I’ve been working on my own for three years now and so I thought I would share some tips on how to stay sane while freelancing. Some might seem obvious, but when you’re a new freelancer it can be a little disorienting and you feel like everything is turned upside down. This can be a great feeling, but you still need to get things done, so here are some basic tips.
1. Get up and get dressed. I’m not going to lie, there are times when I check my email while drinking coffee in bed + suddenly it’s 10:00, I’ve accomplished a lot, but I’m still in my pajamas and that can do a number on your sense of self-worth. Thankfully, I have 2 dogs that, most mornings, get me up, dressed, outside and moving.
2. If you work from home, get outside, better yet, go somewhere outside of your apartment or house to work for a few hours each week. Now that I have a house with enough room for an office, I still need to get out and be around people. I focus more, and a coffee in a cafe feels more special than brewed at home. Playing music with headphones can also help with any distractions.
3. When you are working at home, give yourself breaks. Again, my dogs have helped me a lot with this. It’s something that they love and sometimes I get some good ideas on that walk around the block. But I also break for a yoga class and when I decide I don’t have time, I regret it later.
4. Cleaning can become a colossal time waster. It feels like something you really have to do and there are all kinds of rationalizations to make it seem legitimate. But, it suddenly occurred to me that when I worked in an office, I left the laundry unfolded or dishes in the sink, all the time. These things can wait. Just don’t look at them. Close the door if you have to. Or if you really can’t stand it, count it as an actual “break” as mentioned in #3.
5. If there’s something you either hate doing or are not very good at, like in my case, bookkeeping, hire someone else to do it. But get referrals. I’ve had some great experiences and not so great experiences with various vendors. But the best ones have been personal referrals.
6. It takes time to get in to your groove. When you first start to work for yourself, it’s incredibly liberating, scary, fulfilling and often, unpredictable. It’s important to stay flexible in the beginning as you figure things out. You won’t know every single policy you have until you’ve encountered something specific that requires a policy. You won’t know when you’re most productive, until you’ve tried a few different times. It might not be what you’ve always thought when working for someone else. It also changes. So if it’s not feeling quite right at first, give it time, do some tweaking, stay fluid. It actually took me a whole year to get comfortable with my productivity. And now after 3 years, things are still changing.
7. Schedule your time on Social Media. Even if you’re on Twitter or Facebook to promote your business, it is another potential colossal time waster. I used to check it whenever it occurred to me, which for someone with ADD can be too often. Now I just check out Twitter at the beginning or end of the day, and it would be even better if I scheduled it because I’m not always consistent. But I always tell myself how long I get before I dive in. If you need to, set an alarm. If you want to have activity throughout the day to create a presence for your company, then use Hootsuite because it schedules tweets and it connects to your Facebook page too.
8. Don’t go it alone. Even if you’re the only one in your company, it’s really important to have other people to collaborate with or connect with to support each other. When I was recruiting, I became part of a group of individual recruiters who were invaluable to my sanity. In fact, I still collaborate with them from time to time. But, we had monthly calls where we would share what we were working on, ask each other for advice on any challenges we were having and it completely transformed my state of mind as a freelancer. There are tons of resources online that you can join like Biznik and Ladies Who Launch just to name a couple, that are geared to solopreneurs.
These are just a few tips that I’ve learned and I’d love to hear any others that people have to share. One thing I remember too is that although people can tell you what to expect, it’s a very different experience for everyone, so you really won’t know for sure if you can do it, unless you give it a try. That leads me to my last tip — planning is always good, but at some point you just have to be brave and go for it!