Freelancing is hard. You not only have to provide the skills you're offering, you also have to juggle everything from your own PR, marketing and networking to general book-keeping and administration.
You also have to deal with clients, go to your own meetings and fit in your workload somewhere along the way. And if that wasn't enough, you'll undoubtedly be constantly worried about when the next pay cheque is coming in.
But what about the benefits? What about all the reasons that encouraged you to go freelance in the first place? If you're a freelancer and you're starting to wonder why you launched your own business in the first place, this article is for you.
Being a business owner myself, I wanted to share some tips on how to get the most out of your freelancing life. Because we only have one life and what's the point if you're spending every waking hour working or worrying about work? Read on to discover how to be a happier freelancer...
Keep the overheads low
My absolute top tip is to keep your overheads low. Consider every potential new outgoing and ask yourself whether you really need it. Nine times out of 10 you don't. So avoid all unnecessary expenses wherever possible.
No, you don't need a fancy car to impress clients. And no, you don't need to buy more business cards if networking isn't your thing. Keep those outgoings as low as possible. It will take the pressure off and ensure you don't have to work as hard to cover your costs.
Only spend time on paid work
When you freelance, people don't seem to understand that you've still got to work for a living. Family and friends may assume you've got time to help them out for free. This isn't the case and you shouldn't be pressured by anyone to do work for nothing – that includes clients.
Only spend time doing paid work. You are running a business, not a charity. Plus, doing things for free always adds to your workload and results in unnecessary stress.
You don't need fancy office space
During my life as a freelancer, I've moved into four different offices and spent some time working from home as well. I've enjoyed large office space and tiny workspace. What has become apparent is that I don't really need office space at all. And neither do you.
The only benefit of having office space is that it separates home from work life. In which case, you should consider options like hot-desk or co-working spaces. Or even just buy a decent laptop that you can take to your local cafe whenever you need a change of scenery.
If, like me, you absolutely can't live without office space, then only rent the space you need. Remember, clients aren't impressed by where you work. They're impressed by the work you do.
Embrace new working hours
So everyone's going to their jobs every morning, following the same 9-5 routine. Just because other people are, doesn't mean you have to! If you're a freelancer, you'll undoubtedly be working your socks off to make ends meet. If you don't fancy going to the office or sitting in your home study between 9-5, then don't! Pick your own working hours and enjoy the many benefits of working for yourself.
Don't feel guilty
Just because you have more freedom than your friends and family who are working in 9-5 jobs, doesn't mean you should feel bad about your own freelance situation. Remember, there are many downsides to freelancing, so you should definitely enjoy the benefits. That means you should stop feeling bad about having a few perks. Because it's not all fun and games, as you know. Ditch the guilt and start enjoying the upsides of being a freelancer.
All freelancers can suffer from a lack of confidence. Especially when you've lost a client or a recent pitch wasn't successful. Don't sweat it! No one's perfect. Remember, freelancing is really hard and if you're managing to bring in a steady income on your own, you should be proud of yourself. People hire you for a reason and that's because you've got skills they need. Keep that in mind next time you're lacking confidence.
Cut out the crap and get extra help
Sit down and go through your typical working day, picking out those things that distract or stop you from doing the work you love. It's so important to ensure your time is spent earning money – so if your accounting is taking too long or you hate it, hire someone else to sort it! There's no point in wasting your time on menial tasks when you can easily outsource.
Hire a debt collector
One of the biggest problems with freelancing is the uncertain income. This is why it's crucial you get a solid accounts system in place. Once every project is complete, invoice the client. Make sure you include a timeframe for the invoice to be paid within your terms and start chasing for payment the minute that time is up.
Even better, hire a debt collector to chase overdue invoices every month. Nothing beats the sound of someone else's voice, politely requesting payment for your work.
Virtual assistants are lifesavers
Fed up with answering calls to recruitment agencies, phone directories, online services and other businesses – all fighting for your attention and money? Stuck in a difficult project or facing deadlines and haven't got time to speak to anyone? Switch your phone off and divert to a virtual PA or use a virtual telephone answering service.
There are loads of them out there. Just search via Google or ask for recommendations on Twitter. There is nothing wrong with using a virtual service to help free up your time. Trust me, it'll make life so much easier.
Don't be afraid to change
One of the things I love most about freelancing is the flexibility I have to change things at any time. It's always been one of my personal strengths – being able to adapt. I've changed my own business, Boomerang, countless times. Why? Because when something isn't working, I simply do something else. The result? My business has only got better and become more successful. Don't fear change – embrace it! And if you make a mistake? Learn from it and move on.
Pick and choose your clients
When you're established, you'll have a steady flow of work and some loyal customers under your belt. This means you should be able to pick and choose any new client that approaches you. The ones you should pick are the ones who will be nice to work with, who you can make a difference for, and who will pay on time.
Manage stress levels
Freelancing is stressful, particularly when you have so many different clients to serve. To stay stress-free, take regular breaks and spend your lunch break away from your desk. Get out in the fresh air and go for a walk, if you can. Take lots of deep breaths and stretch those legs. After work, respect your downtime by switching off and relaxing.
Hit the delete button without any guilt
When you run your own business, you'll get a lot of emails. Emails from graduates, sending their CVs. Emails from people asking you how you set up your own company. Emails from people just telling you about their own business. This is where the 'delete' button becomes very helpful. Have no guilt whatsoever in deleting time-wasting correspondence. Life is too short and you won't regret not replying to these people when you're sat on your deathbed.
Don't let bad experiences affect you
Anyone who has been in business long enough will know that it can be a dog-eat-dog world. Yes, people really will try and steal your clients. Yes, people will say negative things about you to others. Yes, people will try to take advantage. No matter who you come across, no matter what happens to you – don't allow yourself to become bitter or cynical. Keep upbeat, positive and expect the best of everyone. Just tread carefully and only trust on merit.
Go on holiday without worry
Everyone needs a break. But when you freelance, it can seem impossible to go on holiday when you've got clients to serve. My advice is to give clients plenty of notice before you go away. And if you're worried about not earning money while you're abroad, consider bringing in another freelancer to provide support. Just make sure you mark-up their costs, so you make some extra cash.
But if you really can't stop working? Get the technology in place to continue servicing your client, no matter where you are in the world.
Stay fit and healthy
Exercising is a god-send. It keeps you happy, healthy and stress-free. Nothing beats pounding the treadmill after a long day in the office to run away those worries. When I'm at the gym, exercise clears my head and I also come up with my best ideas. Make sure you have a regular fitness routine to stay happy.
Write a list
Finally, when freelancing is getting you down, write a list of all the great things about working for yourself. Now pin or stick that list on a wall near your computer screen. Whenever you're going through a tough patch, look at that list to remind yourself why you went freelancing in the first place.