The view from my 'office'

 

Being freelance conjures up certain images. However it’s not all lunchtime Pilates sessions and fortnightly nail appointments when you work for yourself.

Many people aspire to live the freelance dream. No commute. Set your own work hours. Live in your pyjamas.

But, having been officially freelance for seven months now, I am learning there is a skill to finding success at home.

You Need to be Self-Disciplined

If you plan to work at home, in your actual house, you need to actually work. The danger is you might just put a wash on. Then the dishwasher might need emptying. Then you realise you need to buy dinner. The next thing you know it is 4 pm, and there isn’t much of the working day left.

If you can’t treat your house as a workplace during your designated hours, you had best find yourself a co-working space to settle into.

You Need to Set Boundaries

Working from home is wonderful. I love it. It’s not for everyone, but it suits me down to the ground. However, the boundaries between work and home become blurred at times. More so during a pandemic – which most of my freelance career has.

I work late into the evening. This isn’t new. I used to be a teacher. But, this means every night is a late night.

All the sleep experts tell us to switch our screens off and wind down before bedtime. They would be horrified at my ‘type furiously until the screen is blurred’ approach to bedtime.

Knowing when to walk away from the laptop and be present at home is vital. I am still learning. I’ll let you know when I have found out how to do it.

You Need to get Outside

If you are a home bird like me, then staying inside all day is perfect. It’s warm and dry, and you are close to the biscuit tin. However, I have come to realise that getting outside every day is good for the soul.

Before lockdown, I don’t think I had appreciated how the school run had forced me outside and how it benefitted me. Once we had nowhere to go, I understood my early morning powerwalk to the school gates and back woke my brain up. It made me alert, and therefore I could do a better job.

It’s very easy to feel pressured by clients’ deadlines and all the things that come with being a one-man band, but just a quick 20 minutes around the block will get the blood pumping and the creative juices flowing (maybe).

You Need a Network

You won’t have colleagues anymore. On the one hand, that may sound amazing. But, it can also be pretty lonely. Think about all the times you have been able to ask a quick question to a person you work with, and how much longer it would have taken you to find the answer had you have been on your own.

The wealth of knowledge established freelancers have at their fingertips is invaluable. And they are, on the whole, a jolly nice bunch of people. It doesn’t matter where you meet them. I have met people on Instagram, Facebook, Networking meetings and even the school playground.

What has surprised me the most is how brave I have become. I am pretty shy around people I don’t know. But, I have forced myself to approach people, ask questions, make introductions, and it means I now have people who I call my ‘virtual colleagues’ and I couldn’t be without them.

Should you take the plunge?

It’s up to you. I don’t have the answers. All I can tell you is that I am glad I did. I get to write every day and get paid for it. There is more too it than that. You have to find people willing to pay you. You have to see yourself as a business and market yourself as such. You need to do your own tax self-assessment.

But, it was the right move for me.

Having said all that, 2020 is not a typical year. It’s been highly stressful with everyone at home, juggling family life with career ambition. I am hoping the next few months may be calmer, and when I write my ‘first-anniversary’ blog post next January, the world will be more settled.

I am happy to chat about my experience of changing careers and setting up as self-employed. Just send me an email or send me a message on Instagram. We could be new ‘virtual colleagues’.