Successful freelancing requires a whole set of personal attributes, including flexibility, business sense, confidence, organisational skills and motivation. But there are also some practical requirements that you need in place once you begin – or preferably before you begin – freelancing.
A Separate Workspace
Yes, there are freelancers who manage, just about, without one – and yes, there are certain types of freelancing that require a separate space by their very nature. If you create huge art installations or giant earthenware pots, you’re unlikely to find space to do that in your home.
But many wannabe freelancers think that if their main requirement for work is a laptop, they can work anywhere.
In theory, this is true. But there are problems with plonking your laptop down anywhere you want to in your home:
- If other people will be around during the day, it’s going to take a massive effort from both parties to ensure no distractions occur. Sometimes, friends and relatives can mistakenly believe that working from home means that what you’re doing isn’t urgent, and that they’re free to interrupt you with visits or phone calls whenever they feel like it. People knocking on the door can also be a distraction. Household chores can silently guilt-trip you and the TV can seem all too alluring if you’ve hit a sticky patch in your project.
- The trouble with home can be that, well, it feels like home. It’s a place where you’re used to relaxing and doing things to the schedule you dictate.
- Storage and facilities. You need to have paperwork and any equipment you need close to hand. Searching the house for the family stapler or having to go to a different room multiple times a day to collect your work from the printer can eat into your work time.
Having a separate working space won’t make you distraction-proof, but it can help. It allows you to mentally put yourself in work mode – and to switch that mode off once the work is done, by shutting the door on it or walking away.
While you’re there, don’t answer the landline or the door, because you couldn’t if you were still going elsewhere to work. This is your work space and these are your working hours; you’re AT work.
A dedicated work space means you can have everything you need to hand – files, stationery and equipment. If you don’t have a room to spare, consider partitioning off an area or investigate sheds or garden offices. They don’t have to cost a fortune.
If a laptop is always or often literally all you need for your work, then escaping to a library or café now and then can be ideal. It becomes your workspace, and the presence of passing strangers can be a great deal less distracting than your house, chores, family, friends and TV!
A Buffer Fund
A financial safety net is a must. Freelancing can be a financially uncertain way to make a living, particularly when you’re just starting out. Saving up enough money to pay the bills for at least a month or two gives you a safety net if your earnings are small or non-existent.
Maintaining that fund (and adding to it) throughout your career is a good way to ensure you have breathing space if something unexpected happens to prevent you working. You may also like to acquire income protection insurance…
If you can’t work or can’t get work, how will you pay the bills? The type of insurance that’s right for you will depend on your circumstances, so look carefully at health insurances, critical illness cover and income protection products.
You should also think carefully about your products, services and interaction with the public to decide whether you need public liability and/or public indemnity cover.
A Promotional Plan
Sadly, deciding to be a freelancer and telling your nearest and dearest about it does not automatically generate freelance work. By all means tell them, as they may have useful contacts or potential clients in mind for you, but you’ll need to cast your net much wider.
Niche magazines, directories, networking events, local newspapers and magazines, social media groups, your own website, online advertising, flyers, online freelance marketplaces and even notices in local shops can all be great places to advertise your services or find work, depending upon your industry and your target audience.
But you must have a plan for which of these avenues you’ll try and when, how long you’ll run any adverts and how much money you’re prepared to spend on promoting yourself.
If you don’t have these four bare necessities for freelancing, make a plan now to set yourself up for success!