Well its two years to the day that I decided to start my journey of being freelance, setup my own agency and start to use the experience built over the previous 18 years of corporate employment to help clients grow their business’ online or channels that they need help with.
I must say, thankfully this last year I have overcome the worry from the first year of where clients would come from, how would I make a living and pay the bills. Don’t get me wrong, I still do worry at times around gaining new clients and if I have a quieter period, how will I bring on new work… but I think that’s the whole part about working for yourself – risks and rewards I suppose!
Two years on, and I still absolutely love it… So here is a little that I have learned over the second year of working for myself.
Does my website bring in leads
Not really, I built it as I thought I really needed to have a presence and a destination for anyone to check out what I offer and what can be done for them. It’s a busman holiday (old English phrase), happy to make clients websites perform and increase traffic, sales, but haven’t really spent the time doing it for my own. Yes, yes, I know… I should do it, so will try and spend more time on getting it optimized better.
The only “leads” I bring in, are agencies looking to sell me something… but I will work on making it better! So, if you are going to set out freelancing and haven’t got one… don’t worry about it, get around to it when you can.
Different types of clients – You will make mistakes
Last year, I did a write up of the first year, I mentioned about going with your gut feeling on whether a client was going to be a “good fit” or a potential pain in the a**e… well, you live and learn and most clients have been great and a real pleasure to work with. Whereas a couple of others, not so good – they agree to terms, scope of work, what you will actually be doing for them… and then scope creeps, they may start to ask you to do things that “aren’t best practice” or go against your ethics… yes, it happens. Stand fast and explain why its not the best to do it that way, if it continues, then you should think about an exit plan.
I have had to do this three times in the second year, its always scary as you are turning clients away, but the stress it causes is not why I went out in the first place, and each time I did exit – a big weight felt like it had been lifted from my shoulders. For your own safety, always make sure you have a contract in place, outlining whats covered, your terms and the costs, they are easy to put in place but always good when it comes to resorting back to if needed!
Can you actually do the work?
Its really hard if you start out and don’t have a specific niche to fit into, as offers of work will come in and sometimes its work that may not be your strongest point or have experience in, but you still want to work with the client or need the income. This has happened three times in the last two years, its really hard to say no and think it will be a good learning curve, but I also know that there are a lot of people in the industry or freelance world that could do it better than me, and more efficiently.
I have been asked about APP development, Product Management, CMS implementations, CRM implementations among a few, none of these are my strong points at all – so instead of saying yes and trying to wing it, and then stressing about whether I am making the right recommendations I just say I know someone who can, or its not my bag. Saves a lot of time and more importantly stress in worrying about something I don’t know about (and no, there are not enough YouTube videos to watch to try and upskill myself on these areas 😊 ).
Corporate life and 60 hour weeks are no more
Mentioned it in the write up last year for my first year of freelance, corporate shackles are hard to shake. There are times where a 60+ hour working week, calls outside of “normal” working hours or emails on the weekend are needed, but a few friends remarked a few times, “..you aint got a hang of this self employment yet, have you”. As I was sticking to my regimented ways of 8am starts, 8 hours per day and working super hard to get client work done and bring in income. I am glad to say that although I put the effort and hours in, I do now cut myself the slack to say I am taking Friday off, or if it’s the kids school breaks, then will work a few hours a day and try and spend more time with them.
The work, life balance is what is key here, took me about a year or so to “get it”, but work is now on my terms and I work to live and enjoy the time off, relaxed and not thinking about how, what, where and when something needs to be done.
Join Facebook Groups and use your network
There a load of Facebook Groups out there that cater for everything and everyone, these are portals of absolute knowledge and help. There is the Freelance Heroes, The SEO Insider Group, SEO Dojo Geeks to name a few that I am a member of on Facebook, its really worth you joining as the members on there are absolute gold when it comes to giving advice and helping each other out, you are not ALONE with a problem, there are always people who can help. Its also a great way to drop your name in, when people are looking for freelancers.
My network of friends and industry contacts have also been a godsend, you know sometimes when you look at something and think, “…that doesn’t look right or why the hell is that not working the way I want…” that! That is when I have contacted industry friends who have thankfully taken a look and given me a good steer or advice on why it isn’t working. Put it this way, I owe a lot of alcoholic beverages to people around the globe for the help they have given me – you know who you are, I really appreciate all the help and advice you have given me, just let me know your tipple and I will have one ready at the bar next time we meet!
Tell it as it is…
There is an old saying, you can’t polish a turd, but you can certainly roll it in glitter. I love this saying, but you know, why bother. If its not working, a terrible idea that someone may have had, a totally inefficient way of doing something then instead of trying to mould it into something it can never be, just be polite and explain why it wont work. People don’t like to hear it, and I know that some people will say its what the client wants, but I don’t want stress in my life and I also don’t want to take clients budget and spend it on something that potentially won’t work. So I will try to explain or challenge why and if there is a better way to get the end result
What I have enjoyed most about this last year
Time… that’s it, time is precious. I didn’t believe how much time was wasted in my previous years on commuting, meetings, calls, emails, constantly checking my phone – its draining to say the least. My kids are growing up and its shown me, how much I missed. Well, that doesn’t happen anymore, I try to make time, put the laptop away, put the phone down – when I am working, focus on putting all my effort in to getting it done and done to drive results, but then when I choose to spend time with my family, they get my full attention, unless I am out cycling, then they cant keep up, so its me time!
Learning – still learning and challenges that come along keep me upto date and my mind occupied. Our industry and technology are always changing, which keeps me on my toes and not bored, so I always try to keep on learning new ways to do things.
Flexibility of it all – I know I have mentioned the work, life balance – but I know now how much I missed of everything prior to me going freelance. Too tired from work, always feeling like I hadn’t done a good enough job, working too many long hours, doing work that doesn’t challenge you, or you just find really boring (I am not good at being bored!)… well I haven’t felt any of that in the last 12 months, 24 months to be exact – and love having the choice of when to work and sometimes who to work with. Hours that suit me, to get the job done and clients who are happy – doesn’t get better than that.
Happiness – yep, just happier all round. My Whatsapp status might say Loving Life, But Always Grumpy, but I am a lot happier than I have ever been, so would you trade the corporate life to be happier? I have and its worked!
And… I still do not suffer with “SUNDAY NIGHT FEAR” – that knot in the pit of your stomach, thinking whats in my inbox, what deadline is going to thrown my way this week – so stress levels are minus 95% I reckon.
I gave it a go, its worked out so far… if this journey and experience doesn’t last, then at least I know I had two years of all of the above and more.
I feel enthused about what I do, I enjoy the range of work and different clients that I work with – I love going to my office and working (albeit when Covid bloody does one and I can get back into my office space!), I have a great network of friends, colleagues, Facebook Groups and co working space with some great people in it, which I so look forward to be a part of again in the future.
Anyone thinking about going freelance, its worked for me – last two years have been great, ups and some downs, learning and adapting, feeling a bond with the freelance community (globally) and has made my life so much more rewarding and fulfilling. I couldn’t have got two years in without help and support of family, friends, the industry colleagues, great clients and of course my wife and kids, without you all, I wouldn’t be where I am now – much love x