Being a freelancer is an ideal job for so many of us, particularly if we have kids. Being able to choose our own hours and work around the children and other commitments is amazing, but it’s bloody difficult. In my first few years of being my own boss, I fucked up so many times and made so many mistakes, but what really matters are the lessons I learned from them. Here are just 5 mistakes I made as a freelancer:
I have been self-employed for almost six years now, firstly as a blogger at Coffee Cake Kids, and now as a freelance writer. I also do some photography and social media management and some other shizzle on top of that, alongside raising my four young kids. I thought it might be interesting to share with you some of the biggest mistakes I have made and what I learned from them.
1. Not keeping track of my finances
I started off as so many do, with a pretty binder from WH Smiths to keep invoices and receipts, with the intention of updating it after every job. Then I realized I was spending more time playing with it and making it look pretty with highlighters and glitter pens like a teenager from 2001 than I was actually working – procrastination techniques and all that jazz. So I set up a spreadsheet on my laptop and went on to do exactly the same. It’s amazing how much time you can waste making coloured grids and boxes, especially when you never actually get around to filling it in and using it as it’s meant to be used. A week before my tax return was due, I had to sit there and go back over my bank account and invoices and try to tally everything up. That involved a lot of swearing, I tell you! It also meant that I had no idea on a month to month basis how much I was earning, which is pretty useless when you want to set yourself goals. Now, I spend an hour at the beginning of each week updating my (very basic and boring!) spreadsheet and setting myself new goals.
2. Not realizing my worth
Becoming self-employed is as scary as shit, especially if you leave a stable job to do it. Even the most successful freelancer on the planet has no idea how much money they will make the next month, so the temptation to take on just about any work that comes your way is great. I can’t tell you how many times I have written copy for next to nothing just because I’ve been worried about making the rent next month. However, it is important to know your worth and set yourself a minimum fee. Some months I have a lower minimum fee than others, depending on what my earnings are looking like and my workload for that month. Having a ‘no way am I working for that!’ amount is important though. Remember, if you are working for pennies, it is taking time away from you seeking the big paid jobs, or working on your business.
3. Believing I can work whenever I want
One of the biggest benefits of freelancing is working when you want. But actually, you can’t always work when you want. I would quite like to work every day from 9am until 2pm, but even if you take the velcro baby out of the occasion, there are assemblies and open days to attend, teaching training days and puking children. You can pretty much guarantee one of those – usually the puking child – will happen when you have left a piece of work to do close to the deadline, and suddenly, you have to let your client down, losing you money and not doing your reputation much good. If a job can be done today, do it, or get it out of the way as soon as possible, so if something comes up, you’re not letting anyone down.
4. Not setting work hours
Choosing your own hours is obviously a good thing, but I know from experience that it is far too easy to let it take over your life. In fact, I am still having to work very hard on this point – I still regularly sit up until stupid o’clock working. However, it is important to remember that is still just a job, no matter how much you love it, and it shouldn’t creep into your family time. Try to set some dedicated work hours and stick to them!
5. Not realising how lonely it can be
I am really lucky that I have a superb group of friends who all do a similar job to me and understand it. We have a little WhatsApp group, where we can moan, share opportunities, bounce ideas off one another and get advice. If I didn’t have that little network, I think I would have given up a long time ago because it is so very lonely at times. Even something like going out to a coffee shop or a co-working space can make it seem a little less isolating, and if there are any networking events in your area, go to them!