"Manage your expectations." Many listings of second-hand items carry this all-around piece of advice, and from one freelancer to another, I'm all for it too.
I'm on to the final leg of one of the most difficult writing projects I have ever handled. I really feel like I could drop dead anytime. I can hardly wait to get the task off my chest. It's high time I get my perky little self back!
While a non-disclosure agreement prohibits me from discussing the nature of the work further, suffice it to say that the project took a toll on my health and sensibilities. I'm not whining. All I'm saying is that I learned 4 valuable lessons from my ordeal. As you can guess, they all relate to how you can manage your expectations as a freelancer:
- Prepare for the worst. Balance your optimism with a proper dose of Murphy's Law: "If anything can go wrong, it will." Keeping this kind of mind set will help you stay on track. It will help you plot a work flow chart -- complete with back-up plans and all -- for problems that you anticipate with your client, with the work flow, with the skills needed to execute the project and with payment.
- Know yourself fully. Affirmation is important. However, do not let other people impose their beliefs on you. Deep inside, you know fully well what you can and cannot accomplish. To work on your weaknesses is all fluffy and nice, yet it does not always apply to real-world freelancing. You'll end up messing the schedule, compromising the quality, and short-changing the client if you accept jobs that you find too difficult to handle.
- Think of yourself as a human being, not a machine. You're not always at your peak. Real people get tired over the long run. As such, allow a few days or a few weeks of leeway on your quoted delivery date. If you feel that you can finish something in 3 days' time, tell your client you'll have the product ready in a week. There are no rules penalizing early submissions. Missed deadlines are a different matter.
- When all else fails, accept the reality that crap does happen. Out of 10 attempts, only 6 or 7 are hits; the rest are misses. This is how life works. Regardless of how much you strive for perfection, there simply is no fail-safe way that you can avoid freelancing mistakes. Be careful, and yet be ready to take blows as they come. More importantly, make the most out of your mistakes. Learn from them. Grow from them. Be a better freelancer on your next project down the line.
Freelancing should be done with zest... If it's beginning to sound like a chore, it means you're close to the burnout meter. *