10 Things i’ve learned on my freelance journey so far…

It’s pretty much 4 years since I went freelance now. It’s been a brilliant, rewarding experience, and I couldn’t imagine going back to working a ‘proper’ job. I’ve learned a lot since I started out, so I figured it might be a good time to round-up a few of the things I’ve learned so far:

  1. Working from home is tough: It’s hard to get used to being alone all day, it can get pretty lonely and having no-one to bounce ideas off can feel a little frustrating at times. Studio pets are great though and I’ve found it’s been really helpful to get out and see people too. Building up a network of friends and like-minded freelancers to meet up with, swap stories and experiences and even collaborate on projects and exhibitions with helps it feel a bit like you’re part of a bigger community.
  2. Time Management: You’re your own boss and if you want to get paid, you have to keep on track of your own time and put in the hours. Luckily there are ways to combat this, I’ve found tools such as Toggl really useful for keeping track of my time throughout the day and on different tasks and projects.
  3. Keep a record of your projects: It’s a great idea to keep a spreadsheet with all your jobs listed – it’ll help you keep track of clients, jobs, income and invoices, you could even add columns for time taken on a project, purchase order numbers, and any outgoings too. It’ll help you with your tax return at the end of the year, and make quoting for similar projects much easier.
  4. Manage your finances: Life as a freelancer is full of ups and downs, you’ll have a dry spell, wondering whether this is it, then several huge projects will come along at once. To make it easier on your finances, it’s a good idea to put some money aside during the good times, to see you through any rough patches. It’ll make it a much more bearable experience and you can get on with self-initiated work and self promotion without worrying too much about the next pay cheque.
  5. Creating extra income streams: A great way to use spare time is to work on creating extra income streams. Extra income streams support your freelance work and once set up, they can drip-feed you a bit of extra money every month. Examples include an online shop and selling prints and products, having products in local shops, teaching, tutoring, and creating stock imagery, eBooks, or resources.
  6. Create a routine: I’ve found it pretty hard to get set into a daily routine if I’m honest. BUT once I found one that worked for me, I found it a great way to make sure I get stuff done and make time for certain tasks. It means I start work at a reasonable time and stop work before having dinner. It also means I make time for a bit of downtime too.
  7. Downtime is important: It’s really important to take time out for yourself, to relax, unwind and generally take stock. You’ll feel better, happier and more inspired for it. I’ve struggled a fair bit with this, but over the past year or two, have realised that there’s more to life than work.
  8. Do some exercise: It makes you feel better, healthier, happier, more productive and it’s so easy not to do when you’re busy working from home. Last year, I got a Fitbit and realised how little I moved. I’ve since built going for walks (often taking a photo on the way as a little creative task) and doing a bit of exercise into my routine and have felt a lot healthier.
  9. Make time for personal work: It’s really important to make time to do some self-initiated stuff. It fuels your creativity, enables you to play, experiment and try out new ideas and ways of working. It can often lead to some of your best client jobs, and new ways of working can feed into client work too.

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    I painted this map for fun, but it has led to some of my biggest commissions.
  10. Nurture client relationships: Clients are the lifeblood of your business and word of mouth counts for a lot. A lot of my newer clients have come from recommendations from existing ones, so it’s really important to make a good impression.
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