Where did the time go? Twenty-five years have passed and the last day of work has arrived. Two and a half decades at the same company. Who would’ve thought? Time to collect that gold watch and ride off into the sunset of long-awaited retirement, writes Grant Cyster.

Those were the good old days. These days, however, are an entirely different matter. The global employment landscape has undergone massive upheaval in the last decade at least, and the previous rules, generally speaking, no longer apply. An increasing number of individuals around the world are opting instead to explore the feasibility of a freelance career. As with most things in life, there are pros and cons to be considered. For those currently working in a freelance capacity or seriously thinking about doing so, keeping a few key principles in mind will result in a significantly more rewarding journey.

How do you define success? I humbly suggest that authentic success is impossible to attain without keeping one’s integrity intact. It means committing to a professional work ethic that leads to treating others the way you wish to be treated, whether they be clients or peers. Integrity is everything. Cultivating and maintaining a reputation that is above reproach will add more value to your freelance career than practically anything else.

Don’t overcharge a client when it seems you can get away with it, or do the bare minimum that’s required to designate a job as complete. Don’t slander your competition when striving to secure a lucrative contract. Don’t pass off someone else’s intellectual property as your own. Strive for excellence and the provision of genuine value in all that you do. It’s a direct reflection of the degree of respect you have not only for your clients, but also for yourself and the caliber of your work. Those who consistently sow the seeds of integrity will reap a harvest of untarnished professional satisfaction. These days, common decency is becoming increasingly uncommon. Commit to preventing its extinction. Not on your watch!

Let’s dispel right now with any belief that a freelance career is a road to easy money and cozy hours. Sure, there may be some truth to that, but it’s truth that is typically encountered on the other side of a great deal of hard work and discipline that have facilitated a relatively comfortable existence later on. To reference some age-old wisdom: all hard work brings a profit, but mere talk leads only to poverty. Like it or not, that is an undeniable fact.

If you’re to succeed at a freelance career, you must acknowledge that hard work and long hours will often be required of you, and you have to be prepared to offer it gladly. Why? Because you’re investing in yourself. You’re investing in being in control of your own financial and vocational destiny. It’s as sound an investment as you could ever hope to find, and it’s worth making sacrifices for.

Easily one of the most critical professional skills in this day and age, is networking. Indeed, no person is an island. The importance of forging mutually beneficial relationships cannot be exaggerated. Achieving this goal successfully over the long-term calls for a great deal of emotional maturity which goes hand-in-hand with the aforementioned subject of integrity. It begins with a core attitude of humility through which we treat people with respect. It’s the kind of attitude that people can’t help but find attractive, and beyond any benefit we derive from adopting it, it’s simply the right and decent thing to do…period. Creating and marketing a unique brand remains an integral part of any successful business plan, but it’s a structure that should be erected on a foundational understanding of the importance of relationships and of treating human beings with dignity.

In the world of dance, freestyle has to do with movement that is unrestricted by the boundaries of any formal genre or style. It can make for some wonderfully entertaining performances, but as a concept, it adds little value to the life of a freelance professional. On the contrary, an important ingredient for freelance success is structure. Identifying and implementing an intelligent strategy that directs and defines your efforts makes a lot of sense.

“Work smarter, not just harder.” “Those who fail to plan, plan to fail.” “If you don’t know where you’re going, any road will get you there.” Do these kinds of sentiments ring any bells? If so, they do so for good reason. Having a clear plan in place, with defined interim goals, is the only sure way to measure and track your progress. In this case, structure is by no means negative. In fact, structure is to the freelance career what court lines are to the game of tennis. It provides the framework through which the meaningful enjoyment of the experience can be achieved.

Undoubtedly, the journey of the freelance professional can be an incredibly fulfilling one. Bear in mind, however, that the buck stops with you. The glory of each success and the responsibility for every failure lies squarely at your feet. It’s a sobering reality, but once you thoroughly understand and own it, you’ll be well on your way to enjoying a fantastic adventure. Thousands worldwide are already succeeding at it. So can you. Go get ‘em!

Author's Bio: 

Grant Cyster is a freelance media provider and South African Freelancers' Association member specializing in the provision of professional writing and voice over services. His intrigue with the English language began at age 7 when he correctly spelled the word “badge” on the classroom chalk-board (a career highlight to this day). A singer-songwriter as well, Grant is single with no pets or teddy bears and currently lives in Cape Town. Visit his website, http://www.grantcyster.com, for more information about him and his work.