A year ago today, I registered as self-employed with HMRC, set up a business bank account, and bought professional insurance. Some of the last 12 months have been predictable, and others, not so much, but I’ve not quite used up all my savings, and I’ve even learned a few things along the way.
1. The freedom is magnificent.
Choosing how to spend each minute of each day is wondrous. Glorious sunshine? Let’s go get an ice cream. Interesting project? Stay up late, get things done, and feel awesome. Slow week? Take the day off and go hiking.
I may never be able to hold down a ‘real job’ again…
2. The uncertainty takes getting used to.
There are certain times of year when people basically stop working. Even business owners, who work hard, don’t think so much about business development over the summer, or at Christmas time. That means projects slow down, and sometimes it’s hard to know where the next cheque will come from, never mind when it might arrive. Putting away a little bit of each cheque to cover these quieter times has made them easier to bear.
3. Networking is a lot easier when you keep doing it regularly.
Your first networking event ever is a necessary evil, and your first one after a bit of a break feels like a chore. But keeping up with events regularly changes the whole dynamic. You get to be a regular, you get to know other regulars, and conversations become deeper and more interesting.
Introducing yourself to someone new is less daunting when you already feel like you’re part of the ‘in crowd’.
4. Writing is a lot easier when you keep doing it regularly.
Keeping up a steady flow of content is a challenge for any small business owner. In fact, it’s such an common pain point that I’m setting up the Content Cafe workshops to help tackle the problem.
What I have found, though, is that putting it off makes it harder. Doing little bits here and there makes the whole task of content creation a lot less intimidating. ‘Write for 20 minutes’ is way simpler than ‘write an entire blog post’.
5. No one’s going to pay me to fall down a rabbit hole on the Internet.
For most of my adult life, I’ve been a serial procrastinator. On a day to day basis, this manifests as hours of scrolling through social media and news websites for that next nugget of entertainment.
To get a handle on it, I started tracking the number of hours I was actually working each day. Then I compared it to the amount I was invoicing each month. Seeing the link between working and getting paid was way more motivating that I expected!
6. I focus way better at 10pm than I do at 10am.
I have never been a morning person. Avoiding that morning routine was a key factor in my decision to leave conventional employment.
Since going freelance, I can work when it suits me throughout the day, and quite often find myself doing some of my best work at my desk in my pyjamas at 10 or 11 at night. Finding the schedule that works for you will make you far happier and more productive!
7. Always send reminders on your invoices.
I really hate asking people for money. I was never again good at getting sponsors for charity events, or selling tickets, or negotiating a raise. So chasing up invoices is my idea of a miserable day. But actually, what’s worse is checking my bank balance every day to discover I’ve not been paid. Again.
To combat the agony, I’ve put together a system of calendar reminders for myself, and standard emails for my clients. Now I don’t have to agonise over wording each time it’s a little less painful. Next step – outsourcing!
8. Hair ties and egg timers are the source of all my productivity.
It can be hard to get out of an unproductive funk, so you need a few fail-safe strategies up your sleeve. These two nearly always work for me:
- tie my hair back and roll up my sleeves
- set a timer for just 10 minutes to get me on a roll.
The timer is also incredibly useful for breaking up challenging projects into bite sized pieces, and also for keeping a handle on breaks throughout the day.
9. Alarms provide structure, but don’t need to dictate what you do.
My friends laugh when they see my ‘lunch time’ or ‘dinner time’ alarms. In my old days as a clock-watcher, I’d have laughed too!
Now I’m in charge of my own schedule, and I love my job, things are a little different. I use 3 or 4 regular alarms to build in a little structure to my day – so I don’t forget to eat and drink!
Of course I’m not beholden. I may still decide to power through for an extra hour if I’m in the zone. It’s much nicer to make an informed choice about it when I can!
10. Even though I work on my own, it takes a village.
In January this year I was invited to join a co-working group with 3 wonderful ladies, through the Bullish Society.* We get together, virtually, three times a week to hang out and get things done. We’ll video chat for 10 minutes at the start of each hour, throughout the afternoon and it’s borderline magical. I don’t know what I would have done without people to celebrate, commiserate, and chat with every couple of days. Total babes!
* This is a referral link – if two people sign up through my referral link I receive a $25 gift card to the Bullish Store.