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Five essential things to know before you take a giant leap and freelance

If you're thinking of going self-employed, there's lots to ponder emotionally, as well as practically, as Liz Connor finds out

Balancing act: freelancing from home has its good and bad points
Balancing act: freelancing from home has its good and bad points

By Liz Connor

For many people, going 'freelance' is a holy grail. The idea of working from home, in your athleisure, with no boss breathing down your neck, is ideal.

Then there's the flexibility - holidays when you want, long weekends and lie-ins. Right? To an extent, yes. Of course, you know there are going to be challenges - writing and chasing invoices, finding new clients, drumming up sales. It's all part of your new adventure.

But while there's plenty of advice on the practical side, there's not always a lot available to read about the emotional reality.

Jenny Stallard found herself feeling exactly that way in March, and, after a lot of soul searching, began to write about what she was up against as a freelancer.

Stallard, who has been a journalist for nearly 20 years, is the creator of Freelance Feels - a blog and soon-to-launch podcast all about 'wellbeing for humans who work for themselves'.

Here, she shares five things you need to know about being freelance, if you're thinking of taking the leap...

1. You actually end up working more hours than in an office job

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Yep, going self-employed was all about work/life balance, wasn't it? You wanted to stick it to 'the man' and work on your own terms. And mainly, you do. Except, how come you find yourself answering an email at 10pm on a Saturday night?

Yes, freelance work can give you amazing flexibility - you really don't have to worry about the holiday schedule clashing with your workmates' and can travel off-peak - but it also means you are at the beck and call of several 'bosses' and that can mean working at weekends and on bank holidays.

Indeed, forgetting that a bank holiday is even on the calendar.

2. You might have less time for the kids...

The school run doesn't go away because you're working for yourself. You might imagine that working from home means you'll have all the hours in the day to do things like make a costume for World Book Day, and pre-make a healthy dinner before it's time to collect them from school, but you need those precious hours for work, just like you did when you were in an office.

Working for yourself means you can do the school pick up, which is hugely rewarding, but juggling self-employment and parenting is still a huge challenge.

You need to get the bulk of your work done while they're out and expect to catch up on some emails again once they're in bed.

3. Money is a huge part of your daily tasks

The day you resign to go freelance, there can be a huge weight lifted off your shoulders. For some people, it's truly an escape when you can say goodbye to a boss or routine which is really affecting your mental health. But one thing you will miss is the regular pay. Being self-employed means no more 'pay day'.

You'll read articles about new season clothes 'because it's pay day' and laugh. Yes, you might get several pay days one month, but you'll also spend a lot of time chasing payments, and sending invoices to one person only to be told a week later you needed to invoice someone else - in PDF format.

Late payments are a serious issue for many self-employed people and the best advice is to build up a spare fund before you resign - a buffer for when those payments don't come in on time.

Knowing there is money to pay the bills when someone's not honoured that invoice on time, will save a lot of tears and anxiety.

4. Freelance isolation can be tough

When you imagined yourself as a self-employed person, there was a rosy glow around the images you had in your head.

There you were, laptop in hand, heading to a cafe, or sitting at home with the sunlight streaming in while the radio played the station you like, not the one the office manager preferred.

But when Monday turns to Thursday and nobody has replied to an email, it can start to become very isolating.

Spending four days pitching to new clients or reaching out on LinkedIn only to be met with a stony silence can start to make you feel like a failure - and wondering if you're doing anything right.

While that home office looks cute on Instagram, it can be four walls that close in on you when you're feeling alone.

My advice? Pick up the phone and call someone who understands - a freelancer in the same role as you, or someone you've found as a mentor (and if you haven't, today could be the day you search for one). Join Facebook groups for freelancers, and most of all, take a break.

Have a glass of water or a cuppa and get some fresh air to get away from those walls.

5. Rejection happens a lot

But it can spur you on. Pitching to new clients, updating your CV for that part-time role with a new company - being freelance is all about selling yourself. On a daily basis, that can become mentally exhausting. But it's something you will need to get used to if you're self-employed.

As a writer, it's something I'm challenged with every day, and one of the ways I combat it is to have a day when I don't pitch anything.

I also try to stay off social media if I've found my pitches have fallen on deaf ears, as there's nothing worse than seeing other people's 'look at me!' posts where they're succeeding.

Saying that, though, remember that their post might have come after a month of radio silence from clients too. Rejection can make you re-evaluate things.

If that particular person you email always ignores you, perhaps it's time to find a new contact at that company - or a place to work with that does respond when you message them. And if your pitch isn't going anywhere, it might be time to let it go and think of a new one.

Read Jenny's blog and follow her on Instagram and Twitter @freelance_feels

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