Freelance Life

  • Freelancing and Pregnancy – The Challenges

    Freelancing and pregnancy

    Well, I’m 18 weeks into this pregnancy adventure. If you read the classic baby books or rely on TV/films for your pregnancy knowledge (like I did), you’ll be under the impression that this is the joyous time when the first trimester is out of the way, the nausea wears off and you’re packed full of the kind of energy that has you spring cleaning the house from top to bottom.

    Reader, I’m writing this under a blanket on the sofa, while sipping ginger ale and ignoring the dangerously large pile of washing that has to be done if I want to wear something other than pyjamas next week. I’m also googling sweaty feet, because that appears to be a delightful new pregnancy symptom. SEXY.

    It’s not AWFUL. It’s a bit like trying to get a full day’s work in when you feel like you’re suffering the effects of five tequila shots from the night before (when the reality is you were in bed by 9pm with a big bottle of water, and the idea of booze in general makes you gag). It’s just a bit…rubbish.

    Don’t get me wrong, there are exciting bits too. Like buying baby clothes, debating baby names, enjoying pregnancy massages and generally getting excited to find out the baby’s gender and meeting the little one in five months.  But I want to be honest with you about the challenges of pregnancy when you’re freelance. I also want to make it clear that every pregnancy is different – some people have horrific morning sickness, while others manage to get through most of pregnancy without a single day of nausea. But I suspect for many freelancers, an element of adaptation is needed. Which is pretty good practice for when you become a mum or dad, right?

    The Challenges

    The biggest challenges I faced were and are:

    • Exhaustion – Most people I’ve spoken to suffered from a lot of tiredness at some point. If you’re freelancing around a day job, this can be tricky as you simply don’t have enough energy to get stuff done. This also meant I had to postpone a couple of meetings as I simply didn’t have the energy to do them.
    • Nausea – While I was only physically sick a couple of times, I had pretty much constant nausea for months, and it occasionally turns up again when I’m tired or hungry. This meant that I had to take quite a few breaks and take some fresh air at times. A good walk outside did wonders.
    • Hormones – No tears here. Well, only once. I’ve never been a particularly emotional person in terms of crying or flying off the handle. But oh my GOSH has my patience been short. Again, this probably ties in with feeling tired and sick, but I’ve had to make sure I haven’t lost my temper or sent off a sniffy email a couple of times.
    • Guilt – Ah, the go-to emotions for pregnant women and mums everywhere. I’ve felt a lot of guilt, not just from the usual pregnancy things (Am I eating enough healthy stuff? Is this symptom normal? Should I really look like the size of a house already), but from not being able to be as productive as usual. I complained to friends and family that I felt a bit useless when I couldn’t do what I could do before, but everyone said the same thing – you’re being productive by growing a baby. Which is lovely and all but…well it doesn’t put money in the bank to pay for all those baby basics.

    Survival tips for pregnant freelancers

    Those are the challenges. But you didn’t come here just for me having a good ol’ moan, right? No, you want practical tips to actually deal with this stuff. Fear not, I have some freelancer pregnancy survival tips.

    1. Outsource. For the love of God, outsource if you can. This ranges from passing your household chores over to the other half for a few months if you can, to hiring a VA. I’ve actually hired two – the hugely talented Kerri Walker and Jo Shock, and they’ve really helped keep my business ticking over.
    2. Downsize. I’d advise anyone to do this anyway, but look at your clients and work out which ones are the best value and worth focusing on.  I let go of a couple of clients who were a lot of work for less than my standard rate.
    3. Passive income. This is the kind of work where you put a bit of effort in at the start, then the money rolls in – so ebooks, ecourses and the like. This stuff is going to keep the money coming in and keep you sane If you’re planning to fall pregnant, I highly recommend you look at your passive income and create some projects before you go forward
    4. Stick to your deadlines. This one is tricky, but make sure you stick to your deadlines, even if it means getting help from your VAs and allowing yourself more time. Even if you’re sat at home in yesterday’s pyjamas, eating ice cream for lunch, you still need to give your client’s the impression that you’re professional.
    5. Embrace the Boffice. The bed office has been my sanctuary, and I feel so much more comfortable working there. I’m not saying spend your whole pregnancy there, but work somewhere you’re comfortable.
    6. Work out your rights and have a vague plan in place before you proceed. For example, I’ve just discovered that I had to be a Limited Company for around 11 weeks before I conceived. I’m pretty much sure I’ve managed it, but literally by the skin of my teeth – 11 weeks to the exact day.
    7. Give yourself a break! Seriously. It’s hard during the first three months when no one knows, but after that don’t be afraid to be open with your clients – the good ones will understand.

    And a few practical tips:

    • Baby on Board Badge. They’re free to get, and if you spend any time at all on public transport they’re a lifesaver. Not On The High Street sponsor them now, so you get some bonus benefits.
    • Similarly if you take public transport, make sure you always keep a plastic bag with you, for gross obvious reasons. Aldi are great because…well, they don’t have holes in the bottom. Amazon also have a bunch of subtle sick bags. Have a look at seasickness bands too, which I’ve heard good things about
    • Buy lots of bottles of water. I get this on the food delivery (I adore Aldi but I’ve been getting deliveries from ASDA and Tesco because I can’t deal with the supermarket smells right now), and being able to quickly grab a bottle of water whenever is a real help. Yes, I’m aware it’s a recycling nightmare. Shhh.
    • Avoid pregnancy forums like the plague, pick the brains of your favourite parent types and don’t get a doppler.

    I’ve got a post planned about the financials very soon, including how I plan to take maternity leave and what I’m doing about maternity pay.

    Have you combined pregnancy and freelancing? What were your biggest challenges?

  • A little Freelance Lifestyle announcement

    I’m not usually one for ‘sorry I’ve not been blogging’ posts. But I’ve been quiet on the blog for a really nice reason this time (rather than my usual ‘life got busy and I let it slide’ one.)

    Peter and I are excitedly expecting a baby, in July. As Lego is an ongoing theme in our relationship (my mother-in-law made us a Lego cake for our wedding, and I made Pete a Lego board game for our 1st anniversary), we told our families by giving them these customised Lego figures from Minifigs.me.

    legofigures

    While I haven’t been hit too badly on the morning sickness side of things (thankfully ‘only’ constant nausea for me), I have been completely exhausted. Someone told me that the first trimester of pregnancy is like a heavy hangover and PMT all at once, and that’s very accurate. Still, in the grand scheme of things, it’s the best reason to be feeling crappy.

    So blogging has taken a backseat. Actually, most things have taken a backseat. I’ve been feeling horrible guilt about not being productive, and feeling very lazy (even though I have been pretty busy, growing a baby and that). Thankfully Pete has been brilliant at looking after me and picking up the slack around the house. Plus all that time not working has lit a rocket under me when it comes to this blog and some ideas I have for 2015.

    Freelancing and parenting

    In truth, the idea of having a baby when I’m freelance is a little intimidating. I don’t have the luxury of maternity pay (although as a Limited Company, there is a way to get paid maternity pay) and it’s unlikely I’ll be able to take more than a few months off work. On top of that is the ‘what if I lose all my clients while I’m off’ fear. But as I learn more about how to navigate all of this, I’m hoping to share any helpful information on this blog to help others too. Plus, freelancing (in theory) should make it easier for me to get back into work, as I can take on enough to balance income and looking after my little one.

    I’m thinking about doing a small monthly post about freelance pregnancy/maternity leave and beyond. What do you think – is that something you’d like to read about?

    Have you gone through pregnancy and having a newborn as a freelancer? How did you cope? Share your tips with us in the comments below!

  • Stop waiting for perfect

    Public speaking? I need to be a more confident talker first

    Proper professional photos? Nah, I need to lose at least a stone first

    Record a podcast or video? I hate the sound of my voice! I’ll need to work on that first

    These are all thoughts I’ve had in the past. I’ve waited for the perfect circumstances. And the perfect body. And the silky voice of a Radio Four presenter.

    But y’know what? It’s bollocks. Perfection is bollocks. And, to be frank, terribly boring. Perfection is just a way to procrasinate about doing things that scare you a little bit.

    Perfect is impossible. However, self-improvement is always a Very Good Thing. And you’ll only get better at it if you do the thing before you’re ready. In fact, this little quote from LinkedIn founder Reid Hoffman rings true for a lot of things you put off:

    If you are not embarrassed by the first version of your product, you’ve launched too late.

    Stop putting things off until the perfect circumstances turn up. The perfect time to do something is NOW.

    What do you want to do, but have held off until the ‘perfect time’? Let me know in the comments below.

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    Want to break out of the corporate cycle, and enjoy the freedom of being a freelancer? Check out the Freelancer Lifestyle E-Course!

  • How three hours and a mistake helped me find my freelance focus

    Recently, I made a mistake. A mistake that cost me £550, an entire day I could have been working on something else and delivered a serious hit to my self-esteem and confidence.  I felt deflated and a bit useless for three days after. I was a Debbie Downer to live with. This was something I was supposed to be good at (and have had plenty of very positive feedback on before).  It was a costly mistake indeed.

    That mistake, was saying yes to a business opportunity that I should have said no to.

    In truth, I’ve spent the last couple of months in a state of confusion with my freelancing career. I’ve been focused on turning a profit and growing my business, with little focus on why or how.  So I said yes to a work gig that didn’t go to plan, and left me feeling like a failure. A feeling that anyone who has ever felt imposter syndrome will fear the most – of not being enough and people knowing it. Of being completely mortified.

    On reflection, I can now see some silver linings to that failure. And that’s thanks to Sile Walsh.

    I’d pre-arranged a coaching session with Sile for this morning, and it really couldn’t have been better timed. Perhaps going in feeling low enabled me to be more honest and vulnerable about what I want,  but I’ve come away feeling like I’m ready to take a fresh, more focused approach to my work. The key thing I’ve learnt, along with lots of other things (which I’ll be sure to blog about soon), is that I didn’t know what my values were before. I didn’t really have a fixed idea of what made me tick and drove me as a freelancer. Or rather, I didn’t conciously know. Sile prompted me to talk about why I love freelancing, and three words kept popping up:

    Freedom, Choice and Passion

    Essentially, I love freelancing because it gives me the freedom to choose to do what I’m passionate about – and I work best when I’m working with those that share those values. I also work best when I work in a way that adopts those values. I’m working on a client checklist, which I’ll share on the blog soon, which I hope will help me with this, and I’m also working on a little Canva poster to pop on my wall and remind me of those three little words.

    On a practical front, I now know what my weaknesses are and where I need to do a little more learning. I also know that I need to give myself a break. Everyone makes mistakes. EVERYONE. Yes, even Beyonce. I chatted to Sally Todd about it, and she told me this: “Every job or project you take on takes you one step closer to understanding what you want out of a career or job and ultimately it is an essential process in fine tuning your offering.” If going through that situation has led me to clarify what I’m doing now….maybe that’s ok.

    Your challenge (if you choose to accept it etc, etc)

    Here’s my challenge for you: Write down why you love freelancing. Write a blurb as if you were explaining it to someone else. Which words crop up the most? Those are your values.

    When I talked to Sile, I didn’t mention money once in this task, despite it being the main purpose of me inititally booking the session. Instead, I talked about how passionate I was about helping people, educating people about freelancing, giving people the option of being self-employed (choice) and having the freedom to pursure a career I truly love. Those are the things that drive me. What drives you?

    Oh, look….it’s me with no make up on camera

    p.s Like the photo? I had a little taster of a headshot photoshoot recently and, for a photo phobic person, loved the results (ALL THE FLATTERING LIGHTING). It’s by Jon Bradley Photography.

    [themify_hr color=”green” ]

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    Want to break out of the corporate cycle, and enjoy the freedom of being a freelancer? Check out the Freelance Lifestyle E-Course!

  • Join The Freelance Lifestylers Facebook group!

    The Freelance Lifestylers Facebook group

    The Freelance Lifestyle has a Facebook group!

    What does this mean for you? Well, you can join it, and chat with other freelancers about everything from work/life balance to chasing payments from clients. Hopefully, you may even find freelancers near you to meet up with, or bounce an idea around. If you’re not freelance yet, you can still join and ask for advice. It’s a community for YOU.

    It’s a FREE closed group, so anyone outside of the group won’t be able to see what you’re talking about (so it’s all support and help, rather than your Aunt Mildred poo pooing your ambition when it pops up in her feed).

    Want to join? Here’s the link!

  • How one week can boost your finances

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    April has been both my favourite month of the year so far, and the most expensive. Thanks to celebrating my birthday, a weekend away up North and Peter whisking me away to Edinburgh for our first wedding anniversary, my bank account is crying out for payday.

    Now I’ve got a quiet couple of weeks coming up, at least on the socialising front, my attention has returned to adopting a healthier balance – both in my bank account and my diet. To help get me back on track, I’m going to be doing Penny Golightly’s Tenner Week, which acts as a sort of financial detox. For one week, you have to live on £10. Penny is running it on her blog this week, but I’d recommend giving the Kindle ebook a download too (Amazon link here – only £2.54 at the moment) – I tend to try and do one of these tenner weeks a couple of times a year so it’s handy to refer back to.

    As part of tenner week, I’m planning to do a couple of things:

    • Sell some bits and prices at a car boot sale on Sunday
    • Meal planning to help me a) stay on track with the diet and b) avoid the temptation of takeaways
    • Eat my way through the food lurking at the bottom of the freezer

    The biggest challenge is going to be Thursday – payday. This usually leads to an uncontrollable urge to ‘treat’ myself, which I’m going to have to counteract with something fun and free.

    Fancy doing the challenge too? Here’s the schedule!

    (This is NOT a sponsored post. I just think Penny’s challenge is rather excellent.)

  • Who’s coming to Blognix on the 14th June? *Raises hand*

     

    What are you doing on the 14th June? Fancy coming along to an event that combines talks on blogging, photography, communities with a bake off, picnic and the nicest bunch of people you could ask to meet?

    You’ll need to get a ticket for Blognix then.

    The Birmingham-based blogger event (in the trendy Custard Factory – are you sensing a food theme here?) is designed to provide new and experienced bloggers with an opportunity to learn more, meet other bloggers and have fun. Last year’s event offered a great mix of content, with even the more seasoned bloggers learning something new (my particular favourites were the photography sessions and Kim’s blog design session). It has a really relaxed, friendly environment – partly because it’s organised by lifestyle blogger Elizabeth Sellars (one of the nicest people you could probably meet).

    So, why am I telling you about this? Partly because I know a good chunk of my readers blog too so this should be right up your street! But also to let you know that I’ll be on the speaking line up (talking about freelancing, obvs), along with some Freelance Lifestyle favourites including Rosie from One Man Band Accounting, Sam and Lea from The High Tea Cast, Hayley from Bonjour Blogger, Hayley from LBQBlog and Kim Lawler. So to see a few friendly freelance faces would be lovely.

    Why come to Blognix 2014?

    * Talks from inspiring, successful expert bloggers (check out the speakers page for details)

    * In-depth workshops

    * Plenty of networking opportunities

    * A fun-packed day with like-minded individuals (seriously, I now work regularly with two of the bloggers I met at Blognix, and chat to many others on a regular basis)

    * Free tasty lunch

    * Free tea and coffee station

    * Photobooth fun (the line starts behind me)

    * Chance to take part in this year’s Blognix Bake-Off

  • The problem with bookmarking to read later…

    SOCIAL BOOKMARKING
    Over the last couple of days, I’ve been chatting to a couple of freelance/digital media types about social bookmarking. We all do it – pin recipes to check out later, bookmark an article in your browser or save it to Pocket. The general thought process is “Ooh that looks interesting, I’ll save it to read/watch later today/this week”

    The big articles never get read.

    They sit at the bottom of our To Do list, nagging at us to read them. Sure, some of them we will read. I tend to sit down each morning and catch up on the latest items in my apps, and YouTube feed. But there are still those articles that you never get round to – and they play on your conscious. I asked my group of Freelance Lifestyle ecoursers what percentage of articles they save to read later, and then never read. Answers range from 25% to 50%.

    Why don’t we read those articles? Personally, the main reason I won’t go back and read an article is because it’s either too long or it’s something I feel I should read, but don’t actually want to. Short, snappy articles tend to get read in the moment, rather than put off. Ali-Camden-Smith from Over A Cuppa made a great point:

    “Layout for me, if it is loads of text and no breaks my brain say’s save it till later and I don’t usually go back! So yes concentration wise it has to grab me straight away and look easily digestible too!  Video’s more than 4 mins I rarely get to the end unless it is really good!”

    Recently, I’ve been going through my Pocket account and clearing out anything I haven’t bothered to read. Some of the articles in there were 1-2 years old! I’ve set myself a new rule. If I don’t read it within a week, the article goes in the (virtual) bin.  

    The Freelance Lifestyle going forward

    Time is one of the things we’re all limited on – but more so for freelancers and anyone who works online. Which has got me to thinking about the kind of content I’m creating here. I don’t want it to be the kind that clogs up your bookmarks or reading app. Short, snappy and helpful is the goal. So more ‘How To…’ posts, list posts and A-Zs of Freelancing. A new feature is coming soon to Fridays – A Day In The Life Of A Freelancer, interviews with a lovely bunch of creatives so you can have a peek into what other people do. There may be the odd long-form article, but only very occasionally. To be brutally honest, brevity is one of my strengths anyway (I was always the student at school who wrote articles based on hitting the lowest word count requirement, rather than squeezing it under the top word count limit)

    I’ve also got a couple of plans up my sleeve for videos – three minute long videos (just enough to watch while you’re making a cup of tea).

    One more thing….VEDA

    Talking of videos – I’m going to be taking part in VEDA (Vlog Every Day In April). I can’t promise I’ll do every day, but it’s a great way to boost your experience of vlogging. Fancy joining me? I’m going to be joining Savvy Sexy Social’s VEDA, with an editorial calendar packed full of ideas for what to vlog about.