The 10 Things I Have Learned in My First Year as a Freelance Paralegal 


At the beginning of August 2022, I made one of the boldest moves of my career: I quit my well-paying full-time job as an in-house litigation paralegal at a health and wellness company and put out my shingle as a freelance paralegal. It was simultaneously thrilling and terrifying. Luckily I had a few things in the “Pros” column when I made my decision. One was that I had been freelancing on the side for about three years and already had three clients. Another was that my husband carried our family’s health benefits, and another was that I had the overwhelming support and encouragement of my family and friends to make the leap.  That last item can’t be discounted, it was and still is crucial to my success.

One of my clients, who has been extremely supportive during my transition to full-time freelancing, told me something very wise when I made the move. He said that I wouldn’t figure it out in a week. Or a month, or a year. And now that I am closing in on a year of running my own business, I figured now was a good time to take stock and recap what I’ve learned.  

1. The time I save commuting is worth every lost penny of income from a full-time job working for someone else. Yes, even after a year of full-time freelancing, I haven’t matched the income I made at my full-time job. I am getting closer every month, but there have been months where I worry that I’m not pulling my weight. But I don’t get discouraged, because my lack of a commute and the flexibility I now have are two things I never want to give up.

2. Billable hours vs hours sitting in front of my computer – not even close to the same thing. You can’t just phone it in when you are working for yourself. When I worked for big corporations, I admit there were days when I maybe didn’t feel great, or I was super tired from the daily grind of being a working mom, and I would do the bare minimum to get through the day. Working for yourself means you have to do the substantive work and have proof that you did so, or you don’t get paid. 

3. Working in the right environment makes work much more enjoyable.  I look out a window in my home office every day, and it never gets old. There is a bright red cardinal who comes to see me occasionally, and I smile every time I see him. I truly feel more connected with nature while I’m working at my own home.

4. I wouldn’t have been suited for this lifestyle in my 20s, 30s or 40s. Working at home by yourself can be very isolating, and it’s important to find other ways to socialize. I met many of my best friends at my first paralegal job at a downtown Los Angeles law firm, and a co-worker at another job introduced me to my husband, so the social aspect of working has always been integral for me. These days I try to do my professional socializing by being involved with my local paralegal association, but I don’t feel the need to see coworkers every day like I did in the past.

5. You have to be much, much more disciplined working for yourself.  Routines are crucial! There are constant interruptions- Amazon deliveries, animal emergencies, you name it. You also have to be ready to pivot at a moment’s notice- you may be working on one thing, then another client has a crisis. Discipline plays a key role in being able to pull this off.

6. Social media has been a godsend when it comes to a variety of questions I have– about software, vendors, etc. LinkedIn and the paralegal groups I am part of on Facebook are extremely helpful resources.

7. Online activity is important, but so are in-person events. I was a vendor at a national conference this past May, and not only was it a confidence booster, but it put me physically in front of my target clients, which was invaluable.

8. I have learned to say yes to many more events and opportunities to meet new people, whether in the legal field or elsewhere. I have generally shied away from things like this in the past, but I know it is important to get my name out there. And I never regret attending.

9. Patience, patience, patience. Not gonna lie- this is a tough one for me. I want things to happen immediately if not sooner. My husband, who has the patience of Job, is always telling me that I will have an overflowing work schedule soon. In the year I have been in business, I have been getting incrementally busier, but it’s not fast enough for me. But I am not giving up, because the alternative is not an option.

10. I have so much more to learn. I’m thinking next year I will have 10 new things to write about.

Monica L. Muehsam

Owner and Senior Paralegal

Monica Muehsam Paralegal Services, LLC


Monica Muehsam has been a paralegal for over 25 years and has worked in both law firms and corporate legal departments. She was a columnist for her hometown newspaper, the Avon Grove Sun, and has been published in Paralegal Today magazine, the Philadelphia Inquirer and various local publications. She launched Monica Muehsam Paralegal Services, LLC in 2018.

One Reply to “ The 10 Things I Have Learned in My First Year as a Freelance Paralegal ”

  1. Don’t give up. I’ve been freelancing for over 10 years now and while I’m ready to retire, the workload doesn’t give up so I’ll keep at it as long as I can. The first couple of years were tough I’ll admit but after about 5 years I was already making as much as I did working for a law firm and the benefits of being my own boss and making my own hours in an environment I love makes up for all the stress of servicing multiple attorneys and not just one. I guess it might depend on the field of law you work in but for me I wouldn’t change it for the world and thank the friend who suggested this to me all the time.

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