One of the most recurring questions I get asked is the type of work I pick up.
- Do I always know what I’m doing?
- Do I only pick up work I know how to do? Or
- Do I turn down those I don’t?
The short and simple answer is it varies.
The truth is I don’t always know what I’m doing.
Quite rarely would I ever turn down a client who brings up a project that I’m not capable of doing. Of course, this is within reason. My rule of thumb is to always try and direct them towards someone else with more expertise if I do. But the truth of the matter is, I don’t always know what I’m doing. Not every game or website I make is the same.
One of the most beautiful benefits of freelancing is that you are able to experiment and pick up new skills. Now, I’m not saying all of the work I pick up requires me to learn new skills. In some form or another, it requires me to think creatively and solve problems I’ve never tackled before.
It’s a learn as you go experience.
Freelancing itself is a competitive industry no matter what the focus is. One of the main driving factors of being able to pick up more work is to become good at solving problems you’ve never encountered before. It sounds almost silly when you think about it. How do you become good at solving problems you don’t even know about? Simple, you become good at learning as you go.
“Being a student is easy. Learning requires actual work.” – William Crawford
The learning curve for freelancing can be quite steep, but also rewarding. Each project you do may not always be the same and in some ways, it may even require you to think differently than before. When I’ve first started off freelancing I moved back and forth between a lot of projects and some of them required me to code in different languages I had never even used before. There were times where I would spend hours on end Googling away just trying to solve a simple problem only to discover it was either a lot simpler than I had originally thought, or it was a lot more complicated than I had wanted.
The point is learning as you go becomes a skill not only useful for problem-solving but also to help you understand how to plan things out better. Not to mention it helped me learn how to Google. Yes, that’s a thing. You get better at Googling what you want and that’s a big part of the learning experience. Knowing how to search for what you want.
Wanting to learn drives it home.
Sometimes just being a good problem solver isn’t enough to get you through the day. As I’ve mentioned there are days where I would Google to no end just trying to solve a problem. Not everyone can do this. Some get up, take a break and come back to the problem while others just drop the subject altogether. You have to want to learn to be able to find the answers you are looking for and that answer isn’t always complete. Wanting to learn drives it home and helps you understand why something isn’t working or why something isn’t whole.
You earn a lot more than just a paycheck.
At the end of the day you earn a lot more than just a paycheck. When I’ve picked up my first python project a couple years ago I didn’t know how to use its syntax at all. It took me a couple days to figure out how to use it to a point where I was efficient and a bit longer learning how to use the Django framework built on top of it. By the time I was done I had a whole language at my disposal and on top of that a framework I can continue to use for other projects.
Picking up projects I didn’t know how to do forced me to teach myself what I didn’t know, but the fact that it was work gave me a goal to achieve and a direction to go in. Best of all, these are all things I learned on my own and got paid for. The best kind of education isn’t always taught to you, most of the time it’s what you teach yourself.
“The beautiful thing about learning is that nobody can take it away from you.” – B.B. King
To drive this all home, freelancing isn’t just about moving from company to company or project to project. Freelancing is also about learning and solving problems you’ve never encountered before on your own. There are learning curves for everything you do and freelancing is no exception. For some, the curve may not be as steep as others but passion and dedication are what drives the rewarding outcome especially since you are teaching yourself. For me personally, being able to work from home gives me the ability to take risks and pick up new projects I’ve never done before and learn how to tackle them as I go at my own pace and at my own comfort.