Three years on

It’s my third anniversary of working for myself this August. It’s been an exciting time and I’ve learned a lot freelancing from my home office in Bournemouth.

I posted a while ago about three little things that stood out for me from 2012. They were: Trusting your instinct, Getting the balance right and Taking satisfaction and rewarding yourself for a job well done.

So as I was reflecting on the last three years, I thought I’d share what I think are the most important things I’ve learned so far during my freelancing career.

What has been great?

People & projects

For me, meeting lots of inspiring people, and making some great projects happen has always been the most interesting part of working in PR and communications. When you freelance it seems even more important, because you don’t have that network and feedback you get when you are employed and work in the office. When I meet great people they keep me motivated, interested and inspired to do more. When you make a great project happen, the feeling is awesome. I love to get results, and that means happy clients.

Discipline & motivation

You have to be extremely self-disciplined and motivated to make freelancing work. If you enjoy it, it’s easy to be motivated. But it may not be so easy to be focussed enough to work through a project you struggle to enjoy, and when most of your employed friends are either out having fun or sleeping.  To be successful at working for yourself it takes more than having a flair for what you do. I am quite disciplined but to help keep myself motivated, I arrange catch ups with the people who inspire me, plan a bit of learning, and give myself some downtime. So at those times when I can’t find my mojo, I try and do something different, just for me not for my business. It’s refreshing and I am much more focussed when I return to the project.

Learning & development

When you work for yourself you can choose your learning direction, and choose how to spend your training budget. So it’s been a great learning time for me. I’ve invested in my continuing professional development with lots of reading, webinars, conferences and internal communication diploma. All this time investment means I continue to work to best practice principles which gives me greater credibility and more expertise.

What would I do differently?

Housekeeping

I really need to keep a tighter control on my administration – I don’t like doing my business admin, or rather I don’t like the thought of it. Once I start, I find it satisfying to get everything checked, filed and boxed into the correct places. Admin is essential and without it, I wouldn’t get paid. So I need to do it daily, do it regularly and keep on top of it so it’s less of a chore.

Be my own client

I need to look after and nurture my business, and begin with turning some of my strategic thinking to my own business’s development. I need to grow my business like a client’s business. Planning and building in time to my week to manage my business, give it direction and take control is a good place to start.

Say no (sometimes)

On the face of it when you freelance you have greater choice. You can choose who you work with, which projects you take on and when you work. That’s what I naively thought before I started freelancing. But the reality is, that you don’t really make these choices. You could, but I don’t ever want to turn down new business, a chance to meet new contacts or learn something new. When you work for yourself you don’t say no, you pretty much say yes – to every client, to every project, and to every new experience that comes your way. An opportunity could be too good to miss, and most self-employed professionals will always consider: “There may not be so much work next month…” So, three years on, I’m learning to say (very politely) ‘No’ when I need to. No because I am at capacity. No because I am on leave. I’ve not had to say no because of the type of project yet, but I guess that will come in time. There’s no point taking on a project that isn’t a good fit for your skills and your buisness.

What will I do now?

Exciting stuff

  • Build my own business strategy and give it direction
  • Keep learning, being inspired, and delivering

Boring stuff

  • Do my housekeeping

Tricky stuff

  • Say no sometimes

I hope you found this useful. I did as I wrote it.

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