National Freelance Day is just around the corner, November 12 2015. For those self employed it is a day of celebration as we survive another year of working for ourselves in such a unique environment. This year I’ll be spending the evening at the Hospital Club in Covent Garden, London, for the Freelancer awards hosted by IPSE. It’s sure to be an incredible night with 15 of the UKs best freelancers and it will be great to have so much talent in one room as we applaud the occasion in style.
However, freelancing and being self-employed is a lot harder than you might think. It’s not all about working from bed, in your pyjamas or sweatpants as you marathon through Grey’s Anatomy for the umpteenth time – though that is a definite perk. As a freelancer you learn to micromanage, you have to build client relationships on a daily basis, put the hours in night and day to keep the books in the black and continue to be innovative in your industry. Yes it is hard and at times exhausting, but it is also one of the most rewarding experiences. There’s a certain sense of achievement you get working for yourself which is why more and more people are leaving the corporate world to go it alone.
But it is a learning curve. We make mistakes all the time, and we hit tremendous highs and lows. Do I know everything? Not a chance, but I can offer some advice and words of wisdom from my own journey so far.
Just because you can choose your own working hours doesn’t mean you should necessarily go against the traditional 9-5 routine. You need some kind of structure to keep you on track of deadlines and to make sure that you get the downtime you need. Pick working hours that suit you when you’re at your most productive and stick to them. They may not be the same every day, and sometimes you’ll be more creative on one day compared to the next, but freelancing is still a job and you need to have working hours in place to achieve everything you want to achieve.
At the beginning of your journey the idea of saying no will not be on your radar. You don’t want to miss out on opportunities and send potential new clients elsewhere, but you can’t fit everything in all the time. It’s good to say no. It builds character and establishes you as a respectful business where your clients will appreciate and value your time and expertise. You’ll also thank yourself for saying no – you’ll have less work stress because you can schedule your clients into your diary to suit you, and also cram in that extra episode of TV before going to bed at a reasonable time.
Yes money makes the world go round, and it will indeed keep your business afloat, but if you’re selling a service to a client you need to value your time. Set an hourly or daily rate and don’t be afraid to speak up to your regulars if you feel you deserve more money for the work you’ve been doing. If your client is someone you work with on a regular basis set up a monthly set fee and charge them extra when you exceed the demands. This will assure you a stable income on a monthly basis while establishing yourself as someone that commands respect in the business world.
Being self-employed can at times be mentally draining. It’s important to have a support system that will keep you going when you need a pick me up. Friends and family can make all the difference when it comes to getting you out of your head and reminding you that there is more important things than work – like your mental health. If you’re not feeling good then your work will reflect this. It’s very easy to get burnt out so having people who support your lifestyle will only benefit you.