Julia Garvey has been freelancing and working from home for nearly 20 years. Here is her guide to surviving and prospering.
1. Get dressed
You can work in your pyjamas, but that doesn’t mean you should! Best to keep some standards I always feel. Plus I got caught out recently by impromptu video call as I sat in a tatty old jumper with no makeup and my hair not done. A good friend goes one better and tells the story of a forgotten meeting where she only managed to salvage the situation because she was dressed and ready to walk out the door as soon as they rang to see where she was.
2. Work the hours that suit you
This is my complete favourite thing about freelancing. I work early then break mid-afternoon when my children come home from school, picking my work up again in the evening. The downside is that I also work weekends and sometimes I don’t know when to draw the line because work is always there.
3. Have an office space
I have a separate office at home which is where I work for the majority of my time. Although I could work on the sofa or the kitchen table I am much more productive when I keep my office and home separate. Even without the luxury of a separate room, it is good to create a space that is just for work and which you can shut the door on at the end of the day. A closed door is also a signal to family and flatmates that you are working and not to be disturbed.
4. Get out more
Don’t just work from home or you will go stir crazy. By Friday I’m ready to talk to PPI callers, invite the postman in for coffee or buy a new set of dishcloths just to have some human interaction. Mix it up a bit – work in a client’s office for a few days, take a co-working desk for a few hours a week or just go and work in your local coffee shop a bit. It breaks up the week and stops the isolation.
5. Be a good salesperson
I don’t’ mean you need to develop the patter and start talking like an estate agent, but you do need to always keep one eye on where the next project might be coming from. It’s all about nurturing relationships with existing clients, not being afraid to ask for recommendations and being prepared to shout about your achievements.
6. Be prepared for the quiet times
Feast or famine is the old adage and it is true – there will be times when you have far too much to do, and other months where you are kicking your heels. Sounds obvious, but make sure you keep money set aside for the quiet periods and have a plan for what to do with them. Don’t panic but do know how long you can go without work before you need to worry, and have a plan in place for generating more business when it does go quiet.
7. Network like a pro
Both virtually and in person. You cannot work for yourself without a website, business cards or LinkedIn profile – how are clients ever going to find you otherwise? Get out and get seen at industry events, this is where you will make contacts and find fellow freelancers to swap horror stories with.
8. Keep your skills up to date
It’s easy to get let behind if you work for yourself. You need to keep abreast of new developments and invest some of your income each year on conferences and training courses. Invest in yourself and you will be rewarded with new and interesting work going forward.
9. Take advantage of technology
When I first went freelance it was in the early days of working from home. I was armed with a fax machine and a dial up internet connection which enabled me to check my emails two or three times a day. Archaic as this sounds now, this was cutting edge back then and enabled me to work efficiently. So what is the equivalent for today’s modern freelancer. Here is a quick summary of some of the key tech tools on which I rely:
• Slack – more efficient communication
• Googledocs for effective collaboration
• Toggl – to track my time per project
• Trello – for planning my to do list and blocking out my time
• Wetransfer for sending big files
• Joinme – for video conferencing, screensharing
10. Enjoy it
There’s no point having all this flexibility if you never sneak a lunch with friends, or a weekday shopping trip. Enjoy the freedom that comes with working for yourself and feel a smug sense of satisfaction that you are not chained to a desk 9am – 5pm.
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