I’m Emma Cossey, a long-term freelancer, mum of toddler and all round digital geek, and I’m happy to welcome you to The Freelance Lifestyle.
I launched this blog in 2011, to provide freelancers with down-to-earth support, and practical advice. I wanted it to be a kind, supportive place to get tips and advice on living a great freelance life (without the constant narrative of ‘earn six figures or you’re failing’).
Since then, the community has morphed into that friendly and honest place I dreamt of visiting when I first started out as a freelancer back in 2009. The space to celebrate successes, discuss the challenging elements of freelancing, and to connect with others on the same path. Because working on your own shouldn’t mean being alone!
What’s here for you?
I’ve spent years building up my own freelance business. I’ve been a pro blogger, a social media consultant, a copywriter, a teacher… but my passion is helping people just like you take the next step. So whether you want to pick up tips from the blog, listen in to the podcast, come join the Facebook group or get some more focused 1-2-1 support with my coaching, there’s something here for you.
Find blog posts and podcasts all about freelancing and working from home, including interviews with freelancers about their daily lives, pitching tips, finance facts and lots of free resources to help you live your best freelance life
Looking for 1-2-1 support, accountability and mentoring from someone who GETS freelancing? I'm your coach! I've been freelance for over ten years, and I love supporting other freelancers to achieve their goals.
(Prefer to listen to this post on getting motivated? Click play below to listen to the podcast version)
We’ve all been there. Those days when we have a To Do list full of client work, but no motivation to get it done.
There are actually lots of ways to get that motivation, and no one method works for everyone. Below are a few suggestions to get your work done.
Identify your frog. Regulars in my Facebook group will know my passion for The Frog. The Frog is the awful task you don’t want to do, but has to get done asap. The theory is that if you had to eat a big, horrible frog at some point today, it’s best to get it out of the way first thing rather than dreading it all day (read more about it in the Eat That Frog book). So identify your frog and get it out of the way.
Alternatively, choose the task that will get momentum going. I’m a huge believer in the idea that motivation follows action. So choose a small, enjoyable (but still business-related) task and get it done. In theory, you’ll get a little energy boost from completing that first task, and the momentum will start to kick in and make the rest of your day easier.
Look at your To Do list and work out what the top three things are that you HAVE to get done today. Then aim to do those. You might find after doing those three you have the momentum to keep going, or you might prefer to finish for the day after that, knowing you’ve ticked off some priorities.
Take the 5 Second Rule approach. I’ve just finished reading The 5 Second Rule, and it’s made a big difference to my unmotivated days. The 5 Second rule is where you countdown from 5-1, and take action. The idea is that counting down from 5 stops you making excuses or allowing feelings to cloud your focus. If you’re a Questioner like me (take Gretchen Rubin’s quiz to find out), the 5 Second Rule is perfect.
Check why you’re struggling to get motivated. A difficult client? An overwhelming workload? A lack of self-care? Sometimes a lack of motivation is a sign that we need to check in with ourselves.
Before I had Oscar, I had a very naive idea of how I would mix the freelance life and parenting. I’m not sure if I assumed I’d have one of those children who happily just sat down doing one thing for ages, or I just assumed that I’d have more energy than I do. But the honest truth is that, on the days I don’t have nursery or childcare, I find it extremely challenging to get anything done. I think there’s a lot of pressure on mums who work from home to achieve so much – and being a mum on it’s own can be challenging enough. Someone recently asked me how I get so much done – and I honestly don’t feel like I do, I just happen to be fairly visible online. 21 months on, I still feel like I’m not achieving enough.
So, I thought it might be interesting to share a day in my freelance life, before and after having Oscar (on a day when I don’t have him in nursery).
Before Kids: Wake up at 7am, feeling (fairly refreshed). Sit in bed scrolling through e-mails. Saunter to the kitchen to make a cup of tea and breakfast. Scroll through social media. Put shower on. Wash. Put bra on. Dress. Meditate. I’m ready for the day.
After Kids: Wake anywhere between 5-6.30am. Scramble out of bed to be greeted by the noisy but smiling alarm clock/child. Go downstairs with Oscar and give him his milk and breakfast. Put kettle on. Put Peppa Pig on. Scroll through emails. Put kettle on again because I forgot to make tea. Make tea. Play hide and seek. Forget tea. Drink cold tea like it’s a shot of Sambuca.
Before Kids: Sit down at desk and work through To Do list. Take conference calls.
After Kids: Sit on sofa and keep Oscar busy with building bricks/cars/Disney movie/something in the garden if the weather is nice. Try to reply to e-mails/tweets/Facebook comments while he’s distracted. Stop half a dozen times to pull him off the walls/stop him eating the toys/stop him filling his toy box with water/applaud him for stacking a high enough tower. Repeat. Give in after five e-mails and join in with play. Still not wearing a bra.
Before Kids: Make lovely, healthy lunch. Eat lovely, healthy lunch.
After Kids: Make lovely, healthy lunch for two. Oscar refuses lovely, healthy lunch. Throws it on the floor. Put fish fingers in oven instead. Return to lovely lunch, now cold. Still not wearing a bra.
Before Kids: Drink tea and proceed through To Do list.
After Kids: Kid goes down for a nap. Mad panic about what to tackle first in the 1-3 hours of nap the toddler takes. Work, housework, shower? Procrastinate by mindlessly scrolling through phone for first 30 minutes. Panic a little more. Finally focus on e-mails, writing content and planning ahead. Take a conference call with one eye on the baby monitor, praying they don’t wake up mid-call. Throws wash in machine (last lot of wash is still in the basket, unfolded and un-put away). Debates whether to jump in the shower or baby wipe wash. Finally put on bra. Quickly dash around the house doing a five minute tidy. Child wakes from nap.
Before Kids: 6pm rolls around and you finish up for the day. Write tomorrow’s To Do list, and enjoy an evening of dinner, Netflix, social media scrolling and blog post writing. Maybe even venture outside and socialise.
After Kids: From 5pm, I have grand ideas of the many things that will be achieved after bedtime. As soon as Oscar is in bed, anytime between 7-8pm, I’ll collapse on the sofa in an exhausted heap. Half an hour later, realise I’m still watching Peppa Pig. Two hours later, collapse in bed.
Obviously, the ideal is that as someone who is self-employed, I should have the flexibility to just not work on the days when I don’t have nursery for Oscar. Reality is a little different.
But would I change it for a job? No! I love what I do, my freelance life is just as much a part of my identity as being a mum is. I love that I can be at home to see all the cool things my son learns to do. I love that there’s not as much pressure to be a polished mum all the time (because, no one apart from Instagram can see me at home). Plus my boss (me) is pretty understanding of the days when not much sleep has been had and all I want to do is have a day watching Trolls on repeat. Being a freelance, work-from-home mum is certainly a privileged position to be in, even with its challenges.
Oh, and this is really only very short-term in the grand scheme of things. In just over a year, he’ll be applicable for the free 30 days of childcare a week. And I’ll be sitting at home, working and missing him horribly. So if you’re going through these early years of freelancing and parenting, remember that it’s not forever! And you’re doing far better than you think you are.
How does your freelance life compare, before and after kids?
It’s podcast time! Pop the kettle on, grab your favourite biscuits (hell, cut yourself a huge slice of cake too) and have a listen to this week’s three minute Freelancer’s Teabreak – we’re chatting about hiring a coach.
Episode #25: Why freelancers should hire a coach
What would make you hire a coach, as a freelancer? In this episode, we take a look at how hiring a coach can benefit a freelancer – from accountability to beating those brain gremlins that stop us really going for our goals. Coaching is something that I’m really passionate about, so much so that I started my coaching diploma training just a few months after having Oz. It really does make a huge difference to how I now view my business – and the work lifting limiting beliefs is particularly powerful.
If you’re interesting in finding out more about how coaching can benefit you and your freelance business, I’m offering 15 minute free coaching chats to find out more about what I offer and how it could work for you. To book a session, simply click here to grab a slot in my calendar.
Are you subscribed to The Freelance Lifestyle podcast? It’s free! You can subscribe on Soundcloud, or subscribe on iTunes, so these quick soundbites pop up in your chosen podcast app as soon as they go live.
It’s my favourite month of the year! I adore September. Not only do you get that wonderful ‘fresh new notebooks/new school year’ feeling, but it’s also the start of my favourite season – autumn. September just feels so full of opportunities.
I’m now 8.5 weeks into motherhood and starting to get a bit more of a routine. It’s lovely to be able to spend time with Oscar and yet still have a little time to do a little blogging. He’s having a nap now, so I wanted to squeeze in a blog post about my plans for September, both on a personal basis and for my business.
Weekly podcast show. The Freelancer’s Teabreak returned last week listen here, and I’ve already recorded several for this month. I want to carry on with a weekly podcast.
A new #periscopemyprogress challenge. Last week using the #Periscopemyprogress challenge I managed to set up a great workflow for my podcast. I’m going to do it again this month to add a new e-course to The Freelance Lifestyle school
Wake at 6am twice a week and grab a morning each weekend to focus entirely on work
Put aside an hour to brain du,p and map out my business plans for the next six months.
Post-natal Pilates x 3 a week. I’m using a free online trial from Joanna Helcke and finding that it’s a great way to ease back in.
2x 30 min walks a week. This doesn’t include general walking about e.g doing the shop. I can’t wait to go for a walk in the park as autumn really gets underway.
Get back into batch cooking and meal planning. Fail to plan and you plan to fail and all that. I’m aiming to lose 6lbs this month.
Get Oscar into the routine of sleeping until 6. He’s currently doing 11-5, which we’ve been working on since week 5 when he was doing 11-2:30. We’ve been using the Baby Secrets book and routines and he’s thriving on it. I’d love to get to the point of him sleeping 10-6 by October.
While pregnancy is obviously a joyous blessing, it also means you can spend quite a bit of time feeling, well….shit. For the past week I’ve been struggling a lot with energy levels, the joys of SPD and the return of a sprinkling of nausea. While these are all things I can cope with, it has got me thinking a lot more about what to do as a freelancer when you are sick or you can’t work. The trouble is, like a lot of freelancers, I’m quite stubborn when it comes to taking time off. Especially when it’s a forced time off due to illness and needing to recover. Why? Because when I’m not working, I’m not earning. As illnesses often creep up unannounced, you can’t necessarily plan for this time out. It’s incredibly frustrating. It’s something I really struggle with because mentally I’m ready to work, but physically sometimes I’m struggling to keep my eyes open, focus or concentrate. The smart bit of my brain knows I need to take time out to recover or I’ll only feel worse for longer. But the stubborn part of my brain often overrules.
Pregnancy has just given me a tiny insight into those who are going through serious illnesses, work with disabilities and anyone who has a child to juggle with everything else (because when your child wakes up ill, you can’t just carry on).
Now in all honesty I’ve been very fortunate. I haven’t suffered illnesses very much at all since being freelance. There’s a good chance that because I’m not spending so much time in offices where I can catch every cough and cold going. Also my stress levels are lower which helps. I know I’m lucky. But being ill when you’re freelance means I also don’t have the luxury of calling in sick and getting paid for it.
So, being a practical type, I’ve decided to stop whining (well momentarily) and look at what my options are.
Option one – power through. Well, that’s working out well so far…
Option two – cut down the hours I’m working. I’ve managed that a bit, averaging a four hour work day at the moment.
Option three – outsource. Again I have an amazing VA, and I have been out sorting bits and pieces that has definitely take someone of the stress off.
Option four – be straight with my clients. This has a sort of part A and part B to it. Part A is being up front when I need a little deadline extension. If I’m really ill, Part B is being honest about taking a few days off. I don’t relish the thought of either because…well, it feels like admitting I’ve failed.
Being freelance is a bit weird because you’re almost expected to always be available and never take sick days. That’s partly because we work on our own. We don’t usually have cover.
So, what do you do when you’re ill as a freelancer?
Picture the scene: your morning alarm goes off and you roll over to pick up your phone (everyone does that seconds after they wake up, right? RIGHT?). Squinting your eyes and opening your inbox, you find a tastefully-designed newsletter from a freelance friend you did a course with a couple of years ago, who has launched a brand new ecourse. Isn’t that fab? They’ve basically turned into Marie Forleo overnight, and you’re totally chuffed for them. Really. You are.
Oh, hang on, what’s that uncomfortable feeling in your tummy? Maybe it’s just last night’s Dominos…
You flick open the Twitter app. A funky lifestyle blogger you know, who appears to have achieved overnight success with her quirky but totally adorable way of combining food and fashion in one post (let’s call it fooshion), happily tweets about a new collaboration with a brand you’re dying to work with. That feeling in your gut grows. It could be hunger, but you’re pretty sure you’re still full from last night’s Dominos. What kind of human being says no to their Chicken Kickers? (Possibly your blogger friend. They’re all about the vegan diet. A clean diet for you involves not eating that slice of pizza that fell on the floor for 4 seconds after a few beers which were definitely not organic).
Bad news, freelancer. That feeling in your tummy? It’s envy.
It’s not that you’re not happy for them or feel they deserve it. You are and you do! But there are times when every freelancer looks at another freelancer, and compares their success to their own experience and success record. And it’s easy to feel like you fall short. Especially if that person started freelancing around the same time as you, or worse *gulp* after you.
But freelance envy isn’t necessarily a bad thing. When I quizzed my freelance friends about it, Cathryn Clarke said the following:
“I see what they’re doing and how they’re living their lives and am jealous because I want that. I want to be making more money, be more confident and being able to mix client work with my own seamlessly. It makes me push harder and focus on what I want to achieve so it’s really good to see other freelancers being successful. I just wish more freelancers would share their successes and tips so that those of us who still feel relatively new to it wouldn’t feel so lost and alone. “
Couldn’t agree more.
I think freelance envy exists for a number of reasons.
We perceive others as being perfect, forgetting they edit their life online just as much as we do. Notice how a lot of people don’t actually mention income? Maybe they’re working with amazing brands or travelling the world while blogging, but there’s a good chance they’re having to weigh up whether buying a ticket to that swanky business conference in town is worth living on pasta alone for the next two weeks.
We don’t give them enough credit. The inconvenient truth is, most people get to that point because they worked their arses off.
We underestimate our own situation, or lack confidence in our own skills.
We work on our own, which means it’s harder to see the realities of how others are doing. .We also don’t get that workmate who says ‘That freelancer? PLEASE! She totally got to do that project because her boyfriend works with the boss’, which is totally bitchy but also really comforting.
We don’t know how they’ve become this mega successful person. Where was I when the ‘how to be totally rich and successful and a size 12 on a diet of chocolate alone in three easy steps’ rulebook was given out?
We’re never happy with what we’ve got. Seriously, name a time when you were like ‘I’m 100% happy’ for more than a day. Sober happy.
But one of the points Cathryn made, is that it makes her ‘push harder and focus on what I want to achieve’. With that in mind, here are three things you can do to turn that envy to your advantage.
Swap competition for collaboration
Instead of quietly kicking yourself for not being as awesome as the fortunate freelancer you see (which, fyi, is bullcrap), why not see if there’s anything you can work together on? For example, my blog series A Day In The Life Of A Freelancer came about because I was having a crisis of confidence, and wanted to learn from other freelancers. You could turn that ‘competitor’ into a collaborator, by interviewing them, offering to work with them on a project or even approaching them to be a mentor.
You might even realise, when speaking to them face to face, that they feel the exact same way you do!
Repeat the mantra
Every time you find yourself looking at a friend’s blog or latest newsletter and feel that flutter of envy, I want you to repeat after me – NO ONE IS PERFECT! Sure, they might have landed a mega amazing client, but they probably have a bundle of other problems going on that you don’t know about. Maybe they yearn for more time with their families, dream of a regular paycheck or miss working with small companies and charities.
The only person you need to worry about competing with, is yourself. Revisit your goals and objectives. Do you even want the same things as others? How are you doing compared with how you did last year. As long as you’re doing the best you can in the circumstances, you’re succeeding.
I’d also recommend mindfulness (who doesn’t at the moment, eh?) Every day, make a list of the things you’re grateful for. I love the app My Wonderful Day for this. It’s a good reminder when you flick back, that life is actually pretty good.
So, how do you deal with freelance envy?
P.S Emma-Louise sent me these two perfect posters for this post. How perfect are they?
A quick personal post today, reflecting both on decisions I’ve made recently, and decisions available to you (and an explanation as to why I haven’t been updating this site as much).
For nearly five years now, I’ve been mainly freelancing from home. I’ve had one part-time digital media job during that time and several in-house contracts (usually 4-6 weeks long), but my general preference has been for working from home.
But back in September, I started an employed contract role three days a week with Quest, training graduates and young people in careers skills and social media. It’s a bit of a departure from my previous work in digital media, but that’s part of the joy of this way of life – you can explore lots of different roles, environments and sectors without someone rolling their eyes at your CV. I’ve been looking for an opportunity to work with grads, and I can draw on my experience both as a freelancer working with lots of different companies, and as a recruitment consultant (my first role after university). Plus one of my goals has been to improve my training and public speaking skills – and nothing does that better than standing in front of a bunch of 20 year olds!
I still freelance two days a week from home (oh, who am I kidding, the occasional weekend might be a freelancing zone too). For me, this will be an interesting look into how a part-time job can impact on my freelancing schedule – so far I’ve found, and been told the same by my colleague Jenn, that having less time to freelance means that the days I do get to work from home are far more efficient.
Don’t get me wrong – I’m still hugely passionate about freelancing, and I couldn’t take on a full-time employed role for that reason. In fact, had this role been a freelance contract, it would be even more perfect (it’s far simpler from a tax point of view for one). But I think it’s important for me to honest about what I’m doing.
So, that’s what I’m doing at the moment. In a year’s time, I might be back to freelancing full time, or try out a series of contracts. Who knows? I have a feeling training will become a really strong part of my career future though – it’s a huge buzz being able to help and shape the progress of others.
Do you mix up freelancing, contracts and part time jobs? Let me know how you find it in the comments.
For a couple of years now, I’ve been thinking about the next generation of freelancers. Freelancing, in general, isn’t something taught in school. Career advice in general (there are exceptions) seems to be stuck in the dark stages at most schools. With unemployment on the rise, shouldn’t we be inspiring teenagers to look beyond office and shops jobs that lack job security?
In the current economy, freelancing can actually be a far more secure form of work. As Marrianne Cantwell says in Be a Free Range Human, “what’s your notice period? One month? Three months? That’s exactly how much security you have.”
Teenagers need to be inspired to do something themselves, so it seems apt that vinspired is behind a project to help young people find paid, short term jobs. Thanks to founder Samantha Sparrow (who some of you might know as co-founder and editor of The High Tea Cast, as well as Knowledge and Innovation manager at vinspired) Task Squad was launched today. Task Squad is a service “which introduces young people, eager to undertake paid work, to organisations who are looking to fulfil short-term staffing needs.”
On Task Squad, you’ll be able to find jobs that last from a couple of hours to days or even regular occasional work. Jobs range from helping out at events to working with start-ups. As a further bonus, For every hour of paid work a young person undertakes through the Task Squad site vInspired receive £2 from the task-posting organisation. Beyond supporting Task Squad, the money earned goes towards offering easy-to-access opportunities and support for young people to get involved with good causes in their communities.
Once you’ve completed a couple of jobs, you’ll start to earn a reputation on Task Squad, which helps when applying for other roles.
So, if you’re 18-25, you can join Task Squad and grab short-term, paid jobs. Pretty fantastic for students too, eh?
Are you 18-25? Would you use a service like Task Squad?
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