5 Important Lessons From My First 3 Months As A Freelancer

I went freelance at the beginning of 2017. No planning, no saving three month’s income just in case things went wrong, just…full steam ahead into the world of self-employment. And while I wouldn’t necessarily recommend jumping in feet first and going freelance without a back-up plan, three months on I’m doing better than I thought I would be. So I guess that’s something?

But boy has it been one hell of a learning curve. Not so much in the work I’m doing; 90% of the time I’m confident in my abilities to pitch clients and do the work that needs to be done. But, as with any major life change, there are definitely a few things I’ve learnt.

Going Freelance – What I’ve Learnt So Far

lessons from going freelance

1. You’re Not Going To Feel Like A #Girlboss All The Time

Some days I’ve woken up feeling like a total #girlboss. Full of motivation, self-confidence, and the knowledge that I can succeed because I’m smart and capable. Other times I’ve wondered if I can actually do this, and the self-doubt has eaten away at me for days. I think it’s important to acknowledge those feelings, though, and try not to let it get you down. And, usually, once I’ve ticked a few things off my to-do list or got some positive feedback from a client, I’m back to feeling like my usual self again.

2. You Need A Support Network

One benefit of regular employment is that you actually get to speak to other people on a daily basis. I’ve spent years blogging on my own in various places around the world, and when I lived in London I worked from home quite a bit, so it was kind of a surprise when I realised that I sometimes missed the social aspect of office work.

I’ve made a conscious effort to work in coffee shops or make sure I’m catching up with friends in the evening In a bid to stop myself turning into a hermit . But what I’ve also found I need is a support network of other freelancers and self-employed friends to chat to either throughout the day or to catch up with on the phone in the morning so we *both* feel like we’ve got our shit together.

Having a proper support network is also great for collaboration, passing on work when you’re super busy – I’ve definitely found work this way. Plus, it’s nice to know someone else understands that sometimes you’re *this* close to chatting to the aloe vera plant on your desk and need to hear a human voice.

3. Routine Is Key

I could suddenly make my own hours when I went freelance, and in the first couple of weeks I definitely treated myself to a fair few lie-ins. But there was something about those lazy mornings that made me feel a bit like I didn’t have my shit together.

It’s all well and good getting up late, but it normally means you end up working into the evening. That isn’t healthy. Everyone needs time out.

Now, I try to be at my desk by at least 9:30, have a proper break for lunch, then finish up at about 6pm or 7pm. Sometimes, if I’m up against a deadline, I work later and I try not to work at weekends unless I have to. The flexibility is probably one of the things I like the most about working for myself, but, for me, getting shit done means getting into a routine.

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Going Freelance: 5 Important Things I Learnt In My First 3 Months

4. Money Worries? You Need To Get Organised

This one was particularly hard for me. I’ve never been very good at managing my own money. After receiving a regular paycheck for so long, changing my mindset was scary.

Suddenly being responsible for tracking my income and expenses was overwhelming, so I set up a few spreadsheets that I update weekly. I wouldn’t say I’m totally comfortable with this part of freelancing yet, but I’m hoping that it will pay off in the long-run.

5. There’s No Shame In Diversifying Your Income

While I’m ticking along nicely working for myself, I’m also under no illusion that at some point I might need to top up my funds with cafe or bar work. Both of which I’ve done before.

I think there’s way too much focus on finding a “career job”. I have friends who freelance around part time work and they’ve often told me how sick they are of family members asking when they’re going to get a “proper job”.

Newsflash: ANYTHING THAT ALLOWS YOU TO MAKE MONEY IS A PROPER JOB.

So if I need to go do that, I will. There’s no shame in diversifying your income.


 

I’d planned on going freelance in the future but when my circumstances changed it just felt right, to be honest. Sure, I didn’t have anything figured out (which was kind of scary) but sometimes you just need to do it. Start. MAKE A DECISION AND RUN WITH IT.

So far it seems to be going well. And if I keep working hard and hustling, and making sure I’m always doing my best work, I’m hoping I can make going freelance one of the best decisions I’ve ever made. Fingers crossed.

Beverley x

p.s. I’m in the process of getting my new freelance website set up. In the meantime, freelance services + contact info can be found here.

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Comments

  1. says

    Good on you Beverley. It’s really not easy working for yourself after spending years of your life being an employee, and I can relate entirely to the whole “feeling like a boss” swing. I would argue that rollercoaster is one of the hardest parts of doing this – it can really get you down.

    Thanks for sharing your experience x

    • says

      Thanks so much Fabio. I think you’re right; it’s like a constant cycle of feeling ‘like a boss’ (super motivated and capable) and the total opposite: self-doubt and procrastination which is never-ending and, like you say, probably the hardest thing about working for yourself. I guess you have to take the rough with the smooth, though, and there are certainly loads of benefits that I really love, like the flexibility and being able to carve the path I want to :)

  2. says

    So proud of you girl! I knew you had this from the very beginning and although some days must have been tough, you’re smashing the freelance life just like you wanted to. Here’s to it continuing for a long time and I reckon this post will help a few others along their freelance path.
    Emma Hart | Paper Planes and Caramel Waffles recently posted..Life Lately XLIIMy Profile

  3. says

    “ANYTHING THAT ALLOWS YOU TO MAKE MONEY IS A PROPER JOB.” YES! I’m so tired of my family asking me that question / thinking that anything they don’t understand means it’s not a “real job”. This is great and I definitely never feel any sort of guilt with having to supplement my income (sometimes I even do online surveys or mystery shopping for a few extra bucks!).

    • says

      I’m so glad you understand, laura! I can’t understand why people view office 9-5s as “proper jobs” and anything else as “just getting by until something better comes along”. As long as I’m making enough to make rent, I’m happy :)

  4. says

    THIS: “ANYTHING THAT ALLOWS YOU TO MAKE MONEY IS A PROPER JOB.” It really annoys me when people only consider working in an office 9-5 as a ‘proper job’. It sounds as though you have taken the leap many people would love to take and congrats for making it work so quickly!

    • says

      Thanks so much Emily-Ann! I hadn’t planned to make the leap quite so soon, to be honest, but thankfully it’s working out so far :)

  5. says

    Love this post Beverley, I went freelance last September and it was the hardest thing I’ve ever done but definitely the most rewarding!! I love working for myself and choosing my own hours, but I have to admit I’ve found it incredibly lonely, I’m such a social person and I missed having people around me every day! In January I made the decision to take on some part time hours at a retail store and, you know what, it’s been the best thing for me! It’s given me structure, routine (goodbye lay ins) but most importantly allowed me to reconnect with people and given me more human contact which I’m so grateful for! There’s no shame in topping up your income and taking on more than one job, flexibility is the best thing about going freelance! Congrats again Beverley and hope it continues to go well for you! Jess X

    • says

      oh my god, Jessica!!! You’ve no idea how much I relate to your comment. Freelancing CAN be lonely (it’s nice to hear someone else say that) and I love your point about getting more structure, routine, and meeting more people through taking on other work – and making a bit of extra money as well :)
      I agree with you on the flexibility, too. I’m not a huge fan of doing the same thing day in day out, so it’s nice to be able to take on the work that I love (for the most part), but also break up my day if I want to, or take weekdays off and work an extra weekend instead! Thanks so much for your support, Jess x

  6. says

    so proud of you for taking such a big leap! you are totally a #girlboss every single day :) and you’re right about the whole “any job you make money from is a proper job”. I get the whole “get a proper job” spiel from my STEM field family whenever I mention wanting to go into publishing. Any job is proper as long as we’re happy!

    • says

      oh, Victoria, thank you so much! Your support means such a lot. I’m overwhelmed with how many people have agreed with the point I made about any job you make money from being a proper job, that makes me feel so much better about looking at other options if I need to :) You’re right; any job is a proper job as long as we’re happy!

  7. says

    Love this post!! And congrats on three months! Great tips in here and I really feel you on the “ANYTHING THAT ALLOWS YOU TO MAKE MONEY IS A PROPER JOB.”…..<<<<< THIS!! I hate when people look down or or shame people for how they make a living. If you're working and you get money, it's a job and that's good enough until you want a different one!
    Rika | Cubicle Throwdown recently posted..Under ConstructionMy Profile

    • says

      Thanks so much, Rika! I have no idea why people are so snobby about how others make their money. As long as you’re supporting yourself, I don’t think it matters to be honest :) Glad we’re on the same page!

  8. says

    I did the same thing as you. I got back from Thailand in November and decided to go full-time freelancer overnight. It has been a challenge and I’m still trying to find rhythm in the routine.

    I also suck at the whole money thing. But I’ve learnt this hack that’s helping. As soon as I get paid, 50% goes into my “profit” bank account and then 30% of the remainder goes into my “expenses” account. Then the remaining 20% I put towards taxes.

    By paying myself first and expenses second it’s helped light a fire under my butt to make sure I’m getting enough work done by the end of the month.

  9. says

    Yes to the needing a routine! When i first went freelance I imagined myself working whenever I wanted and wherever I wanted and taking a 4 hour lunch break and starting work whenever I woke up. Yea right! It doesn’t work like that. And I found that if I didn’t work in the morning I’d end up working all night and then I’d miss out on seeing people. It’s so easy to turn into a hermit when you’re freelancing!
    I’m so so pleased it’s going well for you and so pleased you’ve got a support network too. I think that’s the hardest thing for most people. It’s fun working alone at first but it gets lonely and boring VERY quickly!

    • says

      Totally agree, Monica! I’m quite good at spending time alone but it’s very easily to become a hermit when you work from home so I’ve been trying to make an extra effort to go out. Stayed motivated when the only person you’ve got to answer to is yourself (and your clients, obviously!) has also been a struggle, but I’m getting there slowly :) Thanks so much for your support, Mon, it means a lot :) xx

  10. says

    Beverley! I am in your shoes now, just 3 months behind and going through all of these things right now! Thanks for the encouragement and sounds like you are doing really well!

    xxx

    • says

      Helen! I saw that you’re now blogging full time – congratulations! We should chat (phone/Skype) sometime – it’s always nice to speak to others who are on the same journey :) x

  11. says

    B, congratulations! I’m in the midst of figuring out what I’d like to do next as I near the 2 year anniversary of my current gig (read: feeling totally, hopelessly lost). Your journey is so inspiring to me. Thank you for sharing your insight on freelance life! Keep on bossing it, girl. You’ve got this. Wishing you the best!

    • says

      Totally agree! My dad runs his own business and that’s exactly what he said to me: after a year, you’ll know where you stand :)