Ten reasons to go freelance

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August 20, 2012 by Sian Rowland

“Freelance: adjective

self-employed and hired to work for different companies on particular assignments.”

Oxford English Dictionary

Freelancing is rewarding and nerve-wracking at the same time so why would anyone put themselves through it? If  you’re thinking of going freelance or need reminding why you started, here are my top ten reasons for going freelance.

1) Freedom to explore

I’ve found that my work is often broader than my old job. I have the freedom to break through the barriers and expand my skills and expertise. In the public sector we’re terrified of treading on our colleagues’ toes so when someone ask for advice on a subject that strays into someone else’s job description you’re obliged hand it over to them. Now if someone asks me for advice I say yes, I can help you with that. And if by any chance I don’t yet know much about the topic I research it. If you fancy trying something else, give it a go and stick it in your portfolio career.

2) Sense of achievement

I’m still at the honeymoon stage of freelancing and am still thrilled and excited when I get a piece of work. I still get excited when my invoices are paid (especially if they’re paid on time…) I get a real sense of achievement and a job well done and am flattered that someone wants to hire me. You’re only as good as your last job, we’re told, so that last job better be really good.

3) Flexibility

Not the sort of mind-boggling flexibility displayed in the recent Olympics but the flexibility to take on several projects at the same time; the ability to work when it suits you and to push the boundaries of what you do. If you organise your time carefully there should also be time for the things you enjoy. I sneak off to a television recording every now and then during the day or potter around a gallery or museum.

4) Working hours

I went on lots of courses while on redundancy notice in order to get myself ready for my new life and all advised us to set boundaries when self-employed: there’s no site manager clearing his throat and jangling his keys outside the door at six thirty; the office is open every day including weekends and no one notices if you’re still sending emails at midnight. You need to decide when you’re going to work. One course leader even advised locking the office door to stop yourself popping in to send a sneaky email out of office hours. Seeing as my office is the kitchen table that might be tricky when it comes to making the tea and my brain doesn’t work along set hours. I suspect that might be the case with most people so you just need to work out how much you need to do on a day to day or project to project basis allowing time for a cup of tea in front of Homes Under The Hammer and an afternoon off every now and then.

5) Meeting other people outside your normal circle

Spending your whole career in the public sector can be limiting. Schools especially can be very insular and inward-looking.  I have a lot of teacher friends and let’s be honest, although we like to think we’re not, we’re a type really. We worry a lot and tend to sweat the small stuff. I networked like to mad to start with because I was keen to meet people who had cracked this freelancing thing. I’ve met and learnt from IT types, journalists,  photographers, accountants, cake makers and energy healers to name a few. Everyone has something to give.

6) Free from bureaucracy

In the public sector nothing is decided without a committee approach. You have an idea and you run it by your line manager. If they approve the idea they run it by their department head. They check that no one else has had the idea and make sure it’s not part of someone else’s job description. They ask you to set up a working group and you work out who to invite to sit on the working party and get your diaries together. You write an agenda and send round the minutes. You feed back into the appropriate scrutiny committee and wait.  This can take over a year so many people think it’s too much hassle. When I have a new idea now I do it. If it’s an idea about the business I talk to my business partner about it and we do it or don’t do it. Simples.

7) Be more creative

Perhaps because of the above point there’s more creativity in work. You can unleash your creative side and see what happens. I’m also keen to explore other creative avenues and add to my portfolio and you can mark out some of your time to do that.

8) Learn about running a business

In my previous job, the work came to me. My computer was as slow as an arthritic tortoise but the IT department were on hand if it went wrong.  The office was cold and grey and miserable but someone paid the heating bill and emptied the bin. My payslip arrived each month with tax and national insurance neatly sorted out. When you’re self-employed it’s all your responsibility. But it’s been fun starting to learn how to run a business. Admin can be boring but it’s my own money I’m tapping into a spreadsheet and the invoice template is all mine. I’ve been to a couple of the free workshops run by the City Business Library (part of the City of London Guildhall complex) and highly recommend them.

9) Working from home or anywhere else you fancy

I wasn’t sad to see the back of the office I used to work in. it was cold, grey and leaky and the ladies loo was vile. I’m happiest working at the kitchen table now. I have my work in a box, my laptop (speedy, up to date and cool) and my tax file close to hand. It can be easily cleared away and I’m near the fridge, the kettle and the garden. If it’s nice I sit in said garden. My business partner and I meet in our ‘office’ which is actually a coffee shop. We bumped into Boris Johnson the last time we met there. Never a dull moment.

10) You’re the boss

I don’t have to run everything past a line manager any more. Or a committee. Or working party. Or panel. I can give myself a day off if I think I deserve one, go for coffee with a friend or finish early if I want to. I can be in if something is being delivered or out if I need to get away. I can work until midnight or stop at lunchtime and I make the decisions that work for me.

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