Life as a freelancer can be wonderful. It’s a fabulous way to earn money for yourself with complete freedom and control. For many people, it’s a chance to do something that they love or have always dreamed of doing, without having to spend time searching for the perfect employment. For some people, freelancing is the only way that they can work around family and other commitments, as while more of us than ever before are looking for flexible working opportunities, fewer of us seem to be finding it.
Freelancing is an escape from the confines of the 9-5 and a chance to go your way without an annoying boss dictating your every move. It can be the best that working life has to offer.
But, it’s not all sunshine and roses, far from it. Freelancers often have to work much harder than employees to find quality work. They don’t get holiday or sick pay. There are no benefits or office perks. Freelancers have no job security, and it’s all too common for income to fluctuate massively. A good week can be quickly followed by a week without earning, and often, freelancers spend time chasing up pay that has never arrived.
Then, you are responsible for your taxes and other admin. On top of all that, freelancing can be stressful, lonely, exhausting and sometimes, quite scary. It can, at times, feel as though you are always quite close to failure with a lack of security. The early days, especially, are tough. So, let’s take a look at some essential survival tips for new freelancers, to help you to enjoy all of those positives while minimizing the stress and anxiety.
1. Keep in Touch
Freelancing can be lonely. Most of us assume that it will lead to lots of free time and fun with our friends and family. We picture ourselves going out for lunch every day, working when we want to, and socializing much more than we could in traditional employment.
It’s not often the case. You do have some control over which work you accept and when you do it, but there will still be deadlines to meet, and you will sometimes be forced to take work when it is available, whether you want to or not. Even if you do have free time to spend with your friends and family, they might still be working 9-5s and unable to spend time with you. Many freelancers find that they spend more time working than ever and that their social life suffers. Without workmates to talk to, it can be frightfully lonely.
Keeping in touch with friends is essential if you want to survive to work as a freelancer. Switch your phone over to smarty so that you are always able to communicate, and make an effort to check-in, even when you are busy.
2. Set Up a Home Office
Working on the sofa in your pajamas with the TV on in the background might be the stuff that dreams are made of. But it’s not always practical. Working like this can be distracting, and mean that you can’t work to the best of your ability. It can mean that you struggle to separate work and home life, that you are never able to devote yourself to either fully, and that work starts to seep into all areas of your life.
Having a home office is the ideal solution, even if you don’t sit and work in it all of the time. An office gives you a space to focus when you need to concentrate, as well as somewhere to keep your documents, files, and other supplies.
If you don’t have an office at home or a spare room which you could convert, ask yourself if you could add a desk to another area? Perhaps a bedroom, dining room, the back of your lounge or even a particularly wide hallway.
3. Prepare Snacks
Another big problem that freelancers have is weight gain. Even if you are used to working sitting in an office, now you don’t even have to travel. You might spend most of your time sitting down, and it’s all too tempting to reach for the biscuit tin if you get peckish or need an energy boost. At work, you might have only had time for a lunch break. When you work from home, you can pick and nibble all day long, and no one would ever know.
Having healthy snacks like fruit salads, veg sticks and other low fat treats, pre-prepared and ready to grab can help you to feel alert and fight off any temptation.
4. Get Into Healthy Exercise Habits
It can be so easy to spend all of your days sitting with a laptop on your lap, and weight gain shouldn’t be your only concern. Many freelancers lose fitness, their stamina levels drop, and muscles weaken. Long-term, this can lead to serious health issues.
Making exercise a habit can be a huge help. Make exercise a normal part of your routine, instead of something that you have to fit in around work. Walk around the block after dinner, practice yoga for 10 minutes before bed, and spend some time every week swimming, at a fitness class or the gym.
5. Work Out of Your Home Office
Working from home is something that many of us long to do. But, when you get a chance, one of the best things that you can do for yourself is to work outside of the home occasionally.
Getting out, working in co-working spaces, or even coffee shops and other public areas can help you to beat loneliness and boost your mental health. It will ensure that you get some steps in, and it could even improve your work by giving your brain a boost.
6. Make Connections
Two of the main things that freelancers struggle with are self-promotion and networking. You might feel very uncomfortable putting yourself out there and reaching out to other businesses. You might feel like an imposter, or as though you don’t deserve to be in your position. But, networking and self-promotion are perhaps the best ways to get yourself noticed and find work.
Attend local networking events, set up a website to advertise your services, and use social media to sell yourself.
7. Build an Online Support Network
Your friends and family are important. But, when you are working alone a lot of the time, it can be a good idea to build a different kind of support network. Social media is filled with freelancers that feel the same as you do. Many of them are keen to chat with, and make friends with other people in their situation.
An online support network means that you always have someone to talk to when you need them, and perhaps even more experienced freelancers to ask for advice.
8. Get Dressed
Many freelancers love to work in their sweats or PJs, and there’s no doubt that sometimes, this is ideal. If you’ve got a busy day, you are feeling under the weather, or you just want a break, there’s nothing wrong with a comfy day. But, getting dressed for work can help you to get into the right mindset. It can help you to get into a routine and keep you focused.
You might find that you work better and that you find it easier to switch off at the end of the day when taking your work clothes off symbolizes clocking off.
9. Build a Routine That Works for you
The best thing about working as a freelancer is that you aren’t forced into a structure. You have flexibility. Routines help. Working the same days and times as much as you can help you to find balance. But, that doesn’t mean that you have to work 9-5, Monday to Friday, or even the same days every week.
Find a routine that works for you and suits your lifestyle. If you are a night owl, work later on, but if you are an early riser, you might prefer to get work out of the way early in the day. Experiment with different routines until you find something that works.
10. Put Some Money Aside
Freelancing can be very up and down. If you are lucky, you might start well and earn straight away. But, that doesn’t mean that this will always be the case.
Most freelancers suffer from ups and downs, and even if your earnings are consistent, you might need extra cash to cover days off through sickness or when you take a holiday. Having even a small emergency fund can be a big help.
11/ Stay On Top of Your Taxes
Don’t leave taxes until the last minute. Get registered as self-employed straight away, and start recording your income and expenses.
Freelancing can be an amazing way of life, and more people are making a go of it than ever before.
But, that doesn’t mean that it is going to be easy.
You should be prepared for lots of hard work.
When you find the right balance, however, it can be a fantastic lifestyle choice which leads to many wonderful opportunities.