Hello you wonderful people. Last week marked a full 365 days since walking out of the office door and into full time self-employment. I've been covering off each month in my digital marketing vlog but this is to take some time out and look at the whole experience get down some sort of cohesive narrative of what the last year has been like - good, bad and otherwise....
TLDR = Has freelancing been a step in the right direction? Hell yes - but I haven't reached the final destination.
Digital Marketing Freelance Has Been...
Well, different. I'm aware of how non-committal that sound but what I expected and what the reality was for freelancing was just that - different. The things I thought would be most fun to work on, turned out to be the least. The clients I thought I'd have to fight tooth and nail for to win came easily, while winning smaller projects took serious effort. Projects I thought would be most interesting really weren't. You get the picture - different. So, to cover off the key areas...
The Reason I Went Freelance...
Was due to 4 key reasons:
- The flexibility freelancing offered
- The potential increased income
- The potential to generate a passive income
- Opportunities to do new things, meet new people and learn more.
So, did I achieve those things. First up...
Sort of. I'm still very much in a pattern of working 8.30 - 6, Monday-Friday. It's when clients are most active so that's when the calls, emails and work happens. However, and the big one here is the small pockets of flexibility you gain. I can have now have my haircut at a not so ungodly hour during the week. I can hit the gym for an extra 30 mins if a workout is flying. I can have an afternoon nap. All things which make the rhythm of the day and pace of life all the more satisfying,
I've made around 25% more than I was bringing in before. That's also considering the number of paid hours I've done have been fewer. I've been investing time each month into other projects and training that will help me charge more and create some services which will pay off in the long run. So it's a win on this front.
Not quite. There's a few side projects I wanted to launch that have taken far longer in reality to bring together. This has been hampered by striking the very difficult balance of taking the next job which comes along - and blocking off that time, unpaid, to work on something bigger.
This has been the best bit. In the last year all of my highlights have come from new experiences. Things like running a photo shoot, flying to the states for a job, working with the National Trust, giving a talk at the Met Office and starting a new verbal identity business - The Way With Words. None of them would have come about without freelancing, meeting new people who in turn open you up to new opportunities, relationships and possibilities.
And from that I'm happier. The quality of my life is better.
There's drawbacks, right?
This isn't the point where I sign off and jump in the pool from my remote working location. This year has been hard - not atrociously difficult but a word of warning - self employment is not all rosy. Here's why...
I've put more hours this year into my work than any other period in my working life. All for the greater good, but working long, unsocialable hours are part and parcel of what comes with flexible working. The work still has to be done.
Others seem to find this harder, but going days at times without a meaningful conversation is lonely. Thankfully, I've got a cracking bunch of friends and clients who I see often enough for this to be only a rare issue.
Working from the same desk day after day is just like being in an office but without the commute. I've learnt I need to change the setting.
One minute you don't have enough work. The next you're swamped. Trying to build plans to accommodate either end of the business spectrum has been a challenge.
Jack Of All Trades
The realisation that you need to do everything is a big learning curve. Managing accounts, converting sales, working with suppliers. They're skills I'm honing but they take twice as long up front when you have to learn how to do them.
With few other people around you, I find myself frequently second guessing myself, playing ideas over and over, unsure of whether I should do this or that, one thing or the other. Nagging self doubt that you're going to do the wrong thing is annoyingly persistent, but something that's gradually fading as I've realise I've been able to do this for as long as I have done already.
Freelance Life Lessons
If the vlog comments are anything to go by there's good number of you thinking of handing in their notice to go self employed. So, to remind myself and for your info too here's 12 freelance life lessons for the last 12 months.
- Tell people you're self employed. It keeps you accountable. Plus, so many people have been genuinely interested in what I do and often end up turning into clients.
- Set clear guidelines for yourself. What time you'll start work. When you'll finish. Structures and processes make things less daunting
- Learn From Others. Have mentors and people you can turn to when you need to learn. Other people have been there, done that and chances are - they're a damn site better doing it than you are.
- Be Honest With How It's Going. Tell people if you're having a shitty month. I'm trying to embrace the high points and learn from the low.
- Work On Bigger Projects. Set some time aside to work on projects which are long-burners. It gives you something to strive towards and in time will avoid hand to mouth living.
- Say Yes to projects which you might not have complete experience in doing. Collaborating with other experts helps you to learn new skills at the same time and helps you get a feel for what it's like in other areas of your business you might not have covered before.
- Be Daring. I never would have got the gig with the National Trust had I not plucked up the courage to email them. The worst that can happen most times is that people say no.
- Be Strict With Your Time - I spent too much of last year attending meetings, coffee catch ups and the like which lead nowhere. Time is the most precious finite thing for a business so qualify why someone wants to meet you and if neccessary politely decline. It works out better in the long run.
- Keep On Top Of Accounts - Tax Returns are never easy
- Stay in Touch - Some of the easiest work I've picked up is from friends or clients I haven't worked with in years. You might end up being the right person at the right time if you stay in contact.
- Don't Feel Guilty For Taking Time Off. People are allowed a break but learning that your business isn't going to explode a few hours away from the laptop is a practice I need to learn to be better at.
- Breathe. Meditation has been one of the best things I've learnt to do in the last couple of years. It keeps you grounded and those moments where you feel entirely overwhelmed or are lacking confidence are suddenly not so scary. I use Headspace.
I hope that helps. Shout if you have any questions. Here's to Year 2.