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Going freelance: five lessons from the first 12 weeks

Desk bits

Building your own desk can be a lesson in anger management.

I’m only three months into life as a freelance copywriter, and things have been going surprisingly well.

None of the fears I had beforehand have come true; I haven’t gone bankrupt, I haven’t developed cabin fever and started hating my house, and I don’t spend all day snacking and getting distracted by Twitter*.

Even though it’s still early days, I thought I’d share some of the most important lessons I’ve learned during the first 12 weeks of this adventure.

1) Tell people about your new job

Morrissey was right; shyness is nice. But shyness isn’t going to get you a whole load of new clients for your freelance copywriting business (that second line was mine, not Morrissey’s).

When I finally took the plunge, I made no secret of what I was doing, spreading the word about my freelance services on my social media accounts and telling everyone I met about it.

Before I’d done any networking beyond my existing circle of contacts, I had more work than I could handle through word-of-mouth marketing alone.

2) Identify your most productive hours

The hours between 7am and 1pm are by far my most productive, but between 1pm and 3pm my work rate falls off a cliff in a rather lemming-like fashion.

I’ve realised that it can be more beneficial to recharge my batteries during those less productive times, and return to work again at a time when I will work more efficiently – even if that means taking an afternoon break and then working late in the evening instead.

This is one of the major benefits of being freelance: not having to struggle through work when you’re not at your best.

3) Don’t panic

 It’s a bit strange, being your own boss. It’s a lot like that Talking Heads song where David Byrne sings:

And you may ask yourself
How do I work this?
And you may ask yourself
Am I right?…Am I wrong?
And you may say to yourself yourself
My God!…What have I done?! 

But I’ve realised that there is no use in panicking or worrying about making the equivalent career move of throwing yourself off a mountainside wearing a wingsuit you’ve never tested.

You just have to spread your little wingsuit wings and start flying, and watch out for those massive, spikey rocks over there.

4) Change your scenery

It has taken me a while to get around to sorting out my workspace, and losing a morning of work to the worst flatpack desk assembly kit of all time wasn’t my finest moment.

But it is well worth taking the time to create a place to work that you enjoy being in.

And if you’re lucky enough to need only your laptop in order to do your job, then I’d also recommend seeking out the cafes, bars, libraries, and deli counters where the coffee is strong and the WiFi connection is equally strong.

5) Invest time in you

This is the one I haven’t managed to achieve yet.

After spending my first week getting my website up and running, and establishing Copyhound’s presence on various social media, I then became far too busy for all that.

It is easy to spend your life as a freelancer meeting deadlines and responding to client requests. But how you fill the gaps in between those activities can be crucial.

I think the key is doing a little each day to keep your business alive and busy in the eyes of the Internet, even if you know full well that things are busy behind the scenes.

To that end, I’ll try to be less of a stranger and post up another blog soon!


*In moderation, snacking and Twitter can be part of a healthy freelancer’s diet.

One Comment

  1. Anita Heffernan

    Nice one Steve. Good luck and keep busy.

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