Working from home is a dream for most of nine-to-five workers. However, it’s not exactly the kind of life they imagine. It can mean a lot more work and responsibilities than they already have, a lot more stress and risk.
On the other hand, freelancing is an amazing thing. You don’t have to leave your home to earn money and you can do a job you truly love.
Some people believe that they could never do it while some want to try but don’t know how.
The truth is that freelancing requires many skills and it’s not exactly taught in schools. It takes bravery, skillfulness in business communication, organizational skills and so on. The list seems to never end because you could encounter many different situations during your career.
However, over the years freelancers have learned that there are some general rules to being a successful freelancer.
Choose a niche that you love
Once you decide that regular, nine-to-five job isn’t for you and that you do want to be a freelancer, you need to figure out what you want to do. Are you going to be a writer? A Web developer? A video editor? You have to decide.
First, look at your previous jobs. Is there a particular one that you enjoyed? If there is, you might find your freelancing future in that. For example, if you worked as a graphic designer in the past.
If you can’t think of a good experience you had, look at your education. Did you ever study anything that sparked any interest in you? If so, you can try to find jobs in that area. For instance, psychology or writing and you could write articles in psychology.
Finally, look at your personal interests and compare them with freelancing careers that pay the most.
If you don’t have any particular skills but you are good with both people and computers, you can be a virtual assistant. There are endless areas where you can get a job as a freelancer. And you don’t have to figure it all out at the very outset. Educate yourself about what’s possible. Look through niches and see which one sparks your interest. You can go through online course websites and see what is there. Listen to podcasts about freelancing and take your time to figure out what will really be interesting for you and what you will be able to live with.
Of course, you can always switch industries later or find get more specific in what you offer. For instance, if you start with just general writing, that’s fine, because you can later niche down to writing B2B medical content or something else you like.
Create an office
Just like any other boss, you need a nice office. Since you are your own boss, you can create any kind of space you’d like for yourself. It’s not an official office so a lot more is allowed.
Set a specific room or a corner in your house or apartment and decorate it nicely.
This is important because you’ll spend a lot of time there and it needs to be appealing and make you happy. Put everything you need in there and add some decor. For instance, a nice poster or a cool lamp. It should reflect who you are but it should also be functional. You should make that space distraction free – of course, that’s not always possible but you can do your best. Many freelancers start working from their kitchen desk, their bed or any similar comfortable space in your home. This is fine when you are just starting out. But sedentary jobs require comfortable furniture and you will also realize that you need a more professional setting.
Coworking spaces are a great idea if you want to freelance and love freelancing but you also want to see people and have that casual chatter once in a while. It’s a good idea if you are having some loneliness issues at first. It can be an easy transition.
You can also rent an office later in your career when you find it suitable or you can go to your favorite coffee shop and work there.
Pick a setting that works best for you and enjoy.
Do the hard work first
This is a common advice among freelancers. Instead of doing the easy tasks first and fear the hard ones all day, do the hard tasks first thing in the morning.
There are a few reasons for this.
For one, early in the morning – or as you start your workday – you are rested and your mind processes information easier and solves problems much faster. On the other hand, you are already tired by the end of your work day and you would only get stressed if you tried working on something hard.
Next, you’ll be under a lot more pressure during the day if you know that something big is coming up later.
If you do the hard things first, the rest of your day will just fly by and you’ll feel rested and accomplished.
Of course, some people just can’t get into the work at the start of their work day. They can’t seem to focus. This is fine because not everyone works in the same way. You can also start your workday by handling the easy tasks first and then moving on to harder ones gradually. Remember to take breaks. Your mental and physical health always com first. You don’t want to burn out.
Wake up early
Many people think that one of the perks of freelancing is that you don’t have to wake up early in the morning. However, it’s work, just like any other and you’ll have a better chance of getting it all done and having some rest time after if you wake up on time.
Of course, you are a freelancer so if you don’t feel like getting up on a certain day – and your clients don’t need you sooner – you can wake up at noon and start working then.
But, don’t let this happen to you too often. Your days will turn into all work and no play and you’ll end up hating your job.
Instead, teach yourself to wake up early in the morning and go about your workday from there. It’s much easier to wake up in the morning when you know you don’t have to leave your home.
This is especially true when you have kids. Waking up early gives you a head start and you could be done by the time they wake up. For example, if your kids usually wake up at 10am, you could wake up at 5am and have 5 productive, quiet hours before they start buzzing around.
Don’t take on bad habits
Eating breakfast in bed, not leaving your pajamas for days or working late often are all bad habits. As a freelancer working from home, you are prone to developing them, it’s in your nature. However, try to stay away from them as far as possible.
Working from home means that you are comfortable. That’s perfectly fine. But you have to maintain a healthy life. Get up every morning, get ready and get dressed. Make yourself some coffee, go to your desk and start working. Make time for a healthy breakfast, make time for a break. End at the proper time. Don’t allow yourself to become a hermit. Respect yourself and your job like you would respect any other boss or any other workplace.
This is where waking up early is really useful. You will finish early too and have time for everythig else in your day. Make a point of making your own schedule. For instance, if you don’t work on weekends, never work on weekends. If you don’t take calls after 3pm, just don’t take them. Your clients will get used to it and you get to rest properly, without distractions or more stress. Nothing is urgent.
Freelancing is still quite new and groundbreaking to most people. Those who have never met a freelancer before have a hard time believing that it’s an actual job and not just a hobby.
This is a common problem for freelancers whose family doesn’t understand their work.
They often believe that you can take time off whenever you want and they expect you to be available at all times throughout the day for all kinds of activities. They’ll often ask you to go shopping with them, drive them somewhere or help out with childcare or chores.
This is why it’s important to set boundaries from day one.
Once you start working, it’s time to let your family know about your work and your working hours during which you are entirely unavailable unless for emergencies.
They might not like it but they will have to respect you and your work.
If you make an exception once, they will expect you to make exceptions always. So, be firm about what you can and what you can’t do.
Always work in your office
Freelancers often make a mistake of working anywhere in their home, especially if they have young children. The sofa, your bed or the kitchen counter all sound comfortable and good for working but they rob you of that workplace mentality.
If you work at your desk, you put yourself in a mindset of working. However, when you work anywhere else, you lose that and get sleepy, tired, unproductive or distracted.
You also face the problem of not knowing when to leave. You are in your bed and the length of your workday can far overcome what you originally planned to do.
Avoid working anywhere but your office to get maximum productivity and efficiency as well as a sense of accomplishment and inspiration.
Another thing freelancers don’t believe they have to do is create schedules. But schedules are very important if you want to have a productive day. Even the crude version of a schedule can help you stay on top of your tasks far more effectively than before.
Just write a to-do list with some time data in order to finish all of your most important tasks of the day.
For an improved effectivity, you can create better versions of schedules and be more meticulous about it.
Know when to say no
Greed is another big issue with freelancers. Since the amount of money you get is entirely up to you and how much you work, a lot of freelancers accept too much of it.
In most cases it isn’t just about the greed but also fear that they will be out of work soon. Freelancing is risky and you could have a lot of work one month only to be facing a drought the next one. Because of this, freelancers take on more work than they can handle during the times when there is work available.
However good it may seem, this is not the best idea. By overdoing it, you are exposing yourself to various issues.
First one is tiredness. If you work for long hours often, you could get tired of your job and too tired to work properly. You could also be too tired to go out and communicate with people or even with your own family members.
Working too much will bring you more money. But you need to reconsider how much money you actually need. Money can’t buy you time or happiness.
Seasoned freelancers know this and only take on the amount of work they can handle without feeling pressure or anxiousness.
No matter what your niche is, you should always keep learning. The world is changing quickly and what we know today may change tomorrow. That’s why you should continue to improve even after you start earning.
Over To You
Even though these rules aren’t set in stone – and every freelancer has their own to add – you can definitely take some strong points from this list home. Whether you are a new freelancer or planning to be one, there is nothing better than listening to advice of older more experienced freelancers.
Emily Marchant works as a marketing and business editor at Academic Brits. She is responsible for renewing and retaining existing subscribers through campaigns that involve newsletters, sponsored content, partnerships, ads and events.