When I gave up my secure and well-paid job 7 months ago my friends and colleagues frequently would ask me how I planned to survive. “I’m going to be a copywriter” I would reply, “Freelance!” I’d then smugly describe my dreams of late starts and time employed on the golf course, improving my drive, in between all my client work.
I’d toyed for a while about changing careers and becoming a copywriter. As a teacher, with 11 years experience of constantly correcting and editing students’ work, I felt that I was well equipped to write for different audiences. From that end, 7 months in, I was correct.
What I wasn’t quite so prepared for was working freelance. It wasn’t the doddle I had imagined it would be; I haven’t played any golf since July. So, I feel I need to impart some key points, just to help anyone else who may be thinking that freelancing is for them.
Working from home
If you are working from home, there are a few pointers that will be integral to your continued sanity and happiness.
Firstly, you need to remember that your home is suddenly going to become your workspace! It sounds attractive. The idea of working at the kitchen table, in your pyjamas has certain, positive qualities. However, it means that unless you are strict with yourself, you will always have an impetus to work and will, at points, find yourself climbing the walls and craving human company. On the other hand, the distractions at home can also be overwhelming. I’d find myself cleaning, just because looking at that one thing keeps nagging at me.
I overcame this by inviting other freelancers that I knew to come round to do some “hot kitchen tabling”. It made days go a bit quicker and meant that I was less like an excited puppy when my partner walked in.
Secondly, your partner, if you have one, may find it hard to adapt to the idea that you are working from home and not just enjoying an extended holiday. The moment when a plasterer let himself into the house to do some work will always stick in my memory (see pyjama note above)!
Freelancers don’t do bank holidays
In fairness, in some cases, freelancers don’t do holidays at all. The need to find WiFi on a weekend away because you just need to check that one email will soon become apparent. As will the phrase “Time is money”, which I utterly abhor.
Sometimes people won’t pay you
Most clients are lovely, pay on time, treat you well and don’t over-expect. However, you will meet clients who pay late, refuse to pay, ignore you or try to cut your fees or rates. It’s always tempting to try to avoid confrontation over money, however it’s your livelihood at stake and you should stick to your guns where payment is concerned. Also, always remember to put payment terms in your invoices (a rookie mistake that I quickly and painfully learnt from) and never undersell yourself. A simple spreadsheet of incomings and outgoings will keep you on the straight and narrow.
Squirrel money away
You never know when you might have a dry month for work! When the commissions are rolling in, make sure that you create yourself a backup fund. It can take just one bad month of limited work or a late payment for everything to crumble.
Get your business cards out there! I joined a business networking group (BoB). If I’m honest, I wasn’t sure if it was for me at first, but quickly changed my mind. Aside from the work that has come in, as a result, I also get a regular group of people that I can meet and chat to (it helps with isolation).
Additionally, keep business cards in your purse or wallet. You never know when an opportunity might arise. When I first started, I found myself rewriting the content for my local pub’s website. They paid me in beer and have passed me on to other clients.
All that being said…..
This is by no means an exhaustive list, and I’m sure that many other pitfalls will pop up along the way. However, freelancing is fun! You get to meet lots of different clients, build a business and work on your terms. Something that many of us crave. I’d recommend it, just remember that your golf game may suffer.