5 things that I’ve learnt after being freelance for a year

May marks one full year since I quit my full-time job to go freelance – okay well I didn’t technically start freelancing properly until June after travelling for a while but I’m just going to ignore that and celebrate the fact that I’ve been pursuing my passion for a full 12 months now!

So to celebrate, here are 5 big things that I’ve learnt in my first year…

Spoiler alert – not all of them are good.

“Sometimes it takes years for a person to become an overnight success” – Prince

Firstly I have to apologise for starting with a cheesy motivational quote, but I couldn’t say this any better myself.

For the majority of people, taking the jump into freelancing is a slow transition. Maybe you’ve already got your first client lined up, or you’re just (rightly so) extremely confident in your own abilities, but no matter how good you are at what you do, I’ve come to learn that that doesn’t automatically mean that you’ll nail freelancing straight away.

Building up a stable client base was a slow process for me. I did (fortunately) take on a few clients straight away, however, one year later only one of these clients is still around. And no, it isn’t because the others fired me, but it’s simply because the work dried up or that we just weren’t the right fit for each other.

It’s taken me a full year to build up a good number of clients who I genuinely enjoy working with and who are (well let’s hope) happy with the job I’m doing, and – quite importantly – who have regular work for me to be doing.

There have been many, many times in my first year as a freelancer where I doubted myself and thought about packing it all in. I thought I wasn’t good enough and I really felt like I had absolutely no clue what I was doing (major imposter syndrome!). But now, one year on, I’m so glad I soldiered through all of the self-doubt and put in the hard work to make it to where I am today.

Freelancer

Work and income can be sporadic

Honesty bomb… for at least the first few months of freelancing I was hardly earning any money at all! And even after I started to take on a few more clients, the work and income were still extremely sporadic.

On the months where I didn’t have as much work on, I suddenly remembered what it was like to be a broke student again, living off of pot noodles and £6 bottles of wine from Tesco.

And on the months that I did bring in some decent money, instead of doing the sensible thing and saving it up for future months, I headed to the pub to buy several rounds of drinks for all of my friends, treated myself to a few too many takeaways and “invested” in several items of clothing that I definitely didn’t need.

Fortunately, much of the work I’m doing now is more regular and therefore I’m earning a slightly more consistent income. However, some of my work is still on a contract or project basis and I still can’t completely guarantee how much I’ll earn from one month to the next.

It’s taken me a full year to learn the extra importance of planning ahead and putting money away for a rainy day as a freelancer.

Freelancer

Working from home isn’t all it cracked up to be

At first, I absolutely loved the fact that I could work from home. I’d wake up at 8:45 am, make a cup of coffee and grab my laptop, ready to spend the entire day working from the comfort of my own bed.

But within a few months, when I was starting to feel the strain on my neck from being hunched over my laptop in bed, or on the weeks when I hadn’t showered or changed out of the same pair of PJs for days on end, and when I started to forget what human contact was like, I started to reevaluate.

I suddenly started to look back longingly to the office banter, chats by the coffee machine and Friday lunchtime pints that I took for granted in my 9-5 job.

But luckily there was a solution to this – and no, it wasn’t crawling back to my old job – joining coworking spaces and working from coffee shops.

Now I probably only work from home once or twice a week max. Instead, I work from coworking spaces with friends or sometimes even work from the coffee shop in my gym so I can go for a morning swim or take a lunch-time fitness class.

Getting out of bed, getting dressed and leaving the house in the morning definitely gets my day off to a more productive start, and it’s far more fun working around other people again!

I miss IT support the most

This is probably one of the least obvious but has actually been one of the biggest problems for me…

I really miss IT support!

I miss being able to dial a number or walk down to the IT office and have all of my problems fixed for me.

When you become a freelancer, not only do you become your own boss, but you also become your own accountant, HR team, office manager and IT support.

I won’t even get started on the rest, but what I can tell you is that not having an IT expert on hand at all times is a right pain in the a***.

Now when something goes wrong with my laptop, I end up spending the rest of my day on Google and YouTube trying to figure out how to fix it my self… usually to no avail. Then I have to book an appointment at the apple store which won’t be for at least a week, just to arrive and be told that my laptop needs to be sent away to get fixed so I won’t have anything to work on for another whole week!

Rant over, can you tell I’m annoyed?

Freelancer

There’s no such thing as out of office

It would be great to hear what other freelancers have to say about this one, but personally, I find it very hard to switch off from my work.

Without the set hours, and because I do really love what I do, I find myself regularly checking my messages and doing bits of work here and there almost constantly. I work during the evenings, I work at weekends, I work when I’m on holiday…

Even if I am technically ‘out of office’ (which has very rarely happened in the last year), I almost always ending up doing something work related anyway.

Freelancing isn’t like a regular office job where you have colleagues to pick up your slack while your away. I’ll suddenly remember that there’s something I forgot to do, or a spark of inspiration will come to me regarding a specific article I’m writing, or a client will message me with a quick question or request, and I just can’t seem to help myself.

I guess this point has both its pros and cons. I’m passionate about what I do and I hope that shows with the time and effort I commit to it. However, I do realise the importance of taking a break every now and again, so this is something I’m really trying to work on moving forward. Any advice would be great!

Freelancer

To my freelancer friends and anyone else who works for themselves, it would be great to hear what your opinions are on these things and what else you learnt during your first year as a freelancer.

And to anyone thinking about taking the leap, feel free to drop me a message in the comments below or an email on emily(at)londoncitycalling(dot)com.

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