Two years have passed since I took the leap into the whole new world of freelancing and running my own business. In all honesty I thought the first few months would involve lots of drinking tea and long lunches with friends but it didn’t work out that way. I’ve learnt a hell of a lot in that time with plenty more to come I’m sure but here’s my top 5 lessons so far:
1. You are not alone! Even when I left my job full of assurances to colleagues, family and friends that I was confident in my decision, actually taking the step to becoming my own boss was super daunting. I like to think of myself as independent and capable but everyone benefits from bouncing ideas off others and problem sharing. During the first few weeks it dawned on me how incredibly lonely it could be despite already having a work deadline to meet. Then I discovered networking and another whole new path opened up.
2. Networking. Back at the beginning I met with a business advisor (a free service offered by my local council) to discuss my ideas for my business and how I’d actually go about securing work. He told me quite firmly that networking was a total waste of time as everyone there is vying for the same piece of work and no one will hesitate to undermine you to others in order to win it. Well this hasn’t been my experience at all. Granted, you have to the find the right group for you, but you will and when you do, these people will become your ‘colleagues’ – encouraging and supporting each other as you grow in confidence and your business takes off. Go with the mindset of only winning work and you will leave disappointed and more importantly, completely miss the point.
3. Learn to say ‘no’. It’s so tempting to accept all work that comes your way for fear of it being your last but learn to pick the projects that fit your ethos and your skills. Through doing a variety of jobs I’d gained some wide ranging skills so although I could ‘technically’ deliver some work, it quickly became apparent I didn’t enjoy it and so one of the pluses of being your own boss is ensuring you don’t do that to yourself again!
4. Invest in yourself. Putting your business last is an easy trap to fall into, after all what client doesn’t want you to prioritise their work? But by ignoring your own needs, you’re doing yourself a disservice. Review your business regularly and identify what training needs you might now have. I recently benefitted from a business coaching session which hit home the importance of taking a step back and setting aside time each month to recap on where I am and how I want to shape my business. I’m currently on a training course which will strengthen my web design skills and I’m loving this dedicated time for my own development. Plus the course has some fab women on it, a surprisingly supportive element I hadn’t expected as we offer advice to each other on future plans.
5. Lastly, remember why you’re doing it. There may be any number of reasons why you’re now freelancing – to be your own boss, to escape the ‘rat race’, to refocus on your family – most likely it’s all of these and more but remember to enjoy it. In the midst of the juggling (because there’s no escaping it, being responsible for everything in your business means more juggling), make sure you stop and appreciate how far you’ve come. Make a cuppa, reflect by taking a look around, see the improvement in your lifestyle. And if this isn’t the case then I wholeheartedly recommend some business and life coaching to get you on the right track to what should be a liberating way of working (with the occasional longer lunch thrown in…)