Six months into living the freelance dream, I believe I am qualified to pass judgment on the real world of freelancing.
Whatever anyone says, starting a business on your own is hard. Yes, there are great things to being your own boss; you can get up, start and finish work when you want; choose your own clients; work from anywhere; take breaks when you feel like it, and do the household chores during your working day, leaving your weekends free for fun fun fun.
However, freelancing is not always a bed of roses. It’s like waking up on Christmas morning to the toy you prayed Santa would bring to you… only to realise it needs constructing, it requires four AA batteries and one of the parts is missing.
All of the issues are fixable, but it takes a bit of time, patience and know-how to get your working life running smoothly.
Here are 8 ways to jump the freelancing hurdles, without breaking a leg:
1. Create a timetable
Six months in, after whiling away my days in coffee shops, I have realised that I need some structure in my life. Believe it or not, having the freedom to go where you want, when you want gets old after a while. Humans need structure in their lives; it’s why so many of us are resistant to change, but we often don’t realise it until it’s gone. I am one of the least structured people I know; but after six months of ‘freedom’ I have realised the benefits of setting a weekly timetable to give me some work-life boundaries and allow me to appreciate my weekends again.
2. Set boundaries between work and home
Setting my timetable is the best thing I could have done. I’ve set myself a start time of 8.30am and finish time of 6pm. I take lunch between 12.30-1.30 (this includes time to do any errands or put the washing on); I have an hour twice a week where I fit in the gym and the rest of the time, I work. Then after 6pm, I have my home life; the laptop goes off, and home time begins. Of course, there will always be times, just like any job, where I need to do some overtime. But by setting myself boundaries, I find it easier to motivate myself to work when I need to, knowing I can rest at the same time as everyone else in the working world, and enjoy my weekends again!
Exercise is something I frequently avoid. I know the benefits, and I know I always feel better after I do it, but lets face it, starting a new exercise regime takes effort. However, I started mine this week, and I have my next session today. I believe this will help me to reduce stress and create some more order in my life. Just what I need. Plus the gym and the pool are a lot quieter in the middle of the afternoon!
4. Build a network (work and personal)
I am someone who loves to spend time alone, but ultimately, that gets old too. I dislike the open plan office with hoards of people chattering about their weekend or the latest episode of X Factor, but I now miss some of the daily interaction. I don’t miss it enough to want to go back to a traditional working life, but I do miss it enough to realise that human interaction is important to my wellbeing. Plus, if I make plans to see friends or meet with clients / connections a few times a week, I am lees likely to rant at my poor fiancée when he comes home from work, because I’ve been home alone all day!
5. Realise no one is perfect
When you work in a large office or even just in a team of people, they often pick up on the things that you aren’t so good at and vice versa. You cover each other’s flaws. I didn’t realise how important that was until I found I only have myself to rely on. No one is around to check my work; there is no hierarchy for it to go through before it reaches the top dog. So it needs to be perfect – EVERY TIME. No one is perfect all of the time, so you need to expect to make mistakes. For me, its attention to detail. I am good at what I do – but I make silly mistakes. These are things I am currently working on and leads me nicely to my next point.
6. Find out what you’re bad at and make allowances for it
We are all bad at something; the secret is figuring out what it is and trying to put safety nets in place to hide your flaws. I have written myself a checklist of all of the things I must do before I send anything to a client… things like, check spelling, make sure the right attachments are there. etc. Seems simple, but I get excited about the content and miss the details. Having a checklist keeps me in line.
7. Always keep on the lookout for work
Work can end at any point, so even when you’re super busy, always make time to look for new work. Join societies related to your line of work, go to networking events, meet people, talk to people, and get yourself out there. It will keep you sane and find you business.
You never have what you need and it is expensive to get it! I’d love a special chair, a new laptop, a desk, a separate work phone etc etc… These things are not always affordable when you first start out and so you end up working with less than effective tools. Don’t underestimate the time and patience you need to work with substandard tools. Or the backache you might get from sitting at the kitchen table on a laptop!
Like I said at the beginning, there are lots of great things to working for yourself, but it’s very easy to quickly get stuck into a life of day time TV and little contact with the outside world. Follow these top tips and you could have a successful and happy business of your own.