It takes a long time to start doing freelance professionally – there are many stages you have to go through before you can even consider doing client work. At first you have to become proficient on the technical end. This can take a few years but it’s fun, you’re learning new skills – illustration, design, photography, etc. Once you build up your skills to a professional level, you must show that you can use them to solve a potential client’s problems, thus you begin working on a portfolio. Portfolios are also really fun because you’re imagining your ideal client and doing the type of work you hope to get. Unfortunately this is where the easy going, self paced, fun work ends. It’s now time to get clients, a process which often has little to do with your actual work and is filled with risk, judgement, and failure.
You’ll think, “I’ve been working for years, how come clients aren’t knocking on my door?” You’ll feel burnt out and wonder if you should just get a full-time job like your friends, after all they’re getting paid a great wage and have weekends and evenings off! Why am I working more and making less? However, most of the time the problem isn’t that you’ve chosen the wrong type of work or that your skills aren’t up to par, it’s that your approach is off.
Before abandoning the craft you’ve been developing for years in pursuit of a different field, look over your current skills and see how you can make them pay. Are you targeting the wrong type of clients? Maybe you’re not reaching the people that will pay for your services and need to start marketing. Or perhaps the type of marketing you’ve chosen isn’t best suited for your target client.
The point is its always fun to start new things. There is no risk in starting a new project or job and it’s exciting. However, if you want to succeed in the long term and create a legitimate freelance business, you will have to plow through the false starts and wrong avenues. You’ll have to test, tweak, and struggle with frustration and disappointing results until you find a system that consistently makes all the fun work you did early on pay.