How Distance Learning Set Me Up as a Freelancer

Earning my degree through distance gave me the tools to find success in working remotely and in working freelance.

While the courses themselves did not relate, directly, to the type of work I am doing now, these courses did give me the skill set I needed to be able to cope with multiple projects and deadlines.  The organization that it took to complete courses in a set time, and to set (and keep) a deadline in courses that only had a general “end date” has given me the confidence to manage several projects and the discipline to keep on a deadline.  But beyond the organization, it is the confidence that has been an asset.  Knowing that I was able to manage several courses simultaneously is something I fall back on time and time again when the projects or work feels like it is becoming overwhelming.

Being overwhelmed is something I felt from time to time through the courses at AU, with the assignments that felt too big.  But, then I would sit down and strategize, take things one step at a time, and not look too far ahead.  I would plan out the coursework, goals for the week, and a projected end date.  I would consider not just the one course, but all of them, together—how did they fit together and how would I schedule each one so that they all received the same attention and I would maintain the pace I needed to complete the work?

Moving this skill to freelance work has taken some adjusting: the end results or the order is not always as clear.  Judging what takes priority and what can be pushed is a skill that is developed, grown from those earlier days.  It takes open communication, talking with the project managers about what is a priority if it isn’t apparent, and being open about deadlines.  When do they need it by, and when can I realistically get it done by? This might, one day, mean turning certain projects down—not over-committing.

Just like with AU, I could only take so many courses at a time.  I had to be honest with myself about what that looked like, what was reasonable for me and what would get me finished by my projected end date? It can be hard to turn projects away when starting out freelancing, and in the beginning, you won’t have to.  It is important when starting to say “yes” to challenge yourself.  But, as you find things getting busier, and your time scarcer, it is also important to know how to say “sorry, but I don’t have the time for this right now.” It is better, to be honest with the companies than to take on too much and have the quality of your work become compromised.

As the saying goes, it takes a long time to build a good reputation, and only a minute to destroy it.