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7 Realities of Freelancing: What You Need to Know to Succeed

Many a time have I been asked to give someone an online job simply because they heard I was garnering income by just sitting in front of a screen every day.

My 18-year-old self would’ve been damned if she thought it was just that easy.

And my 20-something-year-old self sometimes gets too frustrated to explain how it can’t just be that easy. We’re unfortunately built on a culture that revolves around waiting for an opportunity to happen—and what most young people fail to realize is that they have to actively seek it. This is the difficult part: making people understand that they have to take action to make things happen. You have to take part in your own success.

Where It All Started

A lot of us seek ways to earn money without much sweat, using search engines for questions like “How to earn money online,” “How to earn money on YouTube,” or “How to earn passive income as a student,” among many others. But we often curve and close the tabs the moment we realize it won’t give us the results that we want instantly. I also went through that phase, making use of applications like Honeygain, and just imprudently hoped for the best.

blue retractable pen on top of notebook near magic keyboard
Photo by Lukas on Pexels.com

But weeks went by, and the best simply did not arrive. I realized that I wasn’t going to earn even just a single thousand by just checking an app on my phone every now and then. I had to do something. I had to bank on something I was good at—and it clicked on me: I was good at writing.

Or so I believed I was. But it was not my writing skills nor my achievements that pushed me to where I am today: being able to help my family with the bills and expenses, being able to spoil myself with the simple luxuries my younger self had always wanted, and generally earning more than enough income as a college student. It was my sheer determination to provide myself with a life where I didn’t have to depend on my parents or anyone for that matter.

But that sheer determination to dip my toes into freelancing came with the risk of running into the problematic side of the industry. Given that I was just starting out, I was pretty much clueless about everything—but they do say experience is the best teacher, right?

7 Harsh Cold Truths About Freelancing That You Should Know As A Newbie

If you’re a young someone who’s just starting to freelance or already trudging on the rocky path of it, then I would assume you’re already beginning to suspect that it won’t always be a smooth process. But lo and behold, here are some things you probably should know as early as now if you want to go from dipping your toes to submerging yourself in freelancing…

1. Some clients won’t care about you.

Yep. They won’t care who you are, what family name you have, or which place you are from—they will only often care about what you can offer for them. This is the problem with many people asking what’s wrong with their [Upwork] proposals because they are getting no responses. Here are some of the badly written ones I have seen posted on Reddit:

Posted by u/Niklaus420

Potential clients would turn away the moment they see the phrase “I absolutely see myself doing this.” It will only make them want to not see you doing it. This proposal is full of filler sentences that start with “I have,” “I am,” and “I would”—but they do not care about any of that. They want to hear what you can do specifically for them.

Another red flag: “Give me a chance, and I will prove myself!”

That’s enough to make any client turn away (if they even get to that part of the proposal).

Remember, you are not selling yourself; you are selling your services and why they should choose you beyond what you say you are.

Here’s another example:

Freelancing cover letter
Posted by u/WorkForsaken5618

Like the previous one, clients won’t have the time to go through all of this. Skip the rhetorical questions and go straight to what you can give them. The whole tone of this proposal is also too commercial and robotic—like something copy-pasted off of a sentence generator.

Let’s have a look at another one:

Posted by u/Polishable6

This one’s an embodiment of the phrase “all bark and no bite.” From a new freelancer’s perspective, this one may sound promising, but from a client’s perspective, it’s just empty.

The next time you send in a proposal or a cover letter, remember, the best way to do it is to just straight up write something that would answer the question “What can you do for me?” but make it clear, concise, and above all, realistic.

But here’s another pro-tip that can counter that: clients also love when you put in some personality in your proposals. The bottom line is, as long as you don’t sound too robotic and you are genuinely interested to take on the task, they will already know that you have something valuable to offer.

Take a look at the proposal I sent for this job posting:

Here’s the proposal I sent:

Just a few minutes later, I got sent a direct offer with this response:

Hey thanks for your application. You wrote an interesting message that got my attention! I will send you the details shortly that outline the topic and requirements etc.

The point here: some clients won’t care about all the unnecessary details about you, but if you put in some personality in your proposals that could give them a background as to how you work, then there’s a high chance you would be handpicked for the job.

2. You will be lowballed.

I first started out with a measly rate of $10/1000 words. Php500 for a 1000 word-article. I was basically paid for half the time and effort it took for me to write a whole piece.

That was already a great deal for me back then, but I didn’t know I was actually just clueless of how much more I could earn by just writing alone. However, it was justified since I was pretty new to the whole gist of content writing and I still had to work my way up.

There’s one thing I did realize, however: clients will try to pay the lowest rates when they realize you absolutely have no idea what you are doing (I didn’t, at that time).

My starting rate of $10 wasn’t that bad for a beginner, but it wasn’t exactly good either. However, I was surprised to see a lot of clients on Upwork and on Facebook job postings shamelessly willing to pay $2 for a thousand words.

So if you’re a newbie freelancer, especially under the niche of content writing, know that you will be lowballed—and they will take advantage of your cluelessness. The best way to battle this off would be to know your worth, but don’t be too arrogant with your skills because there is still so much more to learn.

Upskill. Reflect. And don’t let yourself get paid for less than what you know you are worth.

3. Your age, grades, or whatever achievements you had in school would have little to no significance.

When I first applied to every job posting I could find, I thought that my bag of writing achievements would be enough to help me secure a spot as a writer. I have had years of training in writing since I was ten years old—how could they ever turn their backs on such a strong candidate like me?

But nope, the burnt-out adults were right—the world does not work that way. My poor old self’s ego got slapped with the reality that just because I went through a lot of writing press conferences as a kid, I would automatically get a pass into the fantastic world of freelancing.

But don’t get too excited; you still need to build your work habits while in school, and decent grades will definitely help you get to the next part of your journey a lot easier.

As for the age part: you don’t need to be a 20-something graduate just so you can be a freelancer. You can start as early as 14-16! I started out when I was 18, and it was kind of fun being in an onboarding process together with 40-something-year-olds who quit their corporate jobs and started to go freelance on a digital marketing agency. Age doesn’t matter here—you will be fine if you are competent and skilled or determined enough.

4. It’s not a shortcut to be rich.

Freelancing isn’t an easy way out, contrary to what many people on TikTok and YouTube market it to be. Some would flex their three-digit incomes, and droves of people would start typing in “How?” in the comments section.

If it is too good to be true, it probably isn’t.

But don’t be discouraged, a three-digit income is very much possible with freelancing, but you still have to work your way up to get there. Unless you win the lottery while at it, becoming rich overnight via freelancing is far from being an easy possibility.

Don’t get too pressured when you see all these “Not to brag but…” posts; your time will come, and that time will absolutely be worth the wait.

5. Having low rates does not make you attract valuable clients—it only makes you look cheap. But…

Given that the freelancing industry is becoming all the more saturated right now, many people resort to lowballing themselves just to score clients.

This strategy can backfire in the long run as clients who are only looking for a cheap deal may not be the ones who value quality work or are willing to pay for it. Therefore, it is crucial to value your skills and charge what you deserve. Instead of lowering your rates, focus on differentiating yourself from the competition by highlighting your expertise, experience, and unique approach to the work.

Remember, your rates should reflect the value you provide, not just the amount of time you spend on a project.

6. You will have multiple bosses.

Contrary to popular belief that you’ll be in charge of your own time and freedom when you’re a freelancer, it’s actually also quite the opposite—ironically.

You will have multiple clients, each with their own deadlines, expectations, and requirements. This means you’ll need to manage your time effectively, be organized, and have excellent communication skills to keep all your clients happy. You’ll need to be flexible and adaptable, as projects can come and go, and clients may have to change needs or preferences.

One thing I also learned: you’ll need to be comfortable with negotiation and setting boundaries, as some clients may try to take advantage of your time or expertise. When I was just starting out, I had a hard time placing my boundaries because I was just an amateur—and some clients were trying to take advantage of my cluelessness in the industry.

However, the upside to having multiple bosses is that you can diversify your income streams and work on a variety of projects that interest you. You’ll also have the opportunity to learn new skills and expand your professional network. Overall, being a freelancer requires a unique set of skills and a willingness to adapt to different clients and situations.

7. Your biggest enemy would be yourself.

Imposter syndrome will work its way in—that is inevitable. It’s normal to think that you can’t take up a project because you believe you’re not fit for it, but hey, the world is all about faking it until you make it, right?

While it’s true that self-doubt can be a challenge for freelancers, it’s important to recognize that it’s just a feeling, not a fact. You have the skills and experience to take on the projects you’re interested in, and if there are gaps in your knowledge, you can always learn and improve.

The key is to be proactive and take action despite your fears. Remember that many successful freelancers started with little experience and built their expertise over time.


The bottom line? Believe in yourself. Cliché as it may sound (and believe me, as dramatic as I am, I cringe at clichés, too), this was the one thing that led me to where I am today. I’m still far from being successful, so take everything here with a grain of salt, as they are all rooted in my personal experiences.

Be proactive—seek out opportunities; don’t just wait for them to fall at your feet. I once saw someone post on a freelancing group that they were looking for a job, and someone commented, “The ship is what goes to the port—not the other way around.”

In other words, you have to be willing to put in the work and take risks to make freelancing work for you. It’s not always easy, and there will be times when you doubt yourself and your abilities. But if you stay committed and persevere through the challenges, the rewards can be great.

Who knows? With hard work and a little bit of luck, you might just find yourself living your dream life soon enough!

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