Deciding to become self-employed can be a scary step. It can, however, also be an empowering one and it feels to me like more and more individuals are making it. In 2017 I decided to try out going freelance for a year. Here are some lessons I learnt along the way:
1. Make use of any existing contacts you may have in the sector you are freelancing in. Send emails to old colleagues, talk to people in your sector at any chance you get, network network network! It is also worth sending out your CV in bulk to organisations that interest you (if you can find a name and direct email even better).
2. Don’t be afraid to try new jobs that you might not have the exact experience for. When applying for freelance jobs apply for everything that grabs you. If your industry is competitive then you can’t be set on one role. You need to be willing to try new things, get creative and go out of your comfort zone. I worked in creative education in museums and art galleries and ended up delivering workshops that I never imagined doing. I worked in a prison one day and made puppets with children another. Saying yes to a lot of things meant I built up a lot of new skills and had some fascinating experiences.
3. Have a side job or back-up source of income for when times are slow. It’s incredibly useful to have multiple sources of income when you’re just starting out in the freelance world. For me, it worked well having a main source of income from museums, a secondary source from my ‘passion career’ yoga and then a third source where I could always find work if I needed it, which was life modelling.
4. Be flexible. You might not always be doing exactly what you had envisioned. You also can’t control what work or projects will come along or sometimes fall through. Learning to be flexible and go with the flow is a useful attitude to adopt.
5. Do not settle – do what you love. Although you may have to take on work that is not your ideal when times are hard or be willing to juggle a few different roles, never lose sight of what inspired you to take the self-employment route. Make sure to get the balance between doing things for the money and to pay the rent, yet staying true to your passion.
6. Do not stop having a life. Even if times are hard make sure you keep up with other interests and your social life. It is very easy to work or look for work 24/7 as being freelance means that you only have yourself to rely on, you have no safety net of that monthly pay check, no work pension or annual leave. Work hard but make sure to still have fun and follow other interests – you’ll be far more productive!
7. Except it won’t be easy. It will always be hard starting out until you build up relationships or find your niche. Wondering why it is so difficult will not get you anywhere though. Persevere through the hard times! Make it easier for yourself by not worrying about money or stressing about how to pay the next month’s rent – it doesn’t get you anywhere. Put money aside during the months you earn more to cover the months you take in less. Give yourself a structure and a daily routine so that you are as productive and motivated as possible. A morning routine is essential!
8. Trust. In the slow and quiet times or the points when you feel like giving up place trust in yourself and in your intuition. You chose this route for a reason and with the right attitude and intentions it will work out. Think positive and visualise yourself succeeding! What you give out you will get back. Use the quiet points constructively to plan or give your mind a break and work on other things entirely.
As part of the ‘New Millennials’ I have been raised in a society with the mantra “follow your dreams”. The label itself may come with some negative connotations but for me I still live by its mantra. Being your own boss comes with a lot of positives. You may work incredibly hard, take risks and you certainly face your fears. It is also true that the self-employed route may not suit everyone. On the other hand, everything you do you are doing for you alone. Your time is your time, your achievements are only yours and you decide how you live each day. You are in control of how you live your life.
“Have the courage to follow your heart and intuition. They somehow already know what you truly want to become.” – Steve Jobs