How Long Does It Take To Be A Successful Freelancer?

Michael, an old co-worker of one of my clients was just made redundant at his software engineering job.

After being given my details with the hope of some temporary contract work he asked me this question:

“How long does it take to be a successful freelancer?”

He’d never gone out on his own before and had only every been part of the engineering departments of businesses in the past.

He had no business knowledge whatsoever.

He followed up with:

“Is 6-12 months long enough do you think?”

And of course I answered with…

“It depends…”

After digging deeper and asking him more and more questions, it sounded like he suffered from most of the maladies that we engineers suffer when we first go out on our own:

  • “Marketing is gross”
  • “Sales is even worse”
  • “I’ll build a nice website in order to get clients”


I told him the truth.

“If you rely on passive marketing channels such as your website and writing regular blog posts, 12 months won’t be enough, you’ll need much longer.”

And then I had to tell him the truth about ANY business, not just freelancing.

“Also, if you don’t embrace marketing and sales, you’ll forever be stuck in feast and famine freelancing as you’ll simply be accepting whatever work gets thrown your way. You MUST take control of your ability to create a fantastic income, it doesn’t magically happen!”

Grudgingly, he said that he understood and asked what he should do instead.

Here’s what I told him:

  • Be active with your marketing. Don’t wait for people to stumble upon your website, because they won’t. Instead, reach out to them in ethical ways and offer your specialised help.
  • Don’t compete with other freelancers. If you’re competing with off-shore freelancers or website builders, you can never create a sustainable business. Stop thinking of yourself as a freelancer and start thinking about yourself as someone who can HELP business owners achieve their goals with unique skills and knowledge. You’re NOT a temporary resource, you’re a trusted partner.
  • Find parallel opportunities. Miachael had just completed a website for a unique niche and therefore had a great case study under his belt. The most obvious opportunity is to leverage that success and find similar businesses potentially looking for help.
  • Offer two types of services. Offer “risk reducers” and full-blown whale projects. Build trust and knowledge with the client using risk reducer projects and then help them with the complete project if the risk reduction project is successful. Both are profitable, both are excellent for cash-flow.

I cover a lot of these topics in my free webinar here if you’re interested in hearing more about some of these tools that I teach at the Full Stack Accelerator.

With these strategies in place I honestly believe that he can create an incredible income as a freelancer in just weeks or months, rather than the year he was hoping for.

At one point I mentioned:

“If you implement these things, you’ll easily be making what you were making in your previous job within a few months.”

He actually scoffed at me!

He didn’t believe that was anywhere near possible (he was making 6 figures in his previous job), his goal was so much lower than that!

I didn’t want to push too hard on this first call, but I truly believe that he’ll be amazed with what he can earn with some simple systems in place.

Will he succeed?

I hope so.

It’s difficult to get past our biases when it comes to marketing and sales, but if he pushes through that uncomfort, the sky truly is the limit.

What are you currently struggling with as a freelancer?

It’s possible that I help you in my free training here. If not, send me an e-mail (you’ll get my e-mail once you sign up to the training) and I’ll do my best to help.

Ben Walker - Full Stack Accelerator