2014 was my first proper year of freelancing. Booking clients, invoicing people, submitting a tax return – all fun stuff. I thought it’d be a fun exercise to share a little bit about what I learnt in my first year as a freelancer, in case any of you are considering taking the plunge! First up, some background.
How I ended up as a freelancer in the first place
I actually fell into it by accident, to be honest. A combination of being unable to find a permanent contract anywhere and a couple of friend’s with small businesses offering me some contract work and boom, there you go, I’m suddenly a freelancer. I’m pretty outgoing so I talk to people a lot, which is also handy for a freelance career. Most of my work comes through word of mouth!
I’ve been dabbling with coding for about 15 years now, and I’ve been online for a loooong time (I am 31, it happens), so even tho my general job skills were based in administration it didn’t feel like too much to transition what I was doing in my spare time (chatting on Twitter and building websites) to my actual job.
What I do, and how I do it
I mostly do marketing and social media, and WordPress dev altho I also create content and provide customer service support. Multi-faceted! I’ve always been interested in the internet and building websites, and I’m supremely chatty and people based, so they seemed like a good fit for me.
I don’t have a set in stone routine, but I usually start work at around 10 (altho I do wake up earlier than that, I swear! Ha). I usually work with certain clients on certain days, so I’ll either be doing some marketing stuff or I’ll be working on a website design depending on where in the week I am. I’m a completely paperless operation so everything is done via my laptop, which is pretty sweeet. It means I can work from anywhere in the world, essentially, which is a pretty nice feeling.
I normally stop for lunch at around 1pm and try to take a 45 minute break away from my laptop and my phone. Then it’s back to work until 5 or 6, depending on when Q gets home / how much work I have left.
Sometimes I work in the evenings, but I try not to because it doesn’t feel like a great use of my time and my brain is definitely more tired then.
What I learnt this year
I am good at talking to people and self-motivating but I’m bad at time-management and sticking to one task at a time. 2014 was an interesting year – I definitely made some mistakes (make backups, kids. Seriously), but overall it went well. I built a small core of happy clients who like to tell other people to hire me. They’re really the best.
Pros of being a freelancer
- You set your own hours
- You can work from home
- You’re in charge of what you do (mostly!)
- You can work for people who have the same ethos as you
- You get to set your own prices
Cons of being a freelancer
- The hours can be irregular
- It can be pretty isolating
- The fear that you don’t have anyone to fall back on
- You have to motivate yourself, constantly, forever. No-one else will be around to do it for you
- Some months you will have money, some months you won’t
I really want to move more towards WordPress dev (themes and bespoke stuff next!) and maybe an app or two? Who knows. The world is my proverbial oyster, really.
Tools for freelancers
If you’re thinking about becoming a freelancer, these are some of the tools that I use on a daily basis that you might find useful.
- Toggl – for time tracking
- Trello – for organising your stuff
- Debitoor – I use this for my invoicing and it works a treat
- WeTransfer – for sending big files that are too large for email
- Copy – like Dropbox, but with a way bigger allowance (if you sign up via my link we both get an extra 5GB! Nice.)
They’re all free tools (some have premium options), which is nice if you’re just starting out as you can see what works for you before you commit to anything.
I also use Treehouse to learn new coding languages and skills, and while it’s not free I do think it’s worth it!
Honestly, I would recommend freelancing if you’re sick of your job and want to try working for yourself. It’s an interesting process and it won’t suit everyone, but I really think that it suits me well :) Here’s to 2015!