One of the most frightening things in being self employed, especially at the beginning, is the mostly complete unpredictability about your stream of income. This is even more scary when being a composer where you’re depending on projects that might come or not come at completely unpredictable times. Starting out as a freelance composer trying to make a living from it probably scares everybody at the beginning, not knowing whether you will be able to pay your rent for the next month etc.
The upside is that probably everybody needs to go through this. Of course it is easier at the beginning of one’s life. Building up a network and a stream of income while you’re studying and are probably (partially) supported financially by your parents makes things much easier than having a family, quitting a regular job and trying your shot at being a composer.
For most people (including me) it helps or has helped to get some predictability in your income by doing a related side job like for example teaching where you always can count on a specific amount of money at the end of each month. Another thing that is important is to be as widely spread as possible with your clients. Don’t just rely on a few clients that bring you in big jobs but once they break away for whatever reason you will be having big troubles compensating for it. So even when your current project situation looks good, there might be a need to go for new contacts in order to have more security later on.
Also, don’t think that just because you’re having a phase where you turn down projects because you can’t handle them all, it will stay like this forever. The golden rule here as usual of course is also: save as much money as you can for worse times. Unfortunately as with every self employed person, they might come sooner or later.