Things I wish I’d known when I started freelancing
Freelancing is tough, fun, energising, soul destroying, confidence building, the best thing in the world and the worst thing in the world.
You find things out about yourself that you never would if you worked for a company, in an office, day in, day out. Like how much you rely on someone else to take turns making the coffee, or how much of your life was spent sneaking time out to watch YouTube. Of course I never did that. Ever.
But there are things I wish I’d known before I started freelancing …
- You will be working a whole lot more than when you were in employment. You have to do it all – the fabulous stuff as well as the boring stuff. People tell you this, but you never quite believe them. Believe them. It’s the truth.
- You need to set yourself a budget. Everything costs when you set up a business. Sure, you can do it bit by bit, but there will be unexpected costs. Budget my friend, budget.
- The digital nomad life isn’t for everyone. Even just nipping out to Starbucks to do your thing and look like one of those glamorous freelancers doesn’t always work. If you have kids, dogs or friends you can basically forget it. If you like to talk to random strangers you meet, you can forget it too. Working in a coffee shop is 10% work, 90% distraction.
- The thing you thought you were good at may not actually be what you are good at after all. You need to be prepared to take stock and re-evaluate every now and then. Don’t be afraid to move the goal posts, go in a different direction … or … heaven forbid … go back to the cushy pay cheque and the 9–5.
- You need to be hard sometimes. Just because you’re a freelance doesn’t mean that ‘free’ should be a thing. Stop with the freebies.
- You need to be ultra-flexible. Sometimes you will give freebies because it makes sense to you, or you’ll take on a job with weird timing, because it’ll give you a connection in the right industry. That job for the random stranger you met in the supermarket might just be the opening you need to a whole new world of work. Take up mental yoga as a hobby.
- It is possible to sit in your garden and get work done. You can be one of those people, feet up on the sofa working on your laptop.
- It is possible to take days off when you fancy (yes, it is), but you have to make up for it somehow if you’re going to keep on earning. Take the day off to go scuba diving in the local boating pond or climb trees looking for the rare purple-tailed squirrelbird if you want to, but work at the weekend when your mates want you down the pub.
- Find your tribe. Once you do your working life will be so much happier. Even if that tribe is the local clown-appreciation group who meet every seventh Saturday in the local Wetherspoons.
- Find your rhythm. Work when it’s best for you. Sure, fit your meetings to your requirements, but if you work better between 9pm and 3am, do your thing. No one has to know.
- You can drink as much coffee as you like, but it’s not necessarily a good thing. I had to ration myself after my caffeination hit eight mugs of double-strength black coffee a day (true, that).
- Don’t be afraid to be yourself. People like people not robots (unless you’re a robot nerd). When I dyed my hair green I thought it would end me. Instead it became a ‘thing’ and people remember me for being the slightly off-centre green-haired editorial type with a liking for black coffee and gin.
- You control your work. If you don’t want to work with someone you don’t have to. Period. No excuses. Just don’t take on that work.
- Freelancing is work on your terms. No one is going to tell you what to do. You’re the one who makes or breaks it.
- Freelancing is the best thing in the world, if you allow it to be.