Tag Archives: Freelance

My top tips for the self-employed

Starting out as self-employed has been one of the best moves I have ever made, but it has been a steep learning curve at times.  I thought I’d share some of the key things I have learnt for anyone out there who may find it helpful.

Promote yourself as a business

Promoting myself was one of the things I initially struggled with the most.   I decided to use my own name for my company name to aid recognition, but didn’t realise the issues this would create for me.  I’m used to promoting things – events, projects, businesses – but at first it felt really uncomfortable and contrived to promote myself.  I have never enjoyed being centre of attention, and blush horribly if I feel the spotlight turning my way.  It actually took a friend questioning why I couldn’t take my own advice, after I’d been giving her some tips on how to promote the family business, to help me understand I had been approaching it with the wrong mind-set.  I came to realise that I was thinking how do I promote myself without sounding like I love myself, when what I should be saying is look at these fantastic services I can provide for you.  If, like me, you begin to struggle when it comes to promoting yourself remember it’s not you as a person that you are selling, it’s the business you have set up.

Have a retreat to work in

I’ve already written a blog post about how important I think it is to have a dedicated workspace if you are going to work from home, but in my opinion it is that crucial I’m reiterating it again!  It doesn’t need to be anywhere fancy.  Just somewhere you can go, get into the right frame of mind to focus on your work, and not have to worry about being interrupted, or about people moving your things.  Even if your chosen profession means you have to work all over the place (or you just enjoy doing so), having a personal space at home where you can do your admin and keep your paperwork together is still important.

Make your connections work for you

I could have used the term network here, but I don’t like the mental image it conjures up for me.  The term is too structured, too formal.  Instead think of it as talking to as many people about what you are doing as possible.  You never know where your next client will come from, and so far I have got the majority of my business this way.  In addition I’ve managed to get my clients some great opportunities too.  So dust off that address book, scroll through your social media friends, take note of who you see each day, and have a think about what opportunities may lie with each of them.

Be strict with your time

Changing from working to someone else’s timetable and attending work at specific times, to being your own boss and working when you like, is extremely liberating.  It is a massive benefit to working for yourself and one of the main reasons I decided to go it alone.  The thing is it is also quite a tough thing to do if you are not used to it.  I had a head start in many ways as I studied for my masters degree by distance learning, so got used to having to exercise my self-discipline.  I give myself set times to work, based on a weekly timetable, and stick to it as far as possible.  Of course I may move a session – that’s the sole traders prerogative – but I always endeavour to fit it in at a different time that week.  This is easier when you are doing work for clients, especially when there is a deadline, but don’t forget to include time to do your admin and to promote your business too.

I’m sure I’ll learn a lot more as I continue on this journey, and that’s one thing that makes it so exciting.  I’d love to hear about other people’s experiences too.  What have you learnt since setting up your own business?  Do you have useful tips to share?

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The art of juggling whilst holding a baby

Apologies for the delay in publishing my latest blog post – I know it is not an excuse but I’ve been really busy!

It’s been all go at the Stevens HQ since my last post.  My freelance work is really taking off now, and I’ve been busy squirreling away at a couple of projects.  We’ve also got some house renovations coming up that have required shopping to be done, suppliers to be found, and decisions to be made.  Plus that’s all on top of being the main carer for a baby that seems to have all of her teeth coming through at the same time.

All this has required me to really think about my time management skills, and to make sure I utilise every part of my day in the best possible way.

In all honesty I think the toughest part of it all has been the fact my baby wants to be held a lot and isn’t sleeping as much as normal.  Managing my time is so much easier when I know I will have a set amount of time, at a certain time of day, to get on with things uninterrupted.  Instead I have had to rely on friends and family keeping baby entertained, while I get my head down in my office.

For me my office is the key thing to working from home.  Having a space where you can retreat to, where the rest of the world ceases to exist, and it is just you and whatever you need to get on with your work (plus possibly something to nibble on!).

The office doesn’t need to be anything special.  Mine is our spare room/dumping ground, so I share it with a futon and the Christmas decorations.  It just needs to be a quiet space where you can have some time uninterrupted.

Don’t be afraid to set rules about your office.  Ask your family not to disturb you while you are in there if you need to.  Insist that no one else goes in there to “borrow” anything, as things will go missing and papers will be messed up.  You need to be able to go in there and get on, not clear a space and set everything up each time you use it.

I always try to tell my husband how long I expect to be working for each time I head to my office.  That way he knows how long it will be before he sees me so can judge whether he needs to disturb me if anything happens.

By saying how long I will be in the office for it also gives me a pre-determined length of time in my head of how long I need to concentrate for, which in turn stops me from procrastinating.  After all my little haven of an office provides me with a lot, but it’s useless if I’m not strict with myself!

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I am self-employed not unemployed!

I am an author, and have enjoyed managing and promoting events for a living for almost 10 years now, so making the decision to leave my last job in order to become a freelance writer and event organiser should have been an easy one.  Yet the decision proved to be an incredibly difficult one to make and, for a while, live with.

Resigning without another position to walk into was incredibly scary, and felt like a completely irrational action.  Everybody knows it is easier to get a job when you already have one, right?  We had just had our first child though and going back to work full-time just wasn’t a viable option – financially or emotionally.

It didn’t help that the position I was resigning from was one that I loved, in a company I felt proud to work for, with amazing colleagues.  I hadn’t been in the office for several months as I had been on maternity leave, which made walking away easier than it otherwise would have been.  If that had not been the case I doubt this situation would ever have crossed my mind, let alone come into fruition.

Even when I had made the decision and handed in my notice I still felt anxious about it. More than one night I lay in bed questioning if I had done the right thing.  I mean what was I doing?  We had just had a baby.  One more mouth to feed, one more person to clothe and I was cutting our monthly income.  There was so many ways I doubted the decision. I wondered if maternity leave had made me work-shy and I did not realise it, or if I was unconsciously afraid to go back to work after such a break.  I felt like I was voluntarily becoming unemployed, and that I was going to become a drain on my husband, my friends, society.

Then one day it dawned on me.  The constant worry and the sleepless nights were completely unfounded. I wasn’t leaving my job and becoming unemployed, I was going to be self-employed.  I would still contribute to our family income, I would still be working.  Yet this way I get to realise my dream of working for myself, I get to do the work I love, and I can fit it all in around bringing up my daughter. Maybe, once in a while, you do get to have it all.

I know the journey is not going to be easy, but now I can safely say I am looking forward to the challenge.

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