Have you ever thought about shaking office life and starting out on your own as a freelancer? It’s an enticing proposition, sure! But, that freelance life isn’t for everyone. If you think it’s lie-ins, holidays and spending your days emailing sans bra or makeup then, you’re right! If by holidays you mean checking your email and content just as much as any other time of year or location, you can believe me when I say it’s not all it’s cracked up to be. Going self-employed takes work. A lot of work, especially in the beginning, so how can you set yourself up for success from the get-go? I may not have all the answers, but I have learned a helluva lot in the past year, so if you are about to take the jump, here are 10 lessons I’ve learned in my first year of freelance.
1. Don’t wait till you are ready (you never will be)
Don’t let the fear get the better of you. I did, twice, and I ended wasting precious time when I could have been bossing it all along. Don’t get me wrong, I have no regrets but really you can’t let fear get in the way of living your life the way you want. Putting yourself out there, expanding into new territory, hustling from the heart, stepping out into the unknown, risking failure, it’s all scary shit! But you know what? That’s ok. Quitting your job to start out on your own is never not going to be scary. So it’s all about those deep breaths and remembering that pushing through fear is the best way to grow. You are as ready as you’ll ever be.
2. Plan your cash flow
There are many different approaches you can take to freelance. For some, it’s about jumping in at the deep end and concentrating fully on the business, but for others, it’s all about spinning plates and starting a side hustle. For me, my side hustle works into my business via my Instagram page and this blog of mine. My business in PR, Events, and outreach is exactly what I’ve always wanted to do, but it doesn’t start and stop there as far as income. There’s no doubt that I work hard on my social media and blog, but I see this as more as a side business that helps facilitate the job I love doing; promoting interesting and awesome fashion and lifestyle businesses. Whether you are taking on what is essentially another freelance business, or moon lighting behind a bar, don’t be shamed into thinking your failing just cos you’ve got a bit on the side. These things take time, remember that.
3. Build your support network
As an extrovert, one of the biggest challenges I’ve faced since going solo is being alone. After two years of being one-half of a business, I no longer had someone else to turn to. It was me, myself and I. Petrifying, right? I couldn’t have been more wrong. Through the help of social media your freelance network is actually just a click away. Well, thanks to Facebook groups such as WE Mean Bsuiness. Once accepted, you have approximately 300 women who get exactly what you are going through. Whether it be a soundboard for when you’re stuck or even just a place to go celebrate that big win. Reading all their inspirational stories can sometimes be just the boost you need to get you through the day. I mean, I know if I didn’t have a mentor in Lynne McCrossan, Cross Cashmere, Honey Pop for my daily rant or Pip Jolley for our regular game plans or my BFF/wife/therapist Sophie, I wouldn’t be standing half as tall and proud as I am today. These people are behind you, and where there’s support, you are sure to find growth.
4. You do you boo
When I first launched my business I had all these weird beliefs about what it meant to be “professional” but really, none of it was me. I don’t have a phone voice, I hate rules and regulations in conversation and I am a PR girl who hates print. But why force it? I know my limits and if a client comes along looking for nothing but Sunday supplement, then sorry, we’re just not the right fit for each other. I concentrate on the things I know I am good at and find people to help me with the things I’m not so good at. I’m no web designer so had Jen Thompson freshen up my website. I’m no Tech or SEO genius so regularly turn to Andrew McGarry for advice. You can’t expect yourself to be your businesses everything, so cut yourself some slack! After 10 months of exhausting myself with my constant plate spinning, I finally took the plunge and hired a part-time assistant in the shape of Kirsty McKenzie. Really, she is everything I needed; well organised, well written, imaginative, determined and with a hustle that reminds me of my own. We don’t work in a conventional way either with no office or real work schedule, just straight up hustling across the airwaves. Unnecessary overheads just didn’t make sense, but neither did my work/life balance so a digital assistant that you could still meet up with for margaritas was the perfect way to ease some of the pressure. Knowing your limits is really half the battle.
5. Look after yourself
This is something I’m still getting to grips with – letting work get in the way of my health. I’ve done it all; starved myself of food, sleep, enjoyment, sunlight just to be where I apparently “should be”, in front of my computer. My anxiety can really push me to believe that food and toilet breaks should only happen after a job well done. But anxiety is an asshole and you shouldn’t listen to it. I mean, how can you be an epic girl boss, a dedicated friend or a loving girlfriend, if you’re constantly running on empty?! Energy is contagious and the vibe you bring to the table matters. So no matter what your anxiety tells you, you can’t feel guilty about putting yourself first. Self-care should never bottom of your priority list, so don’t put it there.
6. It ain’t all about the money, honey
Starting a business isn’t easy. You are going to make mistakes. You are gonna question yourself. You may even get scared and ask yourself why you even started this in the first place. And if you’re just in it for the money, frankly soon you’ll give up. You need a more compelling reason than cash to put yourself through the mental and emotional turmoil that comes with starting a business. So ask yourself what you’re willing to do in spite of the fear, stress, and hard work that will surely follow. Money helps sure, but it’s not the be all and end all in terms of success.
7. Never Stop Learning
Launching a business comes with a lot of learning curves. Even though I had technically launched a similar business before, this time was different. The buck starts and finishes with me and with that brought some things to the surface I thought I’d buried years ago, dealing with issues of self-doubt, insecurity, and fear. I had to step back and get rid of the things that were only enhancing those feelings, and look for alternatives to squish the self-doubt. As I said before, owning your own income means taking on more than just your own skillset. Apart from getting Kirsty onboard to assist with the workload, I’ve also found a few apps that have helped me along the way. Grammarly is a must and helps me every single day constructing emails to blog posts. Finance was also a major concern of mine starting out, and trying to close my last company on my own while trying to build a new one also was also one of the most stressful experiences of my life. Now I pay monthly with Quick Books and it’s one of the best outgoing payment choices I’ve ever made. So if you are struggling with one particular area and can’t quite figure out how to tackle it, try search around and see what things are worth investing in. You never know what’s out there!
8. Set boundaries and try to stick to them
If there’s one thing to love about the 9-5 it’s that it comes with pretty clear boundaries. Start time, finish time, lunch breaks. But working for yourself? Not so much. Owning your own business is a 24/7 thing yes, but does that mean that you need to answer that 1am email at precisely 1.05am after seeing your phone flash while trying to sleep? No! No, it doesn’t. Yes, we need to be available when the business needs us, but working for yourself means doing things your way. I have never been a morning person, so don’t start my day till 9.30-10am after I’ve had my coffee and walked my dog. My partner works 6 days and only gets a Friday off, so for that, I don’t work on Fridays, making up another day’s work by dipping in and over the weekend. I try and switch off my computer at 7.30pm, but almost need to force my phone from my hand to turn completely off. You may not be able to stick to boundaries all the time, but damn it make sure you at least try and set them for yourself. Your relationships AND your mental health will thank you for it!
9. Don’t compare, just do
They say that comparison is the theif of joy, and I believe ‘they’ are right. Yes keep tabs on what others are doing of course, but don’t think about being up against anyone but yourself. Their success does not equal your failure so even when you come across similar companies, freelancers or bloggers, keep in mind that there is only one you. You never know, you may end up collaborating some day!
10. Celebrate and Enjoy!
This is so bloody important I cannot stress enough. Life is far too serious to actually take seriously. Even though I am more than guilty of being a complete stress head, it’s so important to laugh at yourself and see humour in challenging situations. It’s the LOL and the FACE PALM that makes the rough patches so much easier. Hell, even writing this celebratory post that I accidently deleted once finishing, having to write it all over again – there was nothing I could do but laugh. It was gone, so what was I to do but build a time machine? Happiness is one of my core values, so I try to find ways to bring joy into whatever I am doing. Simple things like listening to Abba while doing my banking actually has a real impact on how I feel! So don’t forget to celebrate every win no matter how small and make your happiness a priority. Seriously though, it matters.
Are you thinking of joinging the world of freelance? Head over to my WORK WITH ME page if you wanna hear a little more about my not so 9-5.