Freelancing: Getting Paid vs Building Your Own brand

Freelancing: Getting Paid vs Building Your Own Brand & Future

I’ve been freelancing, predominantly as a content and copy writer in the fitness industry, for the past 4 months.

The biggest struggle throughout this time has been the balance of doing paid freelance work and of building my own business, brand and creating long term value for myself.

– I need to earn money today, to pay the bills and eat.


– I need to think of the future and not being a worker bee for the next 60 years.

There’s a conflict here. I only have so much time and energy; especially creative energy.


When I look at it from this perspective, I have actually been in this situation for a number of years.

I used to be a personal trainer, but I knew for a long time that personal training doesn’t lead anywhere. You are selling your time for money, and it subsequently has a very solid ceiling that you will quickly reach, when you run out of hours in the day. Not to mention it has no scale, ability to systemise and outsource, or grow.

Phil Hawksworth - Personal Trainer

Me in the gym in London when I was personal training full time

You can open a gym, or do something else, but then you’re not just a personal trainer anymore, you are predominantly a gym owner. That’s not the route I wanted to, as I wanted freedom to travel.

I spent years doing personal training to pay the bills, while trying to build related, but ultimately different, businesses. I had a degree of success, but the big stuff failed and the stuff that did make money was intricately linked to me and my time investment.

So really, I have always been running this dichotomy of freelancing and trying to build a business simultaneously.

Now I’m a freelancer

Now, I simply relate as a freelancer. Where as before, I was the ‘business owner’. In reality it wasn’t really a business, it was just freelancing.

It’s something I always struggled with. A few times I would invest too much of my time and energy in to trying to build the proper business and would minimise the ‘freelance’ work, so I had more resources to put in to the long term plan.

The only problem was, I invested the little cash that I had and I was often in a position where I got pulled away from the big picture, because I had to hustle to make rent and eat next month. Not to mention how it affects quality of life, which over time, will affect motivation.

Freelancing getting paid in Chiang Mai

My ‘office’ in Chaing Mai, Thailand

I think part of the problem, for me, is that I have always enjoyed the freelance work I have been doing. It differs from a job, due to the lack of a boss. So it is never the case of putting face time in at the office and then going home to work on my real passion. I was passionate about it all.

Of course, I learnt through trial and much error, as everyone does. I wonder, sometimes;

  • Would I have been better getting some education through employment and saving money to invest in a business, rather than bootstrapping from the get go?
  • Would I have been better, when I worked out what business I wanted, saving up for a couple of months and quitting all freelance work. To go all in and fail fast, if I was going to fail. Pick myself up and go again?

Hindsight is a beautiful thing and these are all hypotheticals. Everything that I have done was part of the journey that lead me to where I am. Things would be different under these different potential situations, so I don’t know whether I would have been better off or not.

After all, I’ve had a good life to date. I’m very happy with where I’ve got to in the last 6 years.

I’m not in the position financially I want to be, yet.

I’m not in the position to help as many people as I can improve their lives, yet.

But I am damn well better equipped to get there than I was when I was 20.

Will my breakthrough come this year? Maybe.

Next year? Maybe.

In 10 years time? Maybe.

Only time will tell.

Until that time, I will keep moving forwards. Keep doing the work. Keep trying. Keep failing. Keep fighting.


N.B. This isn’t the direction I intended this post to go when I started writing. I was actually going to detail my strategy, how I have things set up currently, to try and maximise the potential of proper success, while protecting the downside and ensuring I can eat next week. Shit happens, and I wanted to write this, so I’ll do another post.


Want to become a digital nomad?

If you’re chasing the location independent, digital nomad lifestyle make sure you don’t make these common mistakes that I’ve made, and seen people make over the last few years.

You don’t want to end up going broke, having to go home, not adapting to your new life, or being lonely. You work so hard to achieve your dream lifestyle, not making the most of it would be crushing (for me at least).

Check out How to Fail as a Digital Nomad – The checklist for what NOT to do on your digital nomad journey.

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