I’ve been officially freelancing for almost a year now, having left my stable nine-to-five after Oscar was born. I was worried about making the leap, but so far I’ve survived, and on the whole I’m enjoying it.
My style of freelancing is a far cry from the at-home-in-your-pyjamas ideal – I mainly work in offices, and even when Iâ€™m commissioned to do solo projects, I tend to work in the library because I have to take Oscar to nursery anyway and donâ€™t want to waste time travelling back home. Despite the fact that this set-up involves a lot of running around, I think it works for me, because Iâ€™m a naturally social person and am not sure how Iâ€™d fare if I were completely isolated all week, every week. However, itâ€™s nice to have a bit of a breather when I do get to work alone.
There are down sides, of course: if your mind wanders while youâ€™re commuting to work, you could quickly end up in the wrong office; youâ€™re always toting around everything you might need for the day because you canâ€™t leave anything on your desk; you have to be â€˜onâ€™ all the time, even if youâ€™re hungover or having a bad week; thereâ€™s loads of out-of-hours admin and invoice chasing; and there are no staff jollies or Christmas parties (although this latter can be a blessing rather than a curse…)
But there are loads of benefits, too – not least a higher daily rate. Iâ€™ve also found experiencing different office environments and team dynamics really valuable. And I havenâ€™t missed the endless meetings that come with most desk jobs one little bit.
So, if any of you are thinking of making the jump from salaried employee to precariously temporary odd-jobber, here are 20 tips for surviving office life as a freelancer.
- Don’t complain about anything. Ever. And especially not about work.
- Never share your opinion about anything work-related – you never know whose idea it was.
- Don’t microwave anything containing fish for your lunch – everyone will hate you.
- Never be first in the queue for cake, booze, or anything free.
- Don’t join in group conversations within earshot – you should be seen but not heard.
- Don’t use any exciting-looking mugs for your tea.
- Smile, smile, smile. Be the best version of yourself, 100% of the time.
- Always try to add value to the jobs youâ€™re given – but be wary of using too much initiative. Nobody wants to employ a renegade freelancer.
- Don’t be weird: this is not the time or the place to mark yourself out as a â€˜personalityâ€™.
- Never expect glory. You are there to do the jobs full-timers don’t want to do or have put off for so long that they no longer have time to do.
- Always say yes to work – as long as you can deliver. You never know when youâ€™ll hit a dry spot.
- Keep on top of invoices – and perfect your â€˜polite yet firmâ€™ email tone when chasing money.
- Make your fair share of tea.
- Remember peopleâ€™s names, likes, dislikes, hopes, fears, dreams and weekend plans.
- Expect people to forget your name, likes, dislikes, hopes, fears, dreams and weekend plans.
- Try to care about the stuff youâ€™re working on (or at least act like you do).
- Perfect your poker face – never let on youâ€™re under-/over-worked outside of that office.
- Never submit an invoice without suggesting something else you could do for that company – treat every contact you have with your employers as an opportunity for more work.
- Promote your brand – make contacts within each office by striking up conversations as naturally as possible. The next time that person needs someone like you, they might get in touch.
- Finally, remember that you are lowest in the pecking order in any office youâ€™re working in, so treat everyone with equal respect. Teams gossip about their freelancers – and you want them all to be saying only nice things.
How about you – what tips would you add for making it as a freelancer? Iâ€™d love to hear your advice.