The world of Freelancing is a bit of a mystery to most – it’s very different to the 9-5 norm and the older generations don’t really understand why anyone would want to leave a secure job. I’ve been doing my best to navigate life as a Freelancer since I was made redundant back in July 2016 – 2 years ago now, eek! Some people might think that I should be an expert on everything freelance by now, but it doesn’t quite work like that. As with any job there’s been a lot of mistakes, learning and adapting, and I still have more to learn as every day is different!
I don’t have a boss (I am my boss ha) to talk me through a progress chat but I’m always looking to improve, and so I thought I’d share some of the ‘mistakes’ I’ve made. I think we shy away from admitting ‘mistakes’ in society, but for me it’s an important part of growing and maybe it can help someone else out there too. It was also an excuse to create some motivational quote graphics too – a little something to pop in the portfolio ha
This is a weird one for me. I struggle with confidence every day but a lot of people perceive me to be a confident person, so let me explain. Confidence isn’t a black & white thing – there are a lot of grey areas. In some ways I’m very confident, but when it comes to my work and abilities I have this annoying doubt cloud that questions whether I’m good enough. I go through highs and lows with this (I mean, I’m only human after all) – one week I’m super confident and the next I’ve got full impostor syndrome. An example of this: one of my contacts emailed me to say they love my vlogs and asked if I could produce something similar for their brand. They’ve already told me they like my work and that they know I’m capable, but my immediate thought was: ‘Oh, I don’t know if I can do it..’. Long story short, I had a word with myself, said yes and did the video. And I did it without any problems. The nature of being a freelancer means that you might be doing something you’ve never done before, so having confidence in yourself is really important. It’s very common for creatives to struggle with this, especially females, but if you can’t believe in yourself then why should anyone else?
This is linked to the lack of confidence I guess – how can I sell myself when I don’t fully believe in myself? Which is silly, because I DO believe in myself, but I’m just rubbish at talking about myself or bigging my work up. To keep the work flowing, you need to be constantly reminding everyone of what you’ve done in the past, what you’re working on now and what you want to work on in the future. Whether that is posting snippets on Instagram, updating your LinkedIn profile (which I’m really bad at) or sending a little catch up email to your contacts. Even though I feel like I bang on about being a creative person on Instagram all the time, I’ve recently discovered that some of my followers have no idea what I do day-to-day. I’m not shouting about it enough! What’s the point of doing great work if you just keep it a secret!?
Ok, so I’m not great at self promo or thinking strategically, but I know someone that is! Last week my BFF Emma made me write a list of all the people I could contact to talk to about my work – either just to spread the word, to start a conversation or to pitch for work. I was actually really surprised at the long list I ended up with and 100% recommend doing this – look through your emails and Instagram followers if you are really stuck on where to start. These are people that you interact with everyday and want you to do well, so don’t be afraid to pick their brains for contacts or opportunities! Just remember: don’t be a dick.
I’m very good at making excuses – I have an excuse for everything. Remember at University when you needed a reason for everything, but sometimes you didn’t have a reason and just made one up afterwards? Post rationalisation. It can be good, but it can also hold you back from progressing. You can always reassure yourself that ‘it wasn’t meant to be’ or ‘it wasn’t right for you’ or ‘it was too pink’. STOP! It really has to stop if you want to grow/achieve! This isn’t something that you can change by clicking your fingers, but small steps can help change your mindset. Sometimes there are reasons things just don’t happen, but you’ll never know if you keep coming up with excuses.
I guess this is linked to the self-promo fear: I’ve been waiting for things to come to me instead of going out and getting them. I’ve been waiting to be discovered amongst the millions of other people on the internet. I’m laughing at myself as I write this. What are the chances of being ‘found’, really? Who is even looking for me? I’ve been very lucky that 10 years of blogging has helped me in terms of having an online presence, but realistically it’s not going to be enough! If you want something to happen, you have to go out there and make it happen. It’s not going to be easy – you have to be ready for rejection and sending a lot of emails but receiving no replies, but once you get over the fear theres no stopping you. Send emails, set up meetings and generally shout about what you’re doing because otherwise you’re just sitting at your desk refreshing your inbox every 3 mins! Work on self initiated projects if you’re lacking in work/something to shout about.
You know when people ask ‘How are things?’. It’s such a British thing but I don’t like to burden people with my issues, so I’ll just say ‘Yeah it’s fine’ or ‘Good, thanks’. Nobody likes a negative Nancy, but why did I feel the need to put on a big fake smile and pretend everything was going amazingly? Well, I guess that’s the curse of social media. I go through ups and downs of being honest and real about life and then feeling like I have to be more #Instagramgoals. I’m only human, so I don’t punish myself too much for being sucked into the social media blackhole but I do check myself regularly. One of the best ways to keep myself grounded is meeting with other freelancers – some good ol’ human interaction! It’s a simple thing, but just going for a coffee to chat about problems which I can’t find the answer to on Google really helps me. Endlessly scrolling on Instagram isn’t the answer – get out into the world!
I’ve listened to podcasts, read articles and been to talks about freelancing; taxes, running a business etc. I know some actual things of value! But will I listen to myself? No. I love helping other people, problem solving and discussions – that’s just who I am. I’ve always been someone that isn’t afraid to voice an opinion and rarely speechless, so I find it quite easy to give advice to others (although I’m not saying that I’m always right! ha). But I’m so guilty of ignoring my own advice. It’s not until I really sit down and think about things that I realise I already knew the answer to my ‘issue’. I enjoy a good chat with a friend – a problem shared is a problem halved, but I do need to learn to listen to and have more confidence in myself.
Balance is different for everyone, but essentially we’re all human and need time away from work to rest and just live. Freelancers aren’t magical beasts – they’re humans too! There are so many benefits of being Freelance (more control, responsibility, satisfaction etc) but just because you’re Freelance, doesn’t mean that you should be working all of the time. At first you might need to work super hard to build yourself up, but as you get into more of a routine you should have similar (if not, more) freedoms like people with 9-5 jobs have including turning off your work emails, having weekends and holidays etc. After all, you don’t get a badge for working all of the hours in the day!
Well, that was quite therapeutic! Admitting mistakes might be really hard for some people, but I’m not afraid to identify ways I’ve ‘failed’ and turn them into a positive. If you found yourself nodding along then I hope you found my musings helpful, and also just nice to know that you’re not alone! Nobody is perfect, but lets put our best foot forward and try for Freelance success in 2019. The world is your oyster…