Over a year has passed since I decided to leave my full-time job and go it alone as a freelancer. It was such a scary decision and one that wasn’t taken lightly. But, it was the best decision of my life. Of course, there are up’s and down’s to every situation. Here are the top 10 reasons why it’s been a whirlwind of an experience:
1. Being your own boss is incredibly liberating
Setting your own rules and making your own money is very satisfying. Choosing when you want to work, who for and for how much is something that cannot be paralleled when you work for someone else. Sure, there isn’t that security you get with a permanent position; there’s no sick pay, holiday allowance or a work place pension. But, you do have the variety of working for different clients, meeting new and interesting people and get the chance to be challenged on lots of different projects. And if you don’t like somewhere, there is no notice period. That’s a big perk.
2. You get treated with more respect
In my experience, you are treated with more respect and are entrusted with projects more as a freelancer than when you are a full-time staff. This does not mean you can slack though, if anything, quite the opposite. However, it’s a real treat – not to mention confidence boost – to know that you are held in high esteem and valued as a professional. Plus, as an editor, you usually get a nice suite all to yourself!
3. Doing your own accounts is a pain in the ass
Receipts. Receipts. Receipts. I am drowning in my own receipts. Depending on whether you’re VAT registered or not – and which scheme you’ve chosen to be on – certain purchases for your business are tax deductible – yay! This also means you need proof of these purchases and need to constantly keep track of what you spend in your books – boo! Lots of my freelance friends use an accountant at the end of the tax year, but I’m trying to be money conscious (or some will call it being cheap!) and so have signed up to an accounting service (Crunch Accounting), where I do the majority of the work and they submit everything for me to HMRC to ensure it’s correctly done. So, I have to be on the ball and update my accounts every week. I definitely do not forget sometimes and wait until it’s a month’s worth of expenses and then freak out. That definitely does not happen.
4. There’s that impending thought of doom that someone will not pay you
I am very fortunate that all my clients have been absolutely stellar and I’ve not had any issues with payments…well, almost all my clients. One client that I do not work for anymore didn’t reply to any emails or invoices that were submitted and when they finally did reply, decided to hurl personal insults at me and claim that I was “unreasonable” and “crazy” to want to be paid on time. Silly me, thinking that if I do a job for someone and I should be paid for it. What a ludicrous expectation little naive me had! Suffice to say, I got my money in the end after replying in the most professional (and coldest) tone I could put on via an email – which 100% riled them up even more hehe. I obviously didn’t go and work there again and I can’t say I’d recommend the experience to anyone else either. But, 99% of the time, everyone is incredibly lovely and understanding and there are never any issues at all.
5. You meet some amazing people bouncing from place to place
I have had the pleasure of calling a lot of the people I have encountered on freelance jobs friends. Even after I finish a booking, we will meet for lunch if I’m in the area, or we go out for a drink/dinner/a movie together. Working within the same industry, we all share very similar interests and passion, so it’s a real joy to be able to socialise, as well as work alongside these people. I don’t think I would have ever had the opportunity to meet so many wonderful humans if I was in a permanent position in just one company.
6. You will be tempted by permanent positions that are offered to you
If you’re a relatively decent human being and are somewhat good at what you do, people may grow to like you and want to you stay on permanently. I’ve been very fortuitous to have been offered a full-time job at the majority of places I worked at as a freelancer in the last year or so. This is incredibly flattering and I have been more than tempted on more than one occasion, mainly because the people within the companies are so awesome. But, the variety of work you get as a freelancer and the freedom to move your career in any direction you seek is something that a permanent position just can’t really give you. Not for my long term goals anyway. But, nonetheless, I could not be more thankful to my clients for seeing such potential in me. I am always so humbled by their generosity and graciousness.
7. You spend an unhealthy amount of money on extravagant lunches every day
Because you now earn enough money to be able to do that. Working in a variety of places means I mainly rotate around Soho, Fitzrovia, Shepherds Bush and my home in Greenwich. You are spoilt for choice, especially in central London. When it’s been a particularly busy day and you want that £10 lunch, you convince yourself you deserve it. Adding it all up in my accounts does makes me feel like such a fatty though. But then I remember how delicious it all is and make a deal with myself: if I hit the gym in the evening to work it off then it’s justified…I sometimes make it to the gym. If I have time. And can be bothered.
8. All the tax you have to pay will confuse the hell out of you
There are many times where I seriously question why I set up my own limited company instead of just operating as a sole trader. VAT, corporation tax, self assessment, dividends, giving yourself a work place pension, enrolling yourself on PAYE. All these things have to be paid at different times in the year and it gets CONFUSING AS HELL! Even now, over a year down the line, I sometimes look at all the figures and have absolutely no clue to why they are what they say they are. You try and be as organised as possible, keeping your own spreadsheets and documents of this, that and the other – I may as well be documenting when I stop for a loo break at this point – but it’s no use. At times, all this data might as well be hieroglyphics to me. Then I get mad at myself for being cheap and not just hiring an accountant that will just do all this for me. It’s a vicious cycle.
9. Every penny you earn is all that much sweeter
You’re not making money for someone that doesn’t appreciate your hard work, or denies you a well deserved pay rise at the end of the year. Instead, you set your own rules and so every time an invoice is paid, you really feel you earned that money. That satisfaction is what drives you to keep on bettering yourself. The cash flow will take some time getting used to. My first few months were tough because of the delay. I waited until after my booking with my client was over before invoicing them and then there was another 30 days on top. So, I went without a pay check for 2 months. Luckily, I had saved up a lump sum to help tide me over the first few months of trying to catch up with my finances. This was some invaluable advice I got from some freelancer friends before I left my full-time job. And now, I too, am paying to forward and telling you. Take this information and fly my pretties!
10. You have to force yourself to take time off
It can be incredibly easy to just keep on taking more work as soon as the last booking has finished. Bookings roll on and on and suddenly you’ve realised you gone a whole year and haven’t taken any time off. Everyone needs a break now and then, but it’s especially hard to say no to work when it’s been offered as a freelancer. There’s that fear that if you refuse this job, what happens if no one is hiring after? What if you miss out on a great opportunity? Or become forgettable in a client’s eyes because they’ll hire someone else the next time they need a freelancer in? Unfortunately, that is just the name of the game. You lose some, you win some. Accepting this early and having confidence in your craft is what will get you by in this job without all the ‘what if’s. Know that if you take pride in your work and set high standards, the phone will ring soon enough.