The work landscape is shifting every day, little by little, and it is expected that by 2020, half of the UK will be self-employed or working primarily on a freelance basis. Even within the blogging community, more and more of us are taking on blogging and Instagramming as a side hustle or full-time gig. It. Is. Great.
And as somebody that has worked freelance for much of their professional career, I wanted to continue the conversation that I started with more lessons I’ve learned since working for myself.
1. Helping others won’t always help you.
It’s a tough pill to swallow, but helping others won’t always benefit you.
I ‘get’ that the general consensus on social media is to support your local girl gang and build each other up, but from my experience? This isn’t always worth your time, often doesn’t reap the rewards you’d assumed (though of course it does have its own benefits), and may even distract you from your personal path.
Last year I helped countless friends and friends-of-family launch their businesses, supplied a little bit of copy here and there, shot professional images for marketing purposes, and didn’t make a penny from them. Or if I did, it was always heavily discounted. I spent some time totalling up the hours and realised that it’d cost me a four-digit figure to do so and, well, time is money.
It’s key to know when to draw the line and not feel guilty about doing so.
2. Freelancers’ guilt is real.
Expect people to constantly make not-funny jokes like, ‘Oh I bet you spend all day in your pyjamas!’ ‘Do you ever do real work then?’ ‘So working from home means you watch TV all day and send, like, one email, right?’ ‘Imagine if you worked as hard as we did(!)’
All unacceptable comments, but all comments that I’ve fielded in the last three years.
The guilt can often be overwhelming when you’re enjoying a slow morning of email responding and coffee drinking at your dining table, but it’s also important to remember that this way of living is incredibly rewarding in hundreds of ways. I mean, name a person that wouldn’t love to have a 1-minute commute and to set out their day however they fancied?!
Personally, I deal with freelancers’ guilt by noting down all of the great things in my life. How I can spend a little more time with my parents. The way my brain feels much more at ease, knowing I don’t have to cram on a commuter train which triggers my anxiety attacks. How I can go for a lunchtime gym session and work on my mental health. How I can work into the night, making full use of my night owl tendencies.
3. Comparison is the thief of joy.
With more time and freedom in your working day comes more opportunity to scroll through the Internet and kick-start the comparison cycle.
I think this is easily one of the things I struggle with the most.
The very concept of freelancing and being self-employed means that you craft your own business and way of doing things. But there’s little guidance unless you go hunting for it (psst, my e-book is currently available and is packed with tips, advice and the tools I use!), and often us freelancers end up spiralling in a dark hole of doubt and comparison.
My tip? Take 15-20 minutes to write a simple, one-liner mission statement. Keep it brief and to-the-point. What exactly do you wish to gain from freelancing and what do you wish to provide? Write it down on a piece of paper and pop it above your workspace.
Whenever you feel yourself comparing yourself to others or wondering if you should add an e-book/e-course/coaching/freebie download/etc. to your repertoire, refer back to your mission statement and ask yourself if it really does even serve your end-goal.
4. You don’t have to prove yourself.
So this might sound odd, but you don’t have to prove yourself.
Once I was in the throes of freelancing, I felt the need to prove myself to the people around me.
These days, I wake up around 8.30am and work on emails from bed, updating my bullet journal as needed.
Then, I feed Milo at 9am and take him out on a 5km walk.
I usually don’t even begin client work until 11.30am. It’s unconventional, it’s productive, and it’s just the way I’d envisioned working for myself to be.
Forget about what people try to tell you or shape you to be, and go onwards with your method, because it really is the very best one.
5. Annual leave is no holiday.
Lastly (for this post at least!), annual leave is no holiday.
Not least because you are now responsible for either all or most of your business, but because the guilt will set in and so will the worries. I used to find it horrifying to be away from client emails for more than a weekend, panicking that they’d get annoyed with me for not replying in my usual one-day max. manner and find someone else to work with instead.
Of course these worries are often futile, but it doesn’t mean you won’t worry. It’s perfectly common in our industry, so all I can recommend is that you ease these anxieties by keeping clients informed well ahead of time and, if necessary, implement a communications tactic so you can still be reachable if needed.
While I was away in Malaysia for three weeks, I worked remotely on half of my usual bookings and would check my emails once a day. After my strict one round of responses, I’d enjoy my day until checking the next day.