Lessons from my first year as a full-time freelancer

This past Friday marked four years since the launch of Jess Creatives. This Thursday marks ONE full-year as a freelancer -- it seriously flew by, and I have loved (almost) every minute of it. People ask me from time to time if I'm still glad that I did it, if I still enjoy it, etc. and every time it is a resounding YES. It's not for everyone, and this may not be what I do for the rest of my life (though I would love it), it's definitely what God has called me to for right now. 

Don't get me wrong though, it's also been a really rough year.

Life as a freelancer does seem to be a little more "fun" though, even with the bad days, stressful days, and the "learning experience" days. So, here's a little recap of my first year.

Two months after I took the leap to full-time freelance, my mom died in a car accident. (Yeah, this post just got real.) Anyone would struggle with that alone, but throw in also having to run your own business on top of that, and it's just ... a lot to deal with. Freelancing has allowed me to be VERY flexible in terms of taking time off to be with family, or simply allowing myself to grieve. But, there have been times that I've had to force myself to work, instead of crying myself into a puddle of tears. In case you were wondering, grief/depression and creativity don't go well together

Over the past several months, I've allowed (sometimes forced) myself to "leave work," and do something that makes me feel good. Sometimes, that means going for a hike on a Tuesday afternoon, or going to the dog park, or just watching Law & Order: SVU on Netflix for a few hours (#noshame). There were more than enough bad days, and sometimes it just required creating a good day. That's the beauty of freelancing -- being flexible. For most people, that's just fun stuff, but for me, the flexibility has been giving myself grace in what has been the hardest year of my life. 

Life as a freelancer does seem to be a little more "fun" though, even with the bad days, stressful days, and the "learning experience" days. So, here's a little recap of my first year.


  • Having dual computer screens! (Although I learned having Netflix on one of the screens is not so conducive to working.) 
  • Getting groceries in the middle of the day means closer parking and less crowds. 
  • Business buds -- Jordan and Megan. They are THE BEST. Find yourself one (or two).
  • Going for hikes in the middle of the week.
  • Being able to work (at least somewhat) wherever I went.
  • Getting to have in-person client meetings, instead of phone calls. (Also, free food.)

Best Moments:

  • Fulfilling our Kickstarter goal!
  • Writing, publishing and launching a children's book.
  • Consistently making more moola than I ever did at my day jobs.
  • Being nominated for a "Best of" contest in Gwinnett County, AND a Small Business Award in Gwinnett County.
  • Creating a Facebook group for Atlanta freelancers, and meeting new people through it! 
  • Doubling my client base
  • Doubling my email list (okay, I wish this was a bigger growth...)

Worst Moments:

  • Obviously, losing my mom, as stated above.
  • Being hospitalized on my birthday, and then laid up on the couch for almost a month.
  • I launched two new products/services; both flopped. You can't win 'em all. 
  • Having to fire clients may mean less stress, but I still hate doing it. 

Things I invested in:

  • Food and/or coffee for meetings with clients, or other freelancers
  • A new laptop (partially my husband's....)
  • Small Business Bodyguard
  • Lighting kit for photo and video shoots
  • Edgar (social media scheduling tool)
  • Blissboost
  • Extra RAM for my computer
  • Stamps.com account
  • And typical things (domain, website, business cards, etc.)


  • Leave the laptop in the office. Turn email off on your phone. Learning to relax and recharge is so important to prevent burnout
  • The clients that you feel "iffy" about -- follow your gut, and don't work with them. It. is. okay. to. say. no. 
  • There are clients who don't value your time and worth, and there are clients who beg to work with you. Choose wisely who you work with. 
  • Always keep trying new things. ALWAYS. 
  • Refining your contract and your client process/workflow is an ongoing process. 
  • It's hard to do good work on the "bad days" of grief/depression. Give yourself a break, and try again tomorrow.

Overall, I love being a freelancer. I've had the chance to meet and work with such a variety of great people. I love that what I do allows for other entrepreneurs to focus on running their business, or spending more time with their kiddos. Sometimes, it can be hard to feel like I'm making a difference or doing anything worthwhile. And then, I get thank you's from clients who are so appreciative that I took something off their overloaded plate. The people that I work with --- clients AND other freelancers -- are what makes my job so great.