Freelancing can be an uncertain and potentially lonely path. some people start freelancing with high hopes, only to give up within a few months because they haven’t made the adjustment, and freelancing is making them miserable, destitute anxious or all three.
However, with some mental and physical preparation, they might have survived the change. If only they’d had the benefit of our seven super tips for surviving freelancing…
Don’t Bite off more Than You Can Chew
It’s good to be bold, but don’t oversell yourself to the point where you win contracts that scare the pants off you – because you can’t really do all the things you said you could, or to the standard you promised. If you call yourself an expert, be aware that people will expect expertise. It’s not only a question of quality, but quantity and complexity too, so always assess the complexity of the work thoroughly before estimating how long it will take. Don’t commit to huge tasks that will cause you a coronary if you attempt to finish them on time.
Remind Yourself That This Is Your Job
You are both boss and employee, and should aim to do your best in both roles. That means that as a boss, you should keep yourself on track, take note of the health and safety requirements of your job, identify training needs, ensure employee-you is putting in the hours but also having breaks, and know when to give employee-you a kick up the backside! Employee-you should stay on task, working to deadlines and not mixing business with pleasure just because they’re working from home and don’t have their line manager breathing down their neck.
Remind Others That This Is Your Job
It doesn’t matter how often you put the emphasis on the ‘work’ in working from home; when you say this, all many people will hear is ‘staying at home and having a fiddle with some work-stuff occasionally.’ People seem to find it particularly difficult to understand that freelancers may work from home full time, and that many of them like to stick to something like normal working hours.
These are the people who will phone you up for a chat at 10.30 or knock on the door at 2. 99 times out of 100, it’s not an emergency; your cat hasn’t been run over and they don’t need you to come and babysit their son because they’re rushing an elderly parent into hospital.
It’s something inconsequential, and they wouldn’t dream of turning up at your workplace or ringing you at work for a 40 minute chat about what Dan said to Auntie Margaret or what happened at the rugby match.
Be firm with people. Get caller ID. Have a phone you only use for work and ignore the other one if it rings in work time. Make it clear to family and friends that they should only call in the day time if it’s urgent – or that they can ping you a text, but shouldn’t expect you to read it until you have a break. Don’t answer the door (or put up a no cold callers sign, which will probably eliminate most of your daytime callers!)
Have a Designated Workspace
A designated workspace is a great idea for several reasons.
- It allows you to keep everything you need for your work in one place and always to hand.
- Your work isn’t all over the house, aggravating those you live with and reminding you of work when you’re meant to be relaxing.
- If you use a space only for work, walking into it will help put you into work mode mentally.
- Domestic bits and pieces are out of sight and can’t distract you.
Have Working Hours
We’re not suggesting you entirely abandon the flexibility that’s one of the beauties of freelancing. However, having working hours you stick to when there’s nothing else on the agenda will help you be more productive – and help you feel able to stop working at a certain point, content that you’ve done enough for the day. However…
Don’t Beat yourself Up When You Don’t Stick to Working Hours
The flexibility of freelancing means that you can choose to schedule in non-work activities within the working day – choosing to either work less than full time or to make up the hours at some other point. If this is planned – or even spontaneous, but managed by rearranging your workload – that’s fine. Don’t feel bad about it; that’s one of the perks of freelancing. You can work when you want, providing you do work and ensure that you meet your deadlines.
The uncertainty of freelancing also means you might find yourself working some late nights or weekenders, however hard you’ve tried to manage your workload. Don’t beat yourself up about this either, but do try to make sure it doesn’t become a reular occurrence.
Don’t Go It Alone
Just because freelancing tends to be solitary, this doesn’t mean you have to be lonely. You could:
- Network, both online and in person. Social media is great for tracking down others freelancers or those in the same occupation; try searching using industry hashtags along with #freelancing or #freelancer.
- Join clubs or classes associated with your interests (or a new one!).
- Grab coffee or lunch with others who don’t work 9-5 (or do, but work nearby).
- If possible, work in a library, cafe or even the pub now and then.
- Share an office – or rent a desk in a co-working space.
Of course, there will always be those who eventually decide freelancing just isn’t for them. But if you’re wavering, try out our tips first and see if they make your freelance life a little more manageable.