It’s been over two months now since I quit my 9-5 job as a Marketing Executive and went freelance as a writer, content creator and social media consultant. The first month passed by in a tinsel-filled blur, the second has been filled with work (thankfully) so I’m only just getting round to writing about this slightly mad decision.
I quit my job in December after I got offered (and accepted) another full-time role as a Social Media Manager. The job fell through in the space of three days due to the fact that the company had assumed (incorrectly) that I’d give up my other side projects (including my own social media) to focus solely on their socials.
It was disappointing, but liberating as I ultimately had the chance to do what I’d always wanted and go freelance. I wouldn’t advise leaving your job in a pandemic, but it has worked out really well so far. It’s been exciting, terrifying and a be-careful-what-you-wish-for kind of experience.
An Honest Reflection of my first two months freelance:
I could not have gone freelance without living at home
Back in November, after the third lockdown was announced I moved back home to live with my family (read more about that here). I am incredibly fortunate to be able to move home and that I get on really well with my family. They’ve provided me with the support (and laughter) that I’ve needed throughout the pandemic.
But the reality is I couldn’t have gone freelance in London. There’s no guarantee (especially in a pandemic) that pre-planned work will go ahead or that your invoices will be paid on time. If I still lived in London or even in Cambridge, I couldn’t have gone freelance simply because I wouldn’t have been able to cope with the anxiety of whether I would or wouldn’t be able to make my £700 rent for the same date each month. My anxiety would be unberable to the point that it wouldn’t even be worth being freelance.
I’m sure it’s possible to be freelance in London, but it’s ten times harder than living at home and paying your Mum a fraction of the price (and being able to delay payments if you need to).
Having more time is key for finishing projects
In December I knew that I’d maxed out my capacity of what I could do alongside my full-time job. I’d pushed myself further than I thought possible, but I couldn’t do anything more, read more about that here. I was in a state of constant stress, working through an endless to do list and by Christmas I was burnt out. I knew that going freelance was the only option if I wanted to dedicate more time to my side hustles and grow my personal projects.
We all know how to start projects, in fact if you’re anything like me you’ll do it quite often. But being able to keep them up or finish something is a big commitment of your time, energy and effort.
As we all know the more time you have to work on a project, the more scope you have with it and the more likely it is that you finish it. It’s why so many people quit their job to write a book – they need the time and focus to actually finish it.
If I could have gone part-time last year I would have done, but it just wasn’t an option in my previous role. In some ways, it seems like the best of both worlds, but when I’ve worked part time before you are still drained on your days off from working for someone else.
I’ve experienced a lot of imposter syndrome, self-doubt and fallen into the productivity trap
Imposter syndrome, self-doubt and the pressure to be productive is not something new to me. I’ve always doubted my abilities, while simultaneously being frustrated that I don’t achieve more. I could write endlessly about the contradicting thoughts that fight for my attention, but I won’t do that today.
When you’re self-employed your boss and employee are the same person; I have to tell myself I’m doing a good job, give myself new direction and plan out new strategies for the future. This is both a blessing and a curse depending on what mood I’m in. Generally, I’m getting much better at fighting my self-doubt as, well, things are still getting done and my clients seem happy.
Going freelance before Christmas is not ideal
In hindsight, I wouldn’t recommend going freelance before Christmas. It worked out for me as I didn’t have much holiday left at work, so leaving my job meant that I could have more time to unwind over Christmas. But you can’t dive head first into freelance life and start with a bang as everything shuts down for two to three weeks. It was a well needed break though, so another silver lining in many ways.
I’ve started to live on a 2-3 month basis
Being freelance is a completely different way of living; it’s leaning into the mindset that everyday could be payday and that work will come in ebbs and flows.
I love to plan, but I never really plan that far ahead. The only thing that’s different when you have a 9-5 job is you’re guaranteed the same income every month, whereas freelance you could make three times in February what you make in January. Then you might have another quiet month.
I’ve started to think on a three month or quarter basis as opposed to the whole year. This has worked quite well, especially in lockdown as we can’t really plan ahead when so much is out of our control. But I’m think this mindset will begin to shift when the world reopens slightly and I can plan ahead a bit more.
You have to un-learn how you worked in your 9-5
A lot of being freelance is un-learning everything that’s been conditioned into you at work. Does your best creative work happen when you sit at a desk for eight hours a day? Absolutely not.
Yet for the first few weeks that’s exactly what I did. I sat at my desk 9-5 and worked, as I’d always done. I felt no different to when I’d been working for someone else and I didn’t see much growth as a person, creative or in my work. Once I began to explore what times of the day I was most productive and break up my day with movement or fun tasks as well, I noticed a huge difference to my productivity and mood.
I found that reading about freelance life really helped, especially Fiona Thomas’ book Out of Office, Jo’s boundary tips on Mad and Sad Club as well as manifesting and journalling all of which I learnt from Vibe + Flow.
My mental health has improved significantly
This was one of the main reasons I left my previous job. My mental health was in tatters from a blend of not enjoying my 9-5 role (as I didn’t have very challenging or engaging work) and overworking myself on my side projects – socials, podcasting and blogging. Working for myself has massively reduced my anxiety, stress and depression.
It’s still a balancing act between paid work and side projects
The thing is not everything I want to do pays the bills, some of what I still do makes me no money at all (yet). I essentially still have a job (social media consultant and influencer) and a side hustle (writing books and screenplays). The end goal is for this all to be paid work, but I actually have to write, edit and pitch the books first. I’ve blogged before about how I have more than one passion in life, which means that I will mostly likely always have a side project on the go in my adult life.
I would also say that my heart is currently in my writing. It brings me alive and I’m pretty sure half of what is keeping me going through the pandemic is my imagination. Sinking into my fantasy novel every morning is an absolute dream, but it doesn’t pay my bills. So as much as I’d love to write all day every day, I limit it to an hour or two per day at the moment.
I don’t know if I’d be freelance forever
I am enormously enjoying being freelance, but I don’t know if I’d want to be freelance forever. That might be because I’m still doing my dream job as a side hustle and if I was writing books and screenplays full-time it might be different. I think in the future I’d want more collaboration with creatives so perhaps that would be in a contracted role with a company as a writer or as a part-time job.
Our social life is so limited at the moment that I do miss being around people more than I would in normal circumstances as I’d see friends or work in coffee shops or co-working spaces. In short I wouldn’t turn down the right job and I’m keeping my options open for the future.
It takes some time to get used to being a one-man band, but the benefits have massively outweighed the negatives so far.
Are you freelance? If so, how have you found the adjustment to freelance life?