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Five tenets to live by as a freelance founder in 2021

I’m starting to see a shift in my business, and I have a lot of thoughts on the road ahead for freelance creatives.

As I sit down to write this, I look over and it’s 11:11 AM. I take that as a good sign for 2021. I’m a day late writing this, which speaks volumes about the year I’ve been having. Ups. Downs. Busy weeks. Slow weeks.

This week is a busy week. I don’t love to be busy for the sake of being busy but I often have a hard time saying no to opportunities that come my way. Yes, the money is motivating. And yes, I love what I do.

Lately, the projects seem to be getting better and better (read: harder and harder to say no to). With many insanely talented creatives going full-time freelance, agencies and brands are following their lead. Hey, they need the talent and the support. And, I’m here for it. 

Here area few ways that creatives will embrace freelance culture in 2021:

  1. Freelance and proud: In years past, there’s been a stigma around freelance life. (A personal anecdote: when I first went full-time freelance, my fiance’s brother thought it meant free-spirit.) In 2021, people are finally starting to “get it.” You’ll see more people feel empowered in their choice for self-employment. It’s not just the gig between the jobs. And, it’s certainly not about being a gig worker. Freelancers are founders of their own small businesses.
  1. Freelance, but not for free: There hasn’t always been much rate transparency in the industry. But, with creatives finding their communities and new tools emerging, there are more and more open conversations happening. Give yourself a raise this year. Chances are, you really, really deserve it.
  1. Freelance friends: Speaking of communities, freelancers are given more opportunities to come together (virtually, for the time being). For years, we had coffee shops and coworking spaces to distract us from our independent (yet sometimes lonely) reality. In quarantine, communities came together in new ways. In 2021, I expect we’ll see much more collaboration between independent creatives — and less of a sense of competition. It’s been really fun finding “my people.”
  1. Freelance for the future: It’s a lofty claim, but there’s a lot of research out there that supports the growing freelance industry. And, there are a lot of conversations happening now around the future of work. Perhaps the world is finally ready to embrace remote and independent work? I think so.
  1. Freelance is fun: If I had a rallying cry for 2021, it would be “embrace entrepreneurship.” As a freelancer, you’re really the founder of your own small business. And better yet, you’re your own boss. Promote yourself. Give yourself a raise. Take a vacation day. Why not? Yes, you have other bosses, too. (Clients.) But this year, you’re equipped to advocate for your boundaries and charge your worth based on your value — not your time. Enjoy the process. Have fun with it.

Isn’t it empowering to be independent and to have a direct influence over our own futures? Now, imagine what it can be like as we continue to come together in the new year.


Ready to take your one-person business to a full-service studio?


Carolyn Bothwell

Founder, Freelance Founders

@by.carolynbothwell | @freelancefounders