Earlier this year I became a full-time freelancer, for the second time since graduating. The first time I tried this, the inexperience left me tired, poor and unhealthy. It was a valuable experience but one that majorly stressed me out. I found myself working every hour of the day and night because I was terrified of losing work or missing opportunities. I said ‘yes’ to every job, no matter how mundane or ill-paid, and (unsurprisingly) I began to hate my job.
This time around, I was determined to make it work for me. I didn’t really have a choice. I had rent to pay for a flat I no longer needed and I wasn’t in a position to commit to a long term job in a city that I didn’t really want to be in.
Luckily, things started falling into place. I met up with ex colleagues, rekindled relationships with old clients and emailed my ass off. Work started rolling in, but I was still terrified of being my own boss again.
I soon landed a great job writing copy for an awesome web company called Simple as Milk. I really got to know the team while writing their copy, and after editing their blog posts I fell in love with their method of working. They are basically a group of travelling nomads, and the way they work around no strict schedule allows them to make the most of their time. This somewhat unorthodox way of working has not only been annoyingly effective but it has actually attracted huge clients to their company. Sure, everyone wants to work with a cool company, but they’re damn good at what they do, so I asked the Founder for some help with my time and project management.
David ‘Pom/Champion of sexy’ Pomfret sent me the follow advice back in March. These pointers have saved me daily, weekly and monthly stress. Seriously my hair has never been less-chewed…
- Turn off email notifications on all your devices
- Never give your client a firm deadline
- Always estimate, never fixed
- Set yourself a task for the day, once its done it’s playtime – tell your client that task for the day. I tend to give them my first three days of a project as tasks and then say the rest just takes as long as it takes and they will get updates regularly when I need feedback
- Open to-dos – use a PM system with to-dos the client can see, break them down into small tasks and tick them off when done. A client can see you’re working and won’t pester you as much
- Work lots, but little. Instead of working 9-5. Do a few hours in the morning, then go out for a bit, do some more in the afternoon, go out for a bit, do some late at night. You won’t want to kill yourself and you’ll get some fun too. If you’re doing lots of little bits, often then you never feel guilty for leaving the screen for too long
- Work weekends if needed, better to work a little on the weekend to free up some time mid week
- Trust that your client trusts you. You can go MIA for a few hours, the clients are too busy to be wondering where you are
- When estimating the duration of a project, always do the “think of a number and double it”. Even if a project WILL take a week, say it’ll take at least 1.5 weeks because you will also have things like admin and accounts to do. It’s always better to be overcautious so that your work doesn’t suffer.
I’ve also learnt not to just say ‘yes’ to every job. If you’re lucky enough to be in that position of course, pick something that you’ll enjoy or that will look good in your portfolio.
I wish I’d read this back when I graduated. Thanks so much for your help guys.