It's been six months since I became fully freelance.
As my own boss, I work from home. That, my friends is altogether a different ball game than doing an occasional 'working from home day'. We've all been there - a day from home because the washing machine is being fixed, or a snow day. A snow day! Is there anything better?
Well, sorry folks, but there is a very big difference when it comes to being a freelancer who works from home than an employee who can occasionally work remotely. Don't get me wrong, there are moments it's amazing, but there are other things you really need to think about before you make the leap into working for yourself.
Now, I'm no expert, but if it is something you are planning and you think it will be all getting up at 10am, languishing about and occasionally doing a bit of work, think again!
Here are my top tips on going solo, including some of the things I wish I had known.
It can get pretty lonely at times. Don't get me wrong, I have totally lucked out - I have great clients and lots of work to do, but there is something pretty leveling about being able to have a chat with someone about last night's Big Brother, or to brainstorm an idea with. When you are freelance, and working alone, sometimes the issues can magnify until you think "WHY DID I DO THIS? I AM RUBBISH AND DESTINED TO END UP ON JEREMY KYLE NOT JUST WATCHING IT". These thoughts are just your overwhelmed brain fibbing to you. The way I have got around this is to build a network of other freelancers. If you don't know any, get on Facebook, there are some great groups, and soon you will have a few key people you can sense check with, chat to, and arrange the occasional meet up. It has literally saved my freelance day, let me tell you.
Get dressed. Nothing fibs to you more than a waistline that is encased in a onesie. Seriously, since going it alone I have realised the only time I can work in PJs is times when I am doing my own writing, off the clock. I have an inbuilt guilt factor, which means if I am not actually dressed (I don't mean suited and booted, but you know, have a wash, chuck on some jeans) I feel like I am being unfair to myself, my business and my clients. So come on, nobody can be that productive in a onesie. Get dressed.
Plan. It sounds crazy, but when I finally had enough PR accounts to keep me afloat, I was delighted but I didn't know what to focus on first. I care equally about all my clients, and the brain can flip from one piece of work to another and this, my friends, is not helpful. Plan your week. I have set days I work with clients, but they also know that there is a level of flexibility, you know, if a big story breaks or they are worried then I am on hand. You need to be firm and lay down the law to yourself. Have a schedule, even a loose one, and set goals, and smash them. It feels great.
Get an accountant. Unless you are a financial whizz, get an accountant straight away, and do the right thing from the off. Nothing is more anxiety inducing that just shoving every receipt in an envelope and hoping for the best. If you can't take control of it all at the beginning, how will your business even last? I had a couple of months of being unsure what I was doing, then I spoke to an accountant, sorted it out and felt like magical glitter had been spread across my day. If you don't do numbers, for gawd sake, find someone who does. Chasing invoices is rubbish, but tax returns are worse.
Take a break. It's so easy to lose track of time and find yourself sitting at the computer working at midnight. Obviously, there will be times you need to, especially if you decided to have a day off and have lunch with your mum (ahem) or started work late, but for me, setting myself a working day has been the best thing I could have done. I always finish at a set time. Then I pack my stuff away, clear up and go for a walk. It tricks the mind into thinking you are somehow coming home from work - and then I enjoy my evening.
So, these are just a few of my learning's since I decided to go solo. There are so many more, some I am yet to learn. I am way from perfect, but for me, it's hands down so far been the best career move I have made. I had always thought about doing it, and now I am.
So, if you are thinking of going solo, go for it - oh, and put my details in your phone, because there's always time for that sneaky meeting, coffee and brainstorm. It's vital to know you may be going it alone, but so are many of us. When you think of it like that, we are less alone that we have ever been.