisa, I’m glad to hear everything is going well for you! Thank you for your kind words, here’s to many more years of freelancing ahead x


  10. Congrats on reaching your first year! I’m actually looking to get into freelancing myself but not sure where to start as in clients and the tax returns I’m not sure on. Would be great if you could give some tips? Thank you x

    Liked by 1 person

  11. Thank you for this! I’ve been a writer for a long time but this year I’m going hard on my freelance business in addition to my 9 to 5, but I work from home. And this post came at perfect timing as I’m learning a lot this year.

    Liked by 1 person

  12. This is a very interesting post. I am not a freelance writer, some of these tips will help me now let I have started back with my blog. Thank you for sharing.


  13. I can totally relate to this post, I’m so glad I found this. The your blog will always be there for you note is so true, it reminds me it’s okay to take a step back and do other work. It’s definitely help relieve some pressure, I really enjoy writing on started my blog when my kids were babies/toddlers as I was bored if talking about peppa pig all day. But I was beginning to feel like it was more if a chore than an enjoyable hobby so thanks for this.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you so much for sharing your thoughts and experiences. I think that’s an important note, as it means you can step away when you need it- but you can start posting again if you ever want to x


      1. Oh wow what an experience. I’ve always been fascinated and intrigued by freelance, but never got into. I wouldn’t know where to begin. Thanks for sharing your experience on your first year of your freelancing journey. It’s good to know the ups and downs, and not just the fairytale that social media paints.

        Liked by 1 person

  14. I’ve been looking into freelance writing, and it was great to read about the lessons you learned. I agree it is important to regularly take time off, and I’m constantly telling my friend who has her own translation business that she needs to take days off! I also agree that everyone has a different work-life balance that works for them!

    Liked by 1 person

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