Dell XPS Laptop* shot using props provided by The Apartment.
To the 9-6 office job worker, the freelance lifestyle sounds like a dream. You can get up when you like. You can exercise whenever you want. You can make your schedule fit around your personal needs, rather than your personal needs succumbing to your work.
Sounds ideal, right? Wrong. While the perks may outweigh the disadvantages, being self-employed sure does come with dilemmas. Waking up in the morning and motivating yourself isn't easy when there's no one else telling you what to do. Tax returns suck. There's no one else to bounce ideas off of because you spend the majority of the time working at home, all by yourself. Also, imagine never knowing where your next pay cheque is coming from.
I wish when I finally took the leap to blog and write freelance full-time someone had explained just how hard all these things can be, even though they are worth it ultimately. If it was easy, everyone would be doing it. Here are my top tips for anyone who is struggling with their freelance career:
Create a professional working space (and keep it tidy)
Sound simple but in the reality of London rent prices and lack of space, this isn't the easiest of tasks. I have a great little desk space in the hallway outside of my bedroom but it's in no way any sort of office. However, it's enough for me to be able to sit down in an area that is primarily located to working. Mentally, this shifts me into work mode yet it's still only a few metres away from my bed.
Have the right equipment on hand - pens, a notepad for rough ideas, inspiration sources, a Dell XPS laptop, perhaps. Find what works for you and keep this space neat. A tidy space really does make for a tidy mind and saves time in the long run.
Put your meetings in your diary as soon as you arrange them
Another very obvious one but this is something that took me a lot longer to nail than it probably should have done. You may read that email and think that you've mentally logged that event or meeting but the reality is, if you don't put it in your diary straight away, you'll forget to do so later causing unnecessary chaos. Basically, being organised is absolutely vital to a successful freelance career.
Lists are key
Every morning I check my calendar and then write a list of the things I have to do today. Then I sit and do them, ONE BY ONE, until I've reached the end. It's easier said then done. I'll be writing a post and end up procrastinating and losing my train of thought. Concentrating fully on one thing is totally underrated, imperative and really bloody hard to do. Drawing lines through those list items is wholly satisfying also.
Stuck for ideas? Get out of the house
Whether it's a meeting, going for a run or meeting a friend for a quick coffee in their break, there's rarely a day where I don't leave the house. In fact, I think it's one of the most unhealthy habits freelancers can fall in to. Social media and being so easily connected with friends and family makes it far too easy to cut yourself off from real social interaction without you realising it but its these in person interactions which are the most important to keeping your creative juices flowing.
Find a mentor
I can't stress this one enough. Find someone you like and respect, who likes you, who works in a similar freelance role and has been doing it for a good while and ASK THEM EVERYTHING. From fees to negotiation to trade secrets, this person will make your life a lot easier. There's absolutely no shame in needing help or not knowing things - they would have had someone help them. DO buy them a drink and dinner occasionally to say thanks for the constant support though obviously.
Don't be afraid of chasing the money you've earnt
You stuck to your deadline and delivered the work on time. You earnt that money. Why shouldn't you be paid on time. There hasn't been a month since I went freelance full-time when I haven't been chasing someone for money. Throw in a late fee on the end of your invoices and bloody well make them stick to it. It's embarrassing for everyone involved having to chase money but rather that then having to default on your bills etc, right?
Always have a goal
It's easy to get lost trying to make ends meet and just 'surviving' as a freelance. There needs to be a reason why you're doing what you're doing and a point somewhere in the distance that you're striving to reach.
You are your business/brand, behave appropriately
When you work for yourself, everything you do affects your work and your clients. You are a personal brand. Look after yourself and be seen doing it. The way you behave and treat yourself is reflective of the way you approach your work and influences everything you do too. Look after yourself. Work hard but make sure to take time off. Lastly, don't expect work to come to you. It's part luck AND part hard work - great opportunities do not just land in the laps of the successful.
Disclaimer: This post was written in partnership with Dell UK.