6 Unexpected Lessons From One Year Full Time Freelancing
Okay so full disclaimer I meant to do this exactly at the end of my first full financial year, but close enough! It means I can add a few more things I’ve learnt as it almost seems like I learn something new each day.
These lessons are more what I learnt about myself/my process/my mindset (or shift in mindset) etc rather than actual business lessons, because boy I’d say for some of them definitely do not use me as a business case haha. In a full year (and a bit) I have learnt SO much, I’ve made progress and achieved goals but I have also failed and had my fair share of disappointment and ups and downs. It’s been a rollercoaster and I’d love to share it with you guys!
I have learnt that…
01. I actually miss social interaction so much and crave catching up with people now
Before going full time and working from home, I worked in a business open plan office surrounded by a lot of people all day. I’d also at that stage classify myself as pretty introverted and I’d often come home just mentally drained. Don’t get me wrong, I loved my team and catching up with friends but I’d often have to build up to it or prepare just so I didn’t feel so overwhelmed by people, all the time.
Fast-forward to today, a year and a bit on working from home (alone)…I CRAVE human interaction and am really grateful and appreciative for any time I can spend with people! I am also now that person who will chat your ear off if you happen to ask me how my day is going at the supermarket, or you’ll get my life story if we haven’t caught up in a while haha. So be prepared to actually miss being around people once going full time, even if previously you were totally fine being alone. It’s not that you’ll feel lonely, but you’ll miss having sounding boards around you, people to vent to, people to share your highs with - so I’d totally recommend keeping a good network of friends/family/past co-workers around you and making an effort to catch up at least once a week for coffee and a chat.
02. The act of purposefully dressing/wearing makeup/brushing my hair makes me more productive
I was pretty adamant I would be super happy to never wear makeup again while working from home, or working in the comfort of gym clothes and slippers and don’t get me wrong, this was a total treat the first month or so! But it did quickly become apparent though that those things that did often feel like a chore in the morning before heading to work actually do set you up for a productive day (mindset-wise) and I miss having a reason to do them!
So now I go a bit overboard when I get the chance to go out and get dressed up, and if I know I’ve got a big day ahead with work I will often put on more ‘power’ clothes (like proper pants) and make an effort with my hair and makeup because for me, it makes me feel more alive, present and fully functioning.
03. I am more confident/capable than I ever thought I’d be
Before going full time, I would never put myself in the ‘confident’ basket, and was often happy to sort of blend into the background and just observe, or let others solve the problem or step into the spotlight.
Since going full time, I’ve had to back myself every part of the way if I want people to have the confidence to invest in my services, I’ve had to step outside my comfort zone and promote my work, I’ve had to speak to big bosses and teams and people wildly more successful than me and get them on board witch what I am offering - and it’s shown me (and it will show you if you ever go full time in your own business) that you are so much more capable than you’d ever think and it’s that simple act of having to rely on yourself to bring in business and run the business that you’ll find that inner strength.
04. Being my own boss means I’ve had to wear more hats than I ever thought possible
Start a design business and then get to design all day? Sign me up! This is exactly what I thought when I first started January Made Design - I thought I’d get to design all day, make some money and basically be a cool ass boss. Well, I was sorta right…I definitely do fit some design in there ha, but I’ve learnt running a business based on your passion means you’ll have to wear so many more hats to be able to sustain the business and keep on doing what you love.
The hats I wear on the daily (besides designer) are:
Promoter, advertiser and marketer of the business
Administrator - paperwork, invoicing, reconciling, emailing
Client relations - handling client communications, taking calls, onboarding, training, education
Sales - calls, in person meet ups, video calls
IT/Tech support - on hand if something isn’t working, fixing links, redoing content, connecting domains, consulting/advice on technical issues
Social media management - posting content, engaging with followers, pinning on Pinterest
Consultant/advisor/mentor - helping with questions, giving advice on business and design, tips/tricks/advice
And I am sure there are many more!
It just goes to show that while you can definitely outsource a lot of work as you grow, there is still a lot more to freelancing that isn’t just design and that you will need to prepare for - and it’s not something I really thought about until i was neck deep in it!
05. Comparison really is the thief of joy, and unfollowing can be the biggest relief. Also, stay in your own lane!
I never really had an issue with comparison when I had the business part time as I had more to worry about at my other job and I was just starting out (so I could just tell myself I was a noob and I’d get better). But once I went full time and my world opened up to just how many people I was in ‘competition’ with - the pressure/anxiety was next level. When your business becomes your only source of income, you start to compare your journey with everyone else’s and mark your worth by comparing it to others which really isn’t healthy at all!
Only really from the start of this year have I begun to unfollow and stop comparing myself to other accounts which made me feel ‘less than’ or maybe envious or jealous or sad to look at. Is there a deeper phycological issue there? Maybe. Do I want to unpack it? No. Easiest way to stop feeling those things? Just unfollow!. Yes they may be a similar niche, similar target audience, similar style, similar stage in their business journey, but that does not mean we are at all similar and it’s not going to help my mindset or my business to compare mine to theirs and think I’m doing worse, or better, or falling behind, or should be doing more.
So what I’ve learnt is just to see no one as ‘competition’ and just stay in my own lane. I find so much more joy in supporting others and wanting everyone to succeed that I find myself comparing less and less, and also removing any accounts that just aren’t serving a purpose of inspiring or motivating me.
06. Testing the waters before going full time was the best thing I ever did for the business
I really need to do an origin story for how I took the business from side hustle to full time freelance one day, but the long and short of it is that I actually had it on the side for about 2 years before I finally went full time - and I think waiting as long as I did really paid off.
Because I had my full time job during the day (that I actually really loved), it took the pressure off financially and meant I could take a few risks with January Made because I know I had the steady income coming in. So I played around with my website for a while, trialled different systems, tried doing my financials myself (a fail here), and also began building a client base who I envisioned I’d be able to keep if ever going full time. Waiting as long as I did also gave me time to hone in on WHO I wanted to target (and gave me some experience on who I definitely didn’t want to work with), and also do some financial forecasting to make sure the business would be viable as this was a major concern having just bought a house and having a few hungry animals to feed.
So do I wish I’d gone freelance a lot sooner? Nope not at all! I definitely do not regret waiting and planning as long as I did, and this is unexpected as I did expect to finally go freelance and regret not doing it sooner haha! So for anyone else out there who has a side hustle and feel lime you are missing out - cherish this time! Use it to build a strong business foundation, get a business plan/strategy in place, set a goal to go full time EVENTUALLY but don’t worry about wasting time, use it as productively as you can to ensure you can sustain your business in the long term :)
What lessons have you learnt since working for yourself? The good, the bad, the ugly - I’d love to hear!