9 months as a freelancer (or thereabouts). Oh, how that time has flown past. It feels like just yesterday that I handed my notice in, after months of indecision, planning, list making, counting down and then rejoicing at how right my decision felt.
I haven’t regretted any of it.
Even within the first 3 months of freelancing, and then six months of
hustling running my business, I was learning lessons, and this hasn’t stopped the further I’m getting along – in fact I don’t think that we should ever get complacent about our careers – whatever path they may take. Alongside developing my business, we’ve managed to take a fortnight’s holiday in Canada/the US, taken long weekends around the UK & Europe, and still explore London. I’m aware that I’m always developing; skills, relationships and that trusty gut feeling. A few of the lessons I’m learning are:
I try to spend a dedicated hour or two a week learning – watching tutorials, reading articles and chatting with some of the incredible freelancers I know whose skills are different from mine. It’s not always possible every week, but I definitely do my best.
Network, network, network
There are so many entrepreneurial and women in business groups in and around London, not to mention brilliant freelance groups that are essential for support and the occasional honest reminder.
This is one I struggle with a little bit – but then my business is still early days yet. Switching my laptop off isn’t always easy at the end of the day (and made harder by the fact that I’m not really a morning person, so tend to start my day a little later than most.)
Believe in yourself.
You have something that the business you’re helping needs. Remember that. But, don’t overpromise… I’ve always had the ‘under promise, over deliver’ ethos which serves me pretty well.
Contract, contract, contract
Get it all down in writing. Even the simpler things that are obvious – that just calls for a simpler contract or statement of works. If they don’t want to sign a basic agreement, there might just be a reason for it – and it’s not usually a good thing.
Don’t rely on just one thing. I’m lucky enough to have clients on a monthly retainer basis as well as picking up projects on the fly, but I‘ve also been hard at work putting my knowledge and experience into an online course for small businesses – and have already pre-sold a few of the 8-week courses. (Shameless plug: if you’re a business person, or know someone who wants to learn how to use social media, let me know! The course has been rigorously tested.)
Keep a praise file + check with people whose opinion you value. Make sure to book in the occasional fun things, and take off an afternoon occasionally – why else did you become a freelancer otherwise?
Don’t be afraid to diarise follow-ups – keeping genuinely in touch can be helpful both to you, and to future clients.
Separate your finances + do your accounts weekly
I had to submit my first HMRC tax return this January – luckily it wasn’t too horrific, but I also have background skills as a bookkeeper in my distant employment past to fall back on. I was however proud when an accountant friend said to me ‘now, Emma, I have to ask – did you do your tax return on time?’ I could answer with a proud ‘yep, 10 days early!’ Such an overachiever…
Not only did I search high and low for the perfect diary, but I use an online calendar to remind myself of longer-term things – you’ll always be distracted by so many other things…
Are you celebrating any milestones?