How to Survive as an Independent Contractor or Freelancer

March 30, 2023
by workmade
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With great freedom, comes great responsibility.

Being an independent contractor gives you freedoms that a traditional job can never offer. Want to take two months off to travel to Bali and learn how to teach yoga from a guy named Sven with a man bun? No problem. Want to stipulate in your contracts that you start work at noon? Go for it.

But it's not all fun and games. You’re now responsible for finding your own clients, maintaining your own schedule, managing your projects, and doing all the “business-y stuff” someone else would normally do.

Here are some of the most important ways to build confidence and stability as an independent contractor, freelancer, or solopreneur.


  • Find a project management system that fits your working style.
  • Build easy systems to keep track of your earnings and avoid surprise tax bills.
  • ABN: Always be networking. You want to make sure you have a steady flow of new projects and clients.
  • Build your boundaries. Part of being your own boss is remembering to take care of yourself.
  • Keep Evolving and skill building. You don’t get promotions when you’re independent.
Find the Right Project Management System

The best part about working for yourself is setting your own schedule, but it can quickly become a double-edged sword if you don’t manage your time properly.

One of the easiest ways to manage your time is to put deadlines, project milestones, and important client meetings on a personal calendar. Consider downloading a task management tool like Asana, Notion, or Trello so you know what you need to get done each day. Another great productivity hack is the Pomodoro technique, where you break your workday into 25-minute intervals, with a five-minute break between each interval. This technique helps you stay focused and productive, while also preventing burnout.

Don’t forget that you work for yourself and part of the benefits is the ability to build your own schedule! If you’re most productive at midnight, then work at midnight - just be mindful of meeting deadlines and communicating any expected delays to clients.

Create Systems to Keep Track of your Earnings

Financial stability is one of the biggest challenges of being an independent contractor. You’re responsible for your own paycheck, expenses and taxes.

In addition to not always knowing when your next paycheck will be, you don’t get to keep all the money you make, either. You’ll have to give a pretty big check to the government every few months to a year. And you have to figure that out yourself. Best practices are to keep your work and personal finances separate and save a percentage of everything you make for taxes. Otherwise, your finances will be a mess of spreadsheets and confusion.

You can set up a business bank account and a tax account and calculate how much to send yourself as a paycheck and save for taxes. Then fill out tax forms and send money when it’s done.

You can also sign up for a free WorkMade Account which will automate that for you, including figuring out how much you need to set aside for taxes and doing it automatically.

ABN: Always be Networking

The word networking makes many people cringe, but if you’re going to be self-employed, building and fostering relationships will be the key to your success! Attend networking events, join professional organizations, and reach out to colleagues to stay connected and build your network. Don’t just rely on job boards. If you have a dream client or customer, reach out!

Don’t just look for clients, look for collaborators as well. Are you a freelance web designer? Try to meet freelance web developers and copywriters so you can work together.

Consider joining online communities related to your industry. LinkedIn groups, Facebook groups, and Slack groups can be great places to connect with other professionals and find new opportunities.

Build Your Boundaries

Working for yourself can be stressful, so it's important to take care of yourself both physically and mentally. Make time for exercise, hobbies, and relaxation to prevent burnout and maintain your well-being. It can be tempting to work as many hours as possible to make more money. But what’s the point if you don’t have time to relax and have fun!

Another way to practice self-care is to set boundaries between your work and personal life. When you work for yourself, it can be tempting to work all the time, but this can lead to burnout and decreased productivity. Set specific work hours and stick to them as much as possible, and take breaks throughout the day to recharge. Sometimes less is more.

Keep Evolving and Skill Building

To stay competitive as an independent contractor, you need to continue learning and developing your skills. Take courses, attend conferences, and read industry publications to stay up-to-date on the latest trends and best practices. Besides formal education and training, consider seeking mentorship opportunities. Working with a mentor can help you evolve your business and find new ways to grow your offerings.

By following these tips, you can survive and thrive as an independent contractor. Remember that building a successful career takes time and effort, but with dedication and hard work, you can achieve your dreams of having the job you dreamed of.

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