Starting a solopreneur career and leaving your 9–5 job is a dream many people share. However, it takes hard work, a strong skill set, and the willingness to learn from the freelancers who are already successful in your field.
I don’t know you, but I want to turn what I love into a freelance career and achieve financial independence.
At the moment, I work for a big company, I feel grateful for what I have and I like my job. But I know I don’t want to stick with my 9–5 for the rest of my life.
So I’m doing two things.
First of all, in my free time, I’m working as a life coach and writer — which is what I love — strengthening my skills as much as I can.
Second, I’m trying to learn as much as possible from six-figures freelancers in my field. I have been reading a lot about their habits, and I have started following their example.
There are several habits I have noticed successful solopreneurs have in common.
1. They break their workday into “tomatoes”
Breaking a workday into “tomatoes?”
If you want to be a successful freelancer and achieve financial freedom, working smart and being productive is not an option, it’s a priority.
As I mentioned in some of my articles, there is a great productivity tool I always recommend, the Pomodoro Technique.
Just in case you don’t know exactly what I’m talking about, the Pomodoro Technique is a time management method, developed by Francesco Cirillo, an Italian software engineer, and entrepreneur, in the 1980s.
It consists of working in small shifts of 25 minutes, with no interruptions and no distractions, and taking short 5-minutes breaks in between.
This time management method was named after the kitchen timer, which Cirillo used to manage his mini shifts, which had the shape of a tomato — “Pomodoro” in Italian.
Obviously, not all successful freelancers use this method, but they tend to organize their working day similarly — that is, in small time blocks.
The benefits of mini shifts
Organizing your work in small shifts has several benefits, among which the most important are:
- Taking frequent breaks prevents tiredness and helps you stay focused and productive throughout the day;
- You can measure your work and have a clear idea of how long you have spent on each daily task;
- You get more things done.
I used this technique for quite a long time, and early on I realized I could adapt it to my own rhythm and energy. So I tried some alternatives to the classic 25-minutes version.
Now I usually work in 30-minutes intervals and take a 5-minutes break in between. However, there are days during which I use the original 25-minutes block or I work in 20-minutes blocks if I’m particularly tired.
Being flexible and adapting each mini shift to my energy has had great benefits so far. It helps me be productive and get things done without feeling tired. So I recommend this flexible approach.
To see if this time management method works for you, you can try the online Tomato Timer.
2. They focus only on their own path
Thinking about things such as why someone is more successful than us, or how unfair life is, is a great waste of time and energy.
Think back to the last time you compared yourself to someone else, someone more successful or wealthier than you.
Did it have a positive impact on your day? Did you get some concrete benefit out of it? Probably not.
See, especially at the beginning of your freelance career, you can’t compare yourself to someone who has years of experience and a solid background, it’s only going to be a frustrating game.
The only path you have to focus on is yours. Your own story is where you have to put all your energy and time.
If you like someone else’s results, great. But don’t be jealous. What you have to do instead is to observe their habits and study how they achieved what they have now. But then focus on your career, not theirs.
Analyze the path that led them where they are now, and follow their example. Don’t get frustrated if you’re not there after 3 months. Real success is a long process.
Successful freelancers do exactly this. They focus on their progress and look at the best ones only to find inspiration and learn.
3. Their mantra is “rinse and repeat”
Repeated small daily actions play a significant role in long-term success because consistency is key to any achievement.
Also, when you find what works, repetition is what makes you continuously successful. So, it’s essential to focus on the things that help us every day get closer to our goals.
Success is the result of patience and repetition of the right habits and actions. And it never comes overnight.
4. They keep their phone in another room when they work
Our phone is a time and energy sucker, unfortunately.
When it comes to its use, there are two kinds of freelancers:
- Those who use their phone every two seconds to check the news, Facebook, Whatsapp, and Snapchat;
- Those who put it away when it’s time to focus on their job.
When I say put it away, I really mean it.
Putting your phone away means keeping it out of sight and reach. This way you are less likely to check it.
I have to confess something here. I belong to the first kind of freelancers, those who check their phone quite frequently.
One day I read an article about this. It said that successful professionals keep their phone out of sight. And that it’s a habit that can make you up to ten times more productive. So I tried it. And I found it useful.
But I still had the urge to quickly check my phone from time to time. So I tried something different.
I realized that what really worked was keeping my phone in my bedroom.
When your phone is within reach, you still check it from time to time, even if it’s out of your sight. While if you have it in another room, you almost forget you have a phone and focus on what you have to do.
Six-figure freelancers know how a simple phone can absorb their energy and distract them from what really matters. So they keep it either out of their sight or in another room.
Your phone is a useful tool for communication. Use it wisely, don’t let it own you.
5. They save a part of their income every month and have more than one income stream
When you are a freelancer, you don’t have an employer paying you the same salary every single month. You are responsible for your income. And you don’t have the same certainty and stability of people with a 9–5 job.
Sometimes you might earn much more, sometimes much less.
Six-figure freelancers know this well, so they accumulate a financial cushion every month. They save 10 or 20% of their income. Sometimes more.
If at the end of one month they earn more than they normally do, they put away something more than the usual 20% of their income.
What if the next month something goes sideways and you earn half your usual income? How do you pay your rent or mortgage? How do you pay the bills?
Successful freelancers always have a backup fund for emergencies. They build it month after month, and they keep contributing to it.
You never know.
Multiple income sources
Speaking of the importance of saving money every month, having multiple income sources is crucial. Successful freelancers know that.
In the event one dries up, they have other income streams that lessen the loss.
For example, if you are a writer and your articles and books are your main source of income, you can also work as a proofreader, copyeditor, or beta reader. And you can work as a translator if you’re fluent in more than one language.
To start your side hustles, you can create your profile on platforms such as Upwork, Freelancer, Fiverr, Guru, and PeoplePerHour.
If you have a blog or a website, another great way to make extra money every month, is to join affiliate marketing programs.
In case you are not familiar with this term, affiliate marketing is the process of earning a commission by promoting other company’s products and services.
Affiliate marketing works well when:
- You already have enough traffic to your website/blog;
- You sponsor high-quality products and services that already have a good online reputation and that are related to your niche;
- You join only trusted and top paying affiliate programs.
6. They take care of their reputation
Six-figures freelancers know how important it is to make their name well-known.
So they continuously work on their visibility, maintaining and expanding their network, and actively engaging on social media.
See, reputation can make or break your business success. This is why it’s important to take care of it on a regular basis. Not necessarily every day, but working on it for at least 4 or 5 hours a week is a great habit.
Building a great reputation online starts with encouraging word of mouth, guest blogging on external sites and being active on social media.
Word of mouth marketing is powerful because it builds credibility, and it’s one of the most effective ways to land new clients. When potential customers hear from a friend about a product or service, they are more likely to buy.
Successful solopreneurs continuously leverage the power of word of mouth.
As per guest posts help not only slowly build a reputation but also get more referral traffic, and backlinks to help you build your SEO authority.
As per social media, depending on your field, there are different platforms you can focus on.
However, some of the best platforms to build and maintain a great reputation are Quora — where you can answer questions around your areas of expertise — and Linkedin — where you can build your professional network, add your portfolio, publish articles, and also find new prospects.
If you consistently spend time on encouraging word of mouth, guest blogging, and engaging on Quora and Linkedin, you will get noticed every day more, and grow your strong reputation.
7. They found their special working space
When I was writing this article I asked a friend of mine — who is also one of the best and most experienced freelancers I know in person — if he had some interesting suggestions regarding the habits of successful solopreneurs.
He gave me this brilliant piece of advice and told me a little bit about his experience:
If you want to have success as a freelancer, you have to find the right working space. You have to find the place that make you productive and where you get into the flow.
For many freelancers the ideal place to work is at home. But I tried it and realize it just doesn’t work for me. I also tried coworking spaces, but I just couln’t focus. The place where I reach my productivity peak is the public library, where I find silence. So I go there every day.
And I couldn’t agree more.
It’s essential to find the place where you can get into the flow — that powerful state of mind where you are extremely creative and productive, and lose track of time.
Break down your workday into small shifts, focus only on your own path, keep your phone in another room, save at least 10% of your income every month, have more than one income stream, take care of your reputation, and find the place that makes you get into the flow.
Implementing these habits, and being consistent, will support you on your path to becoming a six-figure freelancer. If it’s what you really want, you will get there.