It has been a whole month since I left behind the stressful minefield of football governance, and moved into the alien world of being my own boss.
It has been a month full of learning, gaining new clients, and working hard to get my freelance career off the ground.
My working days are varied, and dare I say it, fun! I have loved getting those creative juices flowing again. I am enjoying working on multiple projects at any one time. No two days are the same, which suits me down to the ground. One day I could be ghostwriting an eBook, the next, working on a newsletter for a grassroots football club, or the next I could be listening to podcasts, pulling out quotes ready to be used in future social media posts.
I feel less stressed, I have more energy, and I currently have my work-life balance in a much better place.
Being a newbie in the world of freelance writing, it would be a little premature of me to sit here and write a list of do’s and don’ts for first time freelance writers (although I have no doubt there will be a future post containing something along these lines). I would, however, like to share with you some of my early learnings. A lot of these are common sense when you think about them. My biggest issue was that I hadn’t thought of them until I actually started freelancing, and if I can stop other budding freelancers from making the same rookie errors, then hooray 😁!
So here we go, the 5 most important things I have learnt about being freelance so far:
1. Create a Network
I had over 14 years worth of connections when I left the world of football. Despite having had since August last year to start networking in the world of freelance writing, I did diddlysquat about it. I had a few people try to help me here and there, but because my head was still very much in the day job and, I still wasn’t 100% sure whether I was going to throw myself headfirst into freelancing, I failed to be pro-active in my approach to networking. I joined a couple of Facebook groups which specialised in freelancing, but I found myself forgetting to look at them.
Some of you may be wondering why having a network is so important. It’s quite simple. With a non-existent network in the industry you want to work in, who are you going to turn for advice? Who is going to help you to get those creative juices flowing? Who is going to motivate you to keep plugging away and making a success of your new career?
You will have other people cheering you on of course, but there are no better cheerleaders than having a network of people around you who understand what you have been through, who understand what you are currently going through, and who will understand what you will have to go through in the future.
I am not telling you this because I have mastered this particular piece of learning. I’m telling you this because I am crap at it and I need to find a way to motivate myself to make improvements to my network. Whenever I write something in a blog post, it seems to force me to crack on with it. So here’s hoping that I give myself a good kick up the backside, and start to put some time aside each week to carve out a network with fellow creatives. If by any chance you find yourself reading this, and you are a freelancer, let me know! It would be great to hear from you.
2. Set Some Money Aside for CPD
I have to admit, Continuous Professional Development (CPD) was not something I had even thought about as I headed into my new career. It’s not that I thought I knew everything about my chosen career, it just literally hadn’t crossed my mind. It wasn’t until my professional coach brought it up at our one-to-one session last week that it dawned on me.
CPD generally doesn’t come cheap. I wondered how I was going to afford to do any CPD when I hadn’t banked on making a profit this year. I also no longer had a company employing me who would be able to financially contribute towards it.
Thankfully my coach was on hand with a helpful suggestion.
As we are still very much in a national lockdown here in the UK, my coach challenged me to think about how much money I have been saving whilst I haven’t been going out as much. She then suggested that the money I was saving could be put into a pot for CPD.
Whilst my budget won’t be huge, it will be realistic. It will give me the flexibility and the motivation to get out of an increasingly bad habit of saying things like ‘I can’t buy that eBook/App/Course because I can’t afford it‘. With a brand new career to get my head around, it would be an impossible task to think I could do this without investing time and money into myself.
3. Plan, Plan, Plan
I hated planning in my 9-5 job. I was always fighting fires and dealing with crises which would frequently arise and throw my to-do-list out of the window. Yet, the minute I became a freelancer, I found myself planning left, right and centre, and more importantly, I was enjoying it. My planning is by no means perfect. There is definitely room for improvement but I’ve made a good start.
After years of trying (badly) to rely on an online calendar, I have finally invested in a hardback diary. Something in me knew I needed to have a better visual than an online calendar. I find it to be a much more effective way of keeping on top of deadlines, meetings and birthday’s – I am notoriously bad at posting cards on time and god forbid I should miss a deadline!
I also have 3 To-Do-List’s. Three might seem a bit excessive but it seems to be working for me. It’s helping me to stay focused and on track at least. My To-Do-Lists are broken down into:
- Monthly – this gives me a good overview of the projects I need to focus on that month. This list tends to be quite long
- Weekly – this narrows things down and prioritises the things I must get done that week
- Daily – the shortest one of the 3, this list narrows things down to the focus areas for that particular day. The daily list has no more than 3 items listed on it. Any more than 3, there’s the risk of not getting tasks completed, and the to-do-list becoming a burden rather than a help.
I always make sure I write my to-do-lists in advance. Writing them down ahead of time stops any unnecessary procrastination when you start your working day. It also means that you don’t have a long to-do-list whirring around your head when you’re trying to sleep!
4. Find alternative ways to receive feedback
Something professional coaches talk about a lot is the importance of getting feedback. I recently asked myself ‘Where am I going to get my feedback from now?’ I was so used to going to colleagues for feedback, I realised that was no longer an option as I no longer had a team around me and the last thing I wanted to be doing was bugging clients for feedback either.
I spoke to my coach about this last week too. She said that if clients ask you to keep working for them, renew contracts or use your services repeatedly, this is the best possible feedback you can get as someone who is self-employed.
Funnily enough, the same day I asked her about this, I also received an email from one of my clients saying he had had some great feedback about the improvements I had made to their Instagram account. I have saved that email in a feedback folder so that if I have a day when I need some extra motivation, or I need to nip my imposter syndrome in the bud, I have a ready-made folder I can jump into and give myself that all-important pep talk.
I also think that getting feedback when you are a freelance writer, tends to be a lot easier than perhaps other freelancing jobs. I have recently ghostwritten an eBook for a client. At specific milestones, I had to submit the document for review, and then the client would return the work with editing suggestions. As a freelance writer, you quickly have to get used to dealing with what the client wants and not what you want! You also have to get used to editing taking a lot more time than writing!
5. Remember to celebrate your wins, however small they may seem
I was so relieved when I landed my first job as a freelance writer that I forgot to celebrate. I was busy working with new clients when I received my first paycheck, and I forgot to celebrate.
These might be small achievements in the grand scheme of things but they are completely worthy of celebrating!
Admittedly, celebrating anything right now has its problems, as we can’t treat ourselves to evenings or days out like we used to. But that shouldn’t stop us from celebrating.
Whether it’s treating ourselves to an early finish, a walk around the park, or a glass of bubbly, marking these achievements is really important for us freelancers. In the long run, choosing people to celebrate with is also important. I no longer have a team around me who I can celebrate with, so finding an alternative ‘gang’ to share my wins with needs to go on my to-do-list.
Life as a freelance writer looks very different from my old life. I’m excited about learning new things; I’m buzzing about creating that all-important network, and I’m even excited about being excited at the thought of planning! Who knew that would be a thing!?!
I have never felt more ready for this amazing journey to start to unfold.
I hope you’ve found that useful. As always let me know in the comments below, and if you have any tips from your own experiences then please get in touch as I would love to hear from you!