Freelancing – 16 Things I Wish I Knew Before I Started

Being a freelance artist is not just about the artistry in itself. It’s not just about the act of dancing, writing, acting, painting etc. There is so much more to it and it’s so much more work than what you see on social media. We have to learn how to be proactive, creative, resourceful, learn how to communicate, network and make an actual income from it – while (trying to) not go completely insane.

This post might be helpful if you’re considering a freelance career! Let’s go!

What does freelancing even mean?

A freelance job is one where you work for yourself, rather than for a company. Freelancers are self-employed, and take lots of different contracts.

The cool thing about freelancing is that you get to work with so many different people, companies and brands. Not two jobs are alike, you decide which contracts you want to take since you’re your own boss! You’ll most likely never get bored – and if you do – the job you’re on won’t last forever. Phew!

The best things about freelancing are also the worst things about freelancing. Therefore, I put together a list of things I wish I knew about freelancing as a dancer before I started:

1. Making your own schedule is not that easy

When and where you take classes, in which styles, who you learn from, how often and how many hours a week is entirely and completely up to you. It’s not like on a pro sports team where you have specific practices you have to go to once a day or sets of workouts with the team’s trainer. You don’t have a game every Sunday, instead you have auditions that can show up at any time. But outside of auditions and rehearsals you are in charge of figuring out how you grow and excel in what you do.

It requires a lot of self discipline and time management skills to schedule dance classes, workouts, casting submissions, selftapes, your social media presence, building relationships, passion projects, flexibility training, side hustles, a social life and REST. Scheduling rest can be super hard in a society where we glorify the hustle and #TeamNoSleep.

2. … but it’s GREAT to have a flexible schedule

If you hate early mornings and feel the most creative at 2 A.M or the other way around, freelancing is for you! I can write these blog posts whenever I want and for as many hours I want. In my dance life I can sleep in if my body needs it, so you have more room to listen to your body’s needs.

A flexible schedule also allows you to keep your 9-5 job while you’re easing into the industry. You can train and work on your creative projects in the after-hours and/or on the weekend, until your freelance business starts taking off. There’s no shame in working another job.

Which brings me to my next point:

How To Stop Putting People On Pedestals

3. Don’t “just quit your job”

I’ve seen all those TikTok’s and YouTube videos of passionate people yelling: “QUIT YOUR JOB, GO FOR YOUR DREAM!!” and while I agree with the “go for your dream” part, rent is still rent and realisticly overnight successes don’t happen that often. If you want something to last you gotta put work in consistently for a very long time, and all that jazz.

There’s absolutely NO shame in holding on to a job that can give you financial security. You can use that money to buy courses, classes, hours with a mentor, invest in tools to promote your business like webpages (hi, this blog!), headshots, equiptment, and most importantly: avoid stress and anxiety about finances.

(Read my blog post about side hustles here!)

4. Wave goodbye to stability

In dancing, acting, singing, performing, blogging, writing etc., you just don’t know when the next paycheck will arrive or how much money you’re gonna make. It’s very unsteady.

It can be stressful! There are ways to go about it, like teaching dance classes at a studio every week, but even if you decide to teach, you’ll still get an audition notice out of nowhere that conflicts with it, so you’ll have to give up the steady money for a potential job that you may or may not book.

An income isn’t guaranteed. You can make $3000 one month and $800 the next… Or you know, $10,000 one month and $500 the next. Or $0 one month. You get the point.

Mental stability

When you’re in-between jobs it’s easy to feel a bit (very) anxious, trust and believe, we have all been there.

When you are booked on a job it feels like you’ll be booked forever, and when you’re unemployed it feels like you’re gonna be unemployed forever too. None of it is true.

But you have to be able to deal with the uncertainty. Yes financially, but especially mentally. If you tie your entire feeling of self-worth to the jobs you’re booking or the amount of money you’re making, freelancing will be pretty tough on your mental health.

Don’t let it scare you though, you’ll grow thicker skin along the way. How? I’m glad you’re asking:

Tips On How To Stop Shrinking Yourself And Putting People On Pedestals

5. Rejection is a part of freelancing

You’ve heard people say that you’ll “get so many no’s” in the freelance world. I want you to close your eyes and imagine how many “no’s” you’ll get. Quadruple that number.

When you enter the audition world, you’ll stand next to hundreds of professional, beautiful, strong and confident dancers and you often have a 30 second routine to show to the casting directors before they say “thank you for coming, no thank you”. Other times they will type cast before they let you dance, which means that you sometimes get cut based of your look and don’t even get to dance.

With blogging or any sort of social media job, rejection looks like someone not replying to an e-mail or a brand telling you that you’re not what they’re looking for. It’s less “to your face” than auditions are, since everything is through a screen. But it for sure affects most people’s mental health too if the engagement on a post is low or people unfollow you or write mean comments. I’m sure TikTok dancers relate to that.

It’s easy to get discouraged, but remember that nothing is personal.

My wish for any freelancer is to see “no” as redirection or motivation.

6. No one can tell you to do anything

The cool thing about freelancing in any field is that you don’t really work for anyone, so you have the option to turn down job opportunities too! If something isn’t appealing to you and someone is trying to underpay you – byeee Felicia. Respectfully.

You don’t have to work with everyone who wants to work with you. Always remember that it’s a two-way street! You are your own brand and you have the power of a CEO in your own business. Don’t ever forget that you don’t owe people anything. YOU are the prize, my love! *Cue confetti*.

7. Communication and building relationships in freelancing is key

Degrees and grades mean less and less in this world, and building strong genuine relationships is everything. We like to call it “networking” but there’s something about that word that doesn’t sound genuine.

To me networking sounds like passing your business card around to everyone at an event. And sure, that will make people aware of your existence, but building an actual relationship is much more powerful to your social life and to your career.

Why is it important? If you’re a freelance dancer, choreographers often don’t hold auditions but instead “direct book” which means that they pick dancers based on who they know and who they trust already.

It’s like making friends in a new place, so the same rules apply – be nice, be yourself, work hard, be genuine and listen to what they have to say, when you meet new people. Stay humble, down-to-earth, be reliable, recognize your worth and speak confidently about yourself and your abilities (is that too much to ask!?) … all in all, you’ll find yourself getting way more opportunities based on your personal relationships and build amazing friendships along the way.

8. Find your people

I cannot stress enough how important it is to remember being human outside of your freelance life. Sounds easy? Not always.

Find friends who you can be yourself with, who you can talk about not-only-business with too. Friends who want to go for a Taco Tuesday, a hike in the morning or to jazz friday’s at the museum are so important to me to avoid burnout.

Mental Health: How To Stop Putting People On Pedestals

9. Freelancing takes time

It really does. So stop being so hard on yourself.

Please “just keep swimming”, as they say in Finding Nemo.

You just gotta keep showing up to the river with your fishing net.

10. Freelancing teaches you to recognize your worth

I think most people undercharge when they start out. How much to teach a class? Ehhh… How much for a sponsored blog post? Uhmm, idk, what do you think? I’ve done that so many times, and sometimes the people-pleaser in me still do.

Undercharging is first of all bad for your income, but it can also look bad to your clients if you charge low. They wonder – is this too good to be true?

You HAVE to realize that when you’ve spent 10+ years in a field like dance for instance, you are most likely an expert in your field. So you should be getting paid like an expert.

Check this post on how much professional dancers make!

11. The small victories feel 10 times bigger

Because YOU did that. YOU. How fun and amazing is THAT!

12. Freelancing is not for everyone

It takes a certain type of crazy to love EVERYTHING about freelancing, since it comes with so much hard work, uncertainty and stress, but listen – you’re not a cooler person for being a freelancer or starting your own business.

We are all different and being a CEO of any business isn’t and shouldn’t be the ultimate goal for everyone. This day-to-day lifestyle is not fun for everyone. It’s not suppoed to be.

I definitely reccommend trying it out if you’ve ever wondered what freelancing is like because THERE IS TRULY NO TIME LIKE NOW, GIRLFRIEND! But you’re definitely not weak or just a ” sheep” or whatever the heck they call it on social media if you work a 9-5 job. You’re not cooler if you’re starting your own business. It’s just two different jobs.

The goal is to do what makes you happy.

13. Get your taxes together

Learn about it – like yesterday.

14. You can work all the time – so you work all the time

Night, days, early mornings, weekends..

Most freelancers let their work consume them because they genuinely LOVE their work and their craft. Others work 24/7 because they feel like they can’t be proud or happy or relax until they reach a certain goal, make a certain amount of money or get approval from [insert who].

Thinking this way is normal, but extremely silly.

It is truly a marathon, not a sprint. You need rest, you need to slow down, you need to be proud of yourself every single day of how you show up, how you got out of bed or failed or how you were there for you friend or sent one important e-mail or went to a big audition even though you got cut right away. It’s the only way to avoid burnout and bad mental health.

15. Building healthy and consistent habits is everything

Whether it’s a morning walk with your dog, sitting down with a podcast and a cup of coffee, lighting candles at night or taking every Friday off – building habits that you’re strict about helps you stay sane.

Find workouts that are FUN, make your desk cuter by adding a plant, sign up for a weekly yoga class, get a night routine – whatever sparks a little joy in you every day.

Your body and your mind is your instrument, your meal ticket and your bestie, so treat yourself with some good old respect. Sleep enough and stay hydrated (Note to self: that means water, not a gallon of coffee).

16. Keep learning, stay curious

As a dancer, you keep going to classes and training in different styles and with different teachers and choreographers – because you know that you can always get better. Even exploring different paths and learning skills like acting, yoga, learn more about nutrition, video editing, photography, fashion, makeup or building webpages are all things that will help you grow in your dance career as well.

It’s an on going process. If you start an online business, you’re not gonna know everything right from the beginning – and you’re not supposed to either! You just have to be willing to sit down on your butt and learn about marketing, taxes, time management, networking, social media etc. Did I know how to build a website? Uhm, no. Yet here we are.

You just have to start, be willing to make a ton of mistakes and learn from those mistakes.

If you want your business to grow, you need to grow.

At the end of the day;

We have to remember that the journey is all there ever is.

So with that in mind, we have to find some sense of peace and fun in the middle of the unavoidable freelancing C-H-A-O-S. Like prioritizing a social life, sleep and celebrating the small steps every day.

The most beautiful thing is how you gain so much more self-confidence and self-trust from overcoming all these daily little struggles and obstacles. It makes it all worth it. It’s truly so fulfilling to build something on your own and explore your own potential while seeing what you can get away with in your industry.

The joy you get from your work will keep you going when you’re motivated, and save you when you’re unmotivated.

Still hesitant? Read “Start Before You Feel Read – 9 Reasons to go for it!” here!


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