10 things you should know before you turn freelance


Whether you arrive at a freelance career through choice or by accident there are certain things that you really need to know. Forget about tax returns and ergonomic work spaces, that’s the boring stuff… I’m talking here about the nitty gritty realities of packing it all in, locking yourself in your home office space (and yes, sometimes that’s your kitchen) and getting down to business.

We all know that family and friends will never really understand (or think your time is actually spent working), unless they too have been sucked in by the tentacles of the freelance monster, but that’s just something we put up with, with rolling eyes and melodramatic sighs.

As the siren’s song lures you into the freelance world, there are some things she’s not telling you. Bound and gagged in the stationery cupboard, there are some secrets trying desperately to get your attention…

Freelance cupboard monster

1. Learn to love your tv recorder. Record all the programmes you love, there will be times when you are too busy to watch them… you may catch up on the odd occasion when you have no paid work, admin to do, marketing to do, training to do…

2. Learn to be flexible… bending over backwards is often a freelancer’s default position. Not that that’s a bad thing, if you are flexible your clients may also be flexible too when needed. And it’s fabulous when you go to yoga class.

3. Stock up on local takeaway menus. Either that or marry a chef for those days when you need “just… one… more… minute” on a job, this is especially important for those commissions you love that are difficult to put down.

4. Cover your office space with family photos. They will remind you where those noises are coming from.

5. You will come to realise that life before internet shopping must have been impossible. Really… impossible.

6. Embrace the internet. It is your friend… use it to quickly fact check, catch up with colleagues and read Society notice boards.

7. The internet is your enemy. It will lure you in with emails, shopping, games… and suck your life, and your time, away.

8. Buy catering sized packs of your favourite chocolate, snacks and drinks. You need never run out of coffee again (believe me… you don’t want to run out of coffee!).

9. Exercise is essential. See above.

10. Realise that no matter how hard you try, you will come to love freelance work: it brings freedom and it also sucks your freedom; it brings good clients and it brings bad clients; it brings in money and it sucks it away again as soon as you make it. Above all it allows you to do the things you love, in a place you love…and with coffee and cake whenever you want.

24 Comments on “10 things you should know before you turn freelance

  1. These are bang on the mark, Sara! I can particularly confirm the points about the TV recorder (I have a very long backlog to get through) and the takeaway menus (‘quick’ turnaround jobs can play havoc with the daily menu!). One point I’d add is that you might never read a book for pleasure in the same way again; for me, this has been one of the biggest downsides.

    • You know Mary, I’ve heard that from SO many people. In fact I think it was mentioned in one of my other posts.

      I still manage to read for pleasure, but perhaps because I mainly stick to working on non-fiction, and read lots of fiction for pleasure, it keeps things more separate.

      But when I spot bad formatting or consistent typos it does grate a bit 😉

  2. you only get coffee and cake if you do not run out! 🙂 you have almost sold me on it but then I would have to work harder! LOL keep up the good work.

    • After running out of coffee two weeks ago I now have a massive stash. However, I’m quickly working through it.

      And yes….you really do have to work harder, and longer.

      But today I’m having a half day as my brain isn’t fully engaged…now if I was in “proper” employment, I’d still get paid for just being there….hmmmm! (miss that).

  3. Thanks for #3. Glad I’m not the only who defaults to take out meals on particularly difficult days.

    • Sometimes that’s the hardest bit of juggling work at home and looking after a family. What on earth to make for dinner that’s quick…especially when you’ve been too busy to shop.

      We have very few takeaways here though. On the plus side, our local cinema restaurant now does takeout pizza 🙂

  4. So right on for the USA as well, or at least my now frozen part of the subtropics (freezing rain here). Totally relate, Sara. And nice doodle BTW. Your humor is absolutely infectious, as always, and you highlighted all the best (and worst) bits. Agree with other commenters about this editorial work making it harder to read for pleasure (but yes, I will get started on Ocean at the End of the Lane, as soon as I finish two incredible deadlines!). And, there you go. 🙂

    • Oh yes…dammit…I totally forgot the “when it’s cold your fingers will freeze to the keyboard” writeup! 😉

      Good luck with the deadlines… get Ocean read!

  5. Fingerless gloves SaraJ! As a male half, I get my coffee brought to the office door. Unless it’s my turn to make it. I echo Samuel whatever his name was about drudges and harmless lexicographers. Sometimes I feel a drudge and yet at same time I enjoy the work – when it is interesting, and the great feeling when the index is sent off – email does not quite give the same euphoria as when it was sent by post, ‘Special Delivery’, and the even greater feeling when the cheque arrives.

    • Is its quite satisfying isn’t it.

      Although I prefer editing more, the last two indexes I’ve done have been really interesting, but hitting the send button isn’t quite as satisfying as popping it in the post. And without the need to post stuff, there’s one less reason to get out and meet real people.

      Just don’t talk to me about renumeration at the moment… that’s a WHOLE other blog post 😉

  6. And don’t forget that when you work from home, all your friends and family think that means they can turn up for coffee and a chat whenever they want because, well, you’re at home, aren’t you? So not REALLY working….

    • Now that should have been number 1 shouldn’t it!

      There’s definitely about ten more we could add to this…and the fact that we don’t actually work at all ranks right up there.

      (and that’s why I now lock my door when I’m working) 😉

  7. My problem is that I live within a five minute cycle from town centre and the lure of a quick coffee and cake in a cafe. It is very dangerous.

    • ooooh now that’s both lucky and too tempting for words!

      Being in the country I’m less likely to pop out (hence the industrial sized coffee canisters)

      Perhaps set yourself goals before heading out? 😉

    • Hi Becky, I couldn’t help but be curious when you have a name like that. Ask Sara-Jane for a reference regarding me. I see you are in Shoesbury. And, you paint. Do you know Beth Fletcher?

      That’s all


      • Becky…just seen your blog, and yes a LOT of time will be spent on marketing and admin.

        Why not keep a diary, just to note down how long you spend on everything?

        And I can vouch for John 😉

  8. Pingback: Writer’s Log #14: Month in Review | The Aspiring Freelancer

    • My backside is firmly planted in a non-ergonomic squishy sofa about to start work… exercise is a thing of the past at the moment.

      I really should get back to a desk

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