This month marks a year since I took the plunge and started working as a freelancer. I had done a little bit of freelancing before – some corporate blog posts here and there, a few parenting pieces for Mamamia and a fab gig where I reviewed Sydney’s best restaurants. However, I always had the security of full or part-time income to back me up. When the birth of my second child coincided with the conclusion of a contract I had been on, I decided it was the universe telling me to go it alone.
As my baby was only 4 months old when I dipped my toe into freelancing, I had pretty realistic expectations. I wanted, nay needed, to start slow, however it didn’t take long to ramp up. After a year of pitching, networking, writing and invoicing I feel like I’ve made the right decision. I am professionally fulfilled, I get to spend quality time with my family (super important as my partner works most weekends) and my income is tracking along nicely. Of course, it hasn’t all been rainbows and lollipops and there have been a few huge lessons along the way.
Contacts are everything
Never has the phrase ‘it’s not what you know but who you know’ been more apparent. I’ve been lucky that a lot of the work I’ve picked up in the last year has come from people I know. Whether it’s former colleagues, friends of friends or even someone my mum met at the gym (gotta love my one-woman fan club!), they’ve led to some amazing opportunities. It also means networking has become pretty important and increasing this is one of my goals in 2018.
It can be lonely in here but there’s a lot of support out there
Another reason for networking is not just to get more work but to help you with the work you already have. Having spent my entire working life in lively offices with lots of colleagues to bounce ideas past, it was initially quite lonely doing it all on my own. However, I’ve found some amazing online support groups such as Freelance Jungle, Rachel’s List and Mums&Co which make me smile daily with their thoughtfulness and encouragement. I’ve also forged some offline friendships through some of my clients and have a few other friends in similar industries ensuring I always have support and never get lonely.
If you don’t schedule in ‘me time’, you don’t get it
In the early days, I took every moment of alone time to work. It didn’t take long for me to realise that this wasn’t going to feasible both for my health and happiness. These days, I have to schedule in a few activities that are important to me. I love to exercise outdoors so play football and run a few times a week. The great thing about this is I can also listen to some of my favourite podcasts (current faves are the Hot Copy podcast, So you want to be a writer by the Australian Writers’ Centre and Rebekah Radice’s Brand Authority Podcast. I also love indulging with a pot of tea and the weekend papers on a Sunday morning. Other than that, there isn’t much ‘me time’ although I feel that’s more to do with being a mum than being a freelancer…
It’s time to give up on tidiness
I realised pretty quickly that working from home coupled with young kids means the house is never tidy. I used to not be able to sit down and write unless everything was in order but these days, I just step over the junk and get to work. Although I do try to clear it up once a day but generally my house covered in miniature tea sets, lego, books and of course, crumbs. I do try to stick to a cleaning schedule however one particularly busy month last year, I gave up and splurged on a one-off cleaner. I am definitely going to do that again next time things get overwhelming.
Access to good quality, flexible childcare and support is a must
Working as a freelancer meant I put off daycare as long as possible for my second child. For her first year, she would sleep long hours then would happily play on the floor while I worked nearby – I know, dream baby! When I had interviews, meetings and tight deadlines to meet, I could rely on my partner, in-laws or parents to take her for a few hours. I was lucky too that some clients were happy for her to attend meetings (only because she was tiny, immobile and incredibly cute of course! Now she’s a rambunctious toddler and that is absolutely out of the question!)
Both kids go to daycare now and I’ve been lucky to find a supportive centre that allows us to add extra casual days when we need it. Increasingly the workplace isn’t 9-5 and all parents should be able to access these types of flexible, daycare arrangements.
The learning is never done
I can honestly say I have learnt more in the last year than I have in any other role. Whether it’s how to run the business (tax, super, invoicing the list goes on) to the topics of articles and blogs I’ve written and the copywriting clients I’ve worked for, the learning has been epic. I’ve also never been as excited to expand my knowledge. From podcasts to webinars to articles to training courses, there are so many ways to get the info you need. I can’t wait for this year’s brain expansion – I’m planning on getting stuck into SEO, I want to redo my website and have a few new clients in some fascinating industries. Bring on year two!
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