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There is no life-hack for freelance success

Just show up and put in the hard work each day

Get up at 5am. Drink a chia smoothy bowl. Make many checklists. Exercise. Meditate. Read books. Reach inbox zero. Work only 3 hours a day 4 days a week. Go outside. Network. Hire a virtual assistant.

There, you did it! You are now an extremely productive and successful human being!

Is anyone else as tired of ridiculous life-hacks as I am? Is it a side effect of our on-demand, instant-gratification, dot-com billionaire culture that people need to believe there is an easy shortcut to business success?

Newsflash: there isn’t.

I’ve run my own one-man freelance UX/UI design business for 17 years. It’s had its ups and downs of course, just like any other business. In the last few years am I finally feeling like I’m reaching a career peak. I’m hitting a really good groove and my business is going where I want it to. Money is good, creative projects are interesting, clients are almost always magnificent — Work couldn’t be much better.

17 years of turning up every day and putting in the hard work is what got me here. Years of building reputation, acting ultra-professionally, and finding ways to give my clients more value. Respecting my client-partners and delivery my best work for them, every project, every time. Knuckling down and getting things done even when I don’t always feel like it. Even when the sun’s out and the surf’s up. Even when the projects are dragging and creatives getting stale. Even when the budget is running out and I have to go the extra unpaid mile to deliver exceptional outcomes, just because I care about my client’s success.

Ask any successful independent contractor or small business owner and they’ll tell you the same thing: there was no shortcut. Consistent, hard work over a long period of time is what pays off.

Could I have accelerated the process of my freelance business growth and gotten where I am sooner? Probably. I could have had grander goals and been less complacent. I could have carved out more time for business development and networking even when I was overloaded with client work. I could have been more proactive. I could be better at marketing and self-promotion.

But these are all broad strategies in their own right, that require months or years of strong commitment. There are no quick hacks for freelance business success. Stop looking for shortcuts — focus on consistently excelling at your day-to-day work.

You may be surprised at how that alone propels your freelance career.

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Benek Lisefski

Hi, I'm Benek Lisefski. Since 2001 I've run my own independent design business. Join me as I unfold 20 years of freelance business knowledge: honest advice and practical tips to help you take your indie career from good to great.

MediumTop writer in Design, Business, Creativity, and Entrepreneurship.