7 Lessons from a Year of Freelancing

A typewriter showing the words Freedom

My first year of freelancing ended on a high note.  I exceeded my income goals and learned many new skills but this time last year, my work life was a completely blank canvas.   I’d quit my office job with only a handful of vague ideas about how I was going to earn money.  Luckily I had prepared financially for the move so I had several months to sort myself out, but there were many other aspects of homeworking that caught me by surprise – both good and not so great.  These are the top seven lessons I’ve learnt while freelancing this year:

1. It can take a while to get going

If, like me, you start from scratch then it can take weeks or months to drum up an income.  It took me two months to apply, qualify and start my social media evaluation contract.  I then built on this approximately every quarter – first with a digital marketing role, and later with a transcription project.  As a surprise bonus, I was able to add paid content creation to this in the last quarter. You can read about ways to become a paid influencer in this post.

Luckily I had enough savings to see me through the quieter patches, and this period allowed me to gain new skills, but if I did it again, I’d start this process at least a month before I quit my day job.  Also, an obvious one but you’re probably not going to earn as much as you did in a traditional job, especially as it’s unlikely that you won’t receive additional benefits such as pension, sick and holiday pay.

2. Time goes quickly

When I was working a traditional job, I used to daydream about all projects I’d complete during my many oceans of free time.  What I hadn’t accounted for was trying to fit around my little girl’s school day, which is considerably shorter than my original office hours.

I’d also under-estimated how quickly the clock can fly when you’re doing work that you actually enjoy.  There are so many enticing tasks vying for your attention that your calendar fills up fast – a blessing and a curse. I seriously could work 15 hours a day given the chance and because I’m in the driving seat, my success is solely my responsibility.  It’s essential to have a cut-off point though. Now I make sure I finish at 9pm and take time out at the weekends otherwise I’d burn out.

3. Change is constant

Related to the above, but when you’re freelancing, the pace can be manic (see above!).  Projects come and go, which means you have to be agile.  I love variety and challenge so it’s perfect for me, but if you prefer structure it’s probably not ideal. I like to think I’m pretty organised but sometimes I struggle with my ever-changing routine .  Time management is a key priority this year so I’ve collated resources on this Homeworking Pinterest board in a drive to improve my efficiency.

4. Remote working is easier than it’s ever been

I’ve been surprised at the amount of remote opportunities out there. For the last nine months, I’ve worked on several homeworking contracts through Appen,  a company that provides datasets for machine learning and artificial intelligence.  Although the pay and security is much lower than in my previous roles, the flexibility more than makes up for the shortfall.   It’s not a guarantee though – you have to pass assessments and work can be withdrawn at short notice.  For my assignments, you had to remain fixed within your home country so it’s not a solution for travellers either right now. I hope to write a longer post on this at some point but if you’re interested in this then do contact me.  You can also check out my links in this post (note these are affiliated so I would – gratefully – receive a bonus if you get taken on by the company).

5. Expect the unexpected

Unless you have a very clear plan, it’s advisable to keep an open mind about what might happen when you go solo.  Towards the end of this year I was about to take on more freelance digital marketing clients and then I was offered a transcription project with guaranteed pay.  Knowing I wouldn’t have time to complete both, I settled for the latter .  This turned out to be the right decision because when I took on the extra hours, I realised that I’d need to review my whole approach for the marketing offer.  I simply wouldn’t have been charging enough for my time.  Sometimes the bends in the road show you new, critical perspectives.

6. Be prepared to learn new skills

This has been one of the best parts of this year.  I love learning and through necessity (and fun) have added a whole bunch of skills, platforms and systems to my CV including:

  • Photoshop
  • Snapseed
  • VSCO
  • Canva
  • Pinterest
  • Instagram
  • Twitter
  • Facebook
  • WordPress
  • Video
  • Google Ads
  • Google Analytics
  • Transcription skills

I doubt I would have progressed as quickly if I’d been in a traditional job.  The other advantage of dedicating a year to these is that I can see the inter-connectivity more clearly, especially for digital marketing.

7. Self-employment is empowering

The final and perhaps one of the most important lessons in my year of freelancing is the self-belief that can spring from working for yourself.  Traditional jobs have many advantages, especially if you have a supportive manager.  However, workplaces can also be unproductive and subjective.  Being self-employed can be immensely freeing and rewarding. You discover what you’re capable of without constraint which comes with risk, but also great potential. I hope to continue this adventure for a while longer, but if I do find a role that tempts me back to the office, I know that I’ll return with confidence and enhanced skills.

I’m only at the beginning of my journey so if you have any more tips that you’d like to share about homeworking then I’d love to read them!  Likewise, if you have any questions for me then let me know!

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  1. January 14, 2019 / 2:05 pm

    You have done amazing in such a short time. Well done lovely xx

    • thebookfamilyrogerson
      January 14, 2019 / 9:28 pm

      Thanks Susan! I still have a way to go but I definitely discovered that it can be done! xx

  2. Charlotte
    January 14, 2019 / 7:40 pm

    This was a great read and really inspiring. Thank you.

    • thebookfamilyrogerson
      January 14, 2019 / 9:30 pm

      I’m so glad you found it useful. It’s not a quick win but freelancing can offer a viable alternative if you plan it out.

  3. thebookfamilyrogerson
    January 14, 2019 / 9:29 pm

    It’s been fascinating! I’m glad that I took the leap and it will be interesting to see if I can built on it.

  4. January 14, 2019 / 10:12 pm

    My husband and I intend to leave our country in 5 years. I don’t know if we’ll have the saves we need and the courage to it, but it’s always nice to learn through someone else’s experiences what are the work opportunities for me, since I’ve got no idea what I would do to earn money if we ever move out. Your post was somehow inspiring and also encouraged me to start learning new things and skills from now on even in my own country.

    • thebookfamilyrogerson
      January 16, 2019 / 10:11 am

      That sounds really exciting! I’ve been surprised by the opportunities out there. The company I work for need you to be based in your own country but they could be useful for topping up your savings.

      • January 16, 2019 / 11:17 pm

        Yeah! I’ve done a little research about Appen after the first time you mentioned the company and thought it was very interesting how they recrute people. Thanks a lot for always being so lovely and attentive! 💕

  5. January 15, 2019 / 1:39 am

    Great learning more about your journey and glad to hear the experience has been so rewarding!

    • thebookfamilyrogerson
      January 16, 2019 / 10:12 am

      It’s been a varied & fun year. Now which way to go next!

  6. January 16, 2019 / 7:45 am

    Really well written and inspiring!

    • thebookfamilyrogerson
      January 16, 2019 / 10:13 am

      Thanks Beth! I hoped to give people a true reflection of what it’s like to follow this path.

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