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9 surprising things I’ve learned in 5.5 years of freelancing

A series of uncensored tips for self-employed types

Me. Looking freelancey.

Over a period of five and a half years, and more than 50 clients, I still find freelancing a puzzle of constantly shifting pieces.

Running my copywriting business has been chaotic, maddening, all-consuming — and utterly worth every minute.

Here are nine lessons I’ve learned along the way:

1) Nobody gives a flying shit whizzle what you call yourself

I’ve wasted aeons of brain time debating whether to call myself a freelancer, a consultant, or an agency owner. (I’m all of the above depending on the project.)

Truth be told, it’s never ONCE emerged in conversation. Nor affected my ability to win clients, build enduring relationships, earn a decent living — or have a bloody good time doing it. (Go me!).

Take out: How you show up matters way more than what you call yourself.

2) You will need bigger pants (depending on where your desk is)

If your printer needs plugging in every time you need to print something, you will become an Olympic champion at finding ways not to print.

If you can access the refrigerator simply by swivelling your chair, you will procrastinate heavily, via the medium of snacks (and put on four kilos).

Environment is everything. Put your running shoes by the front door, as they say. And erase temptations within a 10-metre radius.

3) Telling people to bugger off is a skill worth honing

Occasionally a random person will try to rinse you dry, rip you off or download your brain in exchange for sweet F.A. Such is life on the freelance safari.

Fear not though, you will develop a whopping great pair of f*ckwitt detectors. Use them wholeheartedly.

When something’s not chiming with you, say NO. Your ability to accept only things worthy of your time and attention is a sanity-saving skill that will serve you well.

(Don’t actually tell people to bugger off.) See next point.

4) Be nice

“Be kind whenever possible. It is always possible.”

The Dalai Lama.

5) Listen to people’s advice on pricing — then do it your way

Everyone’s got advice for setting your prices. Ignore it.

The best place for figuring out your fees is the pink wobbly bit where your heart, gut and left frontal cortex meet. I have no idea where that is, by the way.

Every project has its own unique geography. Ask yourself: Could this boost your portfolio? Could it generate a testimonial? Will it deepen your experience?

So when you’re pricing things up, stay bouncy and agile. Think: will this project build my reputation? Or, am I doing it for a quick buck?

Use this filter when you’re starting out. Your pricing will evolve naturally and beautifully — in a way that suits you and your clients.

6) Networking can be painful— but that’s okay

Yes, networking can feel like eating your own hands. Especially if you’re an introvert, like me.

Maybe it’s the word ‘networking’. It feels kind of contrived, kind of forced. Definitely painful. Think of events as an opportunity to learn and help others — not sell or impress. It genuinely helps.

Look, building connections is a jolly good thing. But, if you really despise networking? Nobody’s gonna die. There are other ways to grow your business.

7) You will take imposter syndrome to ridiculous new heights

Not everyone with imposter syndrome is wrong, right?

You will lie awake at 3 am, wondering if you are the one anomaly successfully pulling the wool over everyone’s eyes.

Don’t let the gremlins fool you. Every happy client, every paid invoice, and every project you nail will rocket your confidence exponentially. So keep at it.

8) Productivity is a big fat waste of time

Productivity blog posts, podcasts, bullet journals, strategies, mantras, meditations, tools, apps, habits, formulas, rules, hacks— all that jazz. It’s one big productivity time suck.

Get off Facebook; swallow your frogs; carve out a morning routine… and don’t beat yourself up when you tumble down a hole. That’s all you need to know.

And remember: Tomorrow is a new day.

9) Swirling emotions? Just another day at the office

You will yo-yo between self-doubt, smugness, turmoil, restlessness, rapture and acute paranoia with such alarming regularity — even within the space of one hour — you will feel like your head has been shoved in a Nutribullet.

There is no answer for this.

The best thing you can do is observe your emotions zenly and enjoy the ride. After all, isn’t this crazy journey why we choose self-employment over a desk job?

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This post was written while procrastinating heavily. It will get posted (at some point) on www.hellogather.co.uk

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