4 things I wish I’d known before going freelance

The term ‘freelance’ has a lot of connotations. It’s synonymous with yoga pants, mid-week brunch dates and ‘coffices’ (a.k.a. cafe offices). At best, it’s flexible working that enables you to be your own boss and build a business on your own terms. At worst, it’s juggling deadlines, chasing unpaid invoices and questioning if you can go another day without washing your hair.

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My experience sits somewhere in the middle. Four months ago I took the plunge into freelancing writing, turning my back on a stable, full-time role at a digital agency to chase my dreams in editorial and publishing. It was a decision spurred by the realization that I wasn’t living up to my potential or following my passions. I felt out-of-place, overworked and on-track to climb a ladder in an industry I’d never wanted to be a part of.

So, has freelance life solved my career crisis? What lessons have I learned along the way, and would I have tackled things differently if I could do it all again? Read on to find out what I wish I’d known before jumping into freelancing.

1. Time Will Slip Away. Fast.

It’s amazing what you can achieve with 9 extra hours up your sleeve. You can hit snooze, stop by your favorite cafe for brekkie, and still make your favorite yoga class. But, without office hours to hold you accountable, it’s easy to let the day slip away.

My first few weeks of freelancing taught me the value of setting a clear schedule for each day. By blocking out my calendar at the beginning of the week, I quickly realized I didn’t have infinite amounts of free time to play with. With deadlines looming and multiple projects on the go, it’s crucial to allocate and block out deep-work time to ensure you can submit deliverables on-time.

The good news? Without an office to commute to, you can use this time to fit in leisure activities you’d usually miss out on. Use this extra hour or two to hit the gym, head out for a run or join a fitness class you’ve always wanted to try.

2. You’ll Need To Create Your Own Routine

This one might sound obvious, but hear me out. When you’re a part of the 9-5 grind, there’s a sense of familiarity to each day. You’ll catch the same train each morning, stop by your usual coffee shop on the way to your desk and order your go-to salad when it comes time for lunch.

So, what’s the value of all this? Our brains are hardwired to seek out and follow a routine. To save mental energy, we develop habits that help reduce the number of decisions we need to make each day. Plus, routine helps build a sense of connection with those around us. Whether it’s working alongside the same faces or visiting our favorite barista, these regular encounters help us feel that we belong in the world.

Although working solo does have a lot of perks, it can be an isolating experience for many. Beat the freelancing blues by crafting a daily routine that allows for moments of connection. Whether it’s taking your dog to the same park every morning or working from a nearby cafe a couple of times each week, engaging in friendly conversation will boost your mood and foster a sense of belonging in your local community.

3. Everywhere Will Become A Workspace

Yes, even your bed will become fair game. Freed from the shackles of the cubicle, it’s pretty damn liberating to work remotely. With a MacBook and WiFi, working from anywhere is truly possible.

But in my experience, establishing boundaries is essential. Sending a few emails from the couch can seem like a good idea, but it blurs the lines between work and leisure. Create a space in your home that will become a dedicated work-only zone. It could be a desk in your spare room or study nook in your living area. Still struggling to stay focused? Try visiting your local library to help minimize distractions and the chances of binge-watching Netflix.

4. You’ll Need To Reach Out To Your Network

Going out on your own as a freelancer is daunting. As your own boss, finding new clients and opportunities is an essential part of the role. So, how do you make it happen?

Sharing your services with your professional network is a great place to start. Make sure to keep your LinkedIn profile updated and consider posting an update to let your connections know you’re looking to take on new projects. If you have a solid database of past clients and colleagues, sending a group email explaining what you do can also be a great way to reconnect with your network.

This article first appeared on A Girl in Progress.