Everything I know about being freelance I learned form MMORPGs, sort of.

Yeah, that's right, I'm a secret gammer-nerd. I’m not awesome at it. I don’t burn hours and hours in the thing, but I do enjoy it and I have noticed some interesting similarities between going freelance and trying to survive on a PvP server. In fact I would go so far as to say that I’ve learned things playing MMOs that have helped me in the real world. The first being the most obvious.

[col-sect][column]You need money.
From day one. For EVERYTHING. Unless you have high level friends with lots of stuff they don't need, or you know how to make/get stuff on your own, you are going to buy a lot of gear. Money seems to come and go easily in the beginning, but if you don't make a plan, sooner or later, you're going to find yourself stuck in a complicated situation with the wrong tools for the job and not enough cash to rectify the situation.

Some professions require more gear than others, but they all require some equipment to get started and usually that gear will need to be upgraded on a continual basis-meaning you need cash all the time. Sell crap you don't need, only buy stuff when you need it. Some day soon, your going to need that three grand that's burning a whole in your pocket. Hold onto it and wait.

If you have a day job and are planning to jump ship, start saving the money now. Go to a fiscally conservative personal finance class like a Financial Peace University or a Crown Ministries Class and get really honest about where your finances are at. Chances are you are spending money you don't need to. You could be saving it for your eventual departure from Dayjob Inc. If you have a significant other–especially if you are living together–take them with you to the class. Start having honest, open conversations about your money and what you want to do with it. You will never regret having more cash on hand.

Be willing to put in the grind
When you start a new game, your character builds up new skills quickly and you advance in levels often. Eventually, it takes more work to see improvments. In freelance, the the first month was so fun. I was setting up my accounting system, rebuilding my portfolio and my website, people were starting to notice me, it was great. Almost five months in and already I feel the shiny objects spreading out. If I am only waiting for the next big challenge to show up in my inbox I'll go crazy. Instead I need to focus on the routine work that will make me ready for the next big project. Get up, balance the books, keep in touch with clients, edit, produce, plan. There's nothing sexy about the grind, nothing fun about it really. So make the most of a day killing orcs for loot and experience by learning some new skills and find some comrades to go through it with.
[column]Learn some secondary skills
Chances are, there are things that would save you time and money in your company if you spent the time to learn them. In an MMO you usually have your main ability (warrior, mage, scout...) but there are secondary skills you can learn like blacksmithing or herbology. These skills give you the ability to make things instead of having to buying them. Usually you can make things that you can’t buy from most stores. You can spend money and buy your way through the game or you can spend time and craft stuff that is unique to you.

It’s basic economics. Guns and Butter. Money and Time. When you’re strapped for cash and your time is plentiful, learn how to balance your own books, write PHP, or change the O2 sensors in your delivery van. Why give away the commodity you have the least of in exchange for something you have plenty of?

Don't buy gear you're not Ready for.
In most games, the best equipment is only accessible to players at the highest skill levels–the people who actually know how to use those items to there fullest potential. But in real life there is no such restriction.

Much to the delight of Apple, Sony, and Canon shareholders, there is nothing stoping a newb video producer from dropping $15K on a editing system when she only needs to spend $3,000 to do everything she’ll need for her first couple of years of work. Nothing keeps a recently-bared attorney from buying a Burberry suit when a Hart Schaffner Marx suit will do just as well for him and wont look dated quite as fast.

That's ok. Style is important to an extent, it’s a visual world and I believe in visual indicators. Just remember, in the game you get resurrected after looking really good while getting mauled to death by a 4 foot tall spider. In the real world, no one bails you out when your sexy new portrait studio in down town is three months behind on rent, the checking account is wiped, and your credit cards are maxed. There is no release point for being broke.

Which brings me back to the beginning I suppose. At the end of the day you need to make money to keep playing the game, especially in this crazy post-paper-digital-journalist world. It’s time to get scrappy kids. Got a way to make some side cash with your skills, you should probably do it. You don’t need the best gear if you know how you to use yours better than the punk with the high end equipment who just showed up and bought his way into the scene. Keep your nose down and go kill some bad guys. Let time catch up with the twink. [/column][/col-sect]