9 Freelancers Share Their Best Advice On How To Live A Creative Life (And Make Money While You’re At It)

Real people give their heartfelt advice on how to live (and make money) as a freelancer.

Nicole Harrington

So, you want to be a freelancer — now what? It’s difficult to know where to start or how to stay creative when you’re, quite literally, on your own. Luckily for us, there are people who have already paved the way in the freelancing world and have plenty of advice that’ll help those of you just starting out on your own creative career.

Here are what 9 freelancers had to say about inspiration, networking, and making money — all things you’re going to need to become familiar with if you’re looking to start your own creative life as a freelancer.

1. Read — a lot

“I always find inspiration in books. In general reading on a normal basis makes me more creative, especially when I’m reading fiction or essay compilations. Reading just gets me out of my head for awhile and makes me look at the world from different perspectives, which helps my work a lot. Non-fiction books about fostering creativity can be extremely helpful, too. Try Start Where You Are or Steal Like An Artist — both are great for when you’re struggling with creativity and inspiration. Basically, look to other people and take their advice into account.”

— Marissa Gannon

2. Find freelancer communities (irl and url)

“I think it’s really easy to feel isolated when you’re a freelancer. You don’t really have coworkers to bounce ideas off of or someone to turn to if you don’t know where else to go. I started finding people online in similar situations who felt the same way and sort of created a little community online. It definitely helped when I had creative blocks or if I just needed to vent about something that bothered me. I know there are online communities that already exist and are super inclusive, and I know some bigger cities have places you can go to meet up with other freelancers.”

— Nick Holland

3. Listen to professional podcasts

“I just listen to a lot of podcasts. ‘Freelance Transformation’ is a good one — it talks about more of the technical side of freelancing, like how to get clients and make money. I also really like ‘The Accidental Creative,’ which talks more about originality and inspiration.”

— Conner Gilbert

4. Get out into the world

“You have to put yourself out there, in more ways than one. When I first started freelancing, I chose to work from home and didn’t really get out much. It was fine for a while, but eventually it got harder to feel creative when I was almost always in the same environment. It’s important to mix things up a bit, to get out into the world and see what’s going on outside of your work environment. Travel a little if you can, and meet as many people as possible. It definitely helps keep you inspired. Plus you might make some great business connections!”

— Lucy Wu

5. Curate your own image

“What I didn’t realize about freelancing at first was that you kind of become your own brand. You’re not just selling your work, you’re selling yourself. For me, that meant cleaning up social media and making sure everything attached to my name online was something I’d be proud if my clients saw. Sounds kind of boring, I know, but curating your Instagram or Twitter can be a pretty fun creative project to do on the side. There are so many cool ways to show the world who you are.”

— Liz Wells

6. Charge what you’re worth, not just how much you need to pay the bills

“As a freelance writer, it’s really easy to want to write something and just throw it out there for the world to read, free of charge. Unfortunately, if you want to be able to buy groceries, you’ve really got to focus on the money aspect of creation. The hardest thing for me was charging my clients for what I was actually worth. I was so eager to get my work out there at first that I would have taken anything as long as I could scrape by, but now I have a set rate and I won’t work for anything less.”

— Emily Carter

7. Don’t let rejection sway you

“Don’t give up just because something you send in gets rejected. Be patient. Consider amending your work if you have to. It’s okay to say, ‘This version isn’t good enough, but I can make it better.’ Use rejection to strengthen your work. And never, ever stop trying.”

— Maria Monrovia

8. Network, network, network

“I would say networking is the most important part of freelancing. People are more likely to give you a chance if they already know you and trust you, or if you’re referred to them by someone they trust. You’re never going to get jobs if you’re never talking to anyone. But it’s also important to network creatively too — if another freelancer isn’t able to take on a job, they might send it along to you instead.”

— Sam Porter

9. Have a damn day job

“I think the best thing you need to do as a creative who also needs to make money (because #billz) is remember that ‘real artists have day jobs.’ It’s okay if your FT profession isn’t that of an ‘artist.’ You aren’t less of a creator because you work a desk job from 9 am to 5 pm Monday through Friday. Work to live and live to create. That’s my motto. Dedicate your open hours to your craft. Use your weekends for your projects. We get to choose how we define ourselves. Our day job doesn’t need to do that.”

— Molly Burford