Earlier this year I decided to step away from a permanent job into the world of self-employment, it was fair to say my future was a bit up in the air because my plan was improvised everytime I answered the question “What are you going to do next?”. The truth was, I didn’t really know. I didn’t have a Gant chart for this decision, I hadn’t done a risk assessment of the situation and I definitely didn’t know what the end result would be, all I knew was, I wanted to be my own boss.
My first freelance day
Turning freelance was a real wake up call. The first day as a freelancer was in my office, aka. my bedroom and I nearly had a meltdown because I hadn’t left the flat for the whole morning and I didn’t know when to take my lunch. I had become used to finding my own routine within other businesses but I found myself plagued with indecision when I had complete control. I worked out that I work better in the mornings so my hours are usually 8 – 4:30 (or 6:30 as it usually ends up working out) and I need an hour each day to check emails and tick off tiny tasks on my list.
Business happened really slowly to start off with, which I didn’t account for, so as my last pay packet dried up I found myself getting a little bit more anxious at the prospect of my next pay day. Despite the penny-counting, the anxiety manifested itself in strange ways, erratic purchases, I found myself one morning heading out to Bath and buying some cushions on special offer, that was a real ‘what the hell, Olivia’ moment. Knowing that I had to actively get my name out there, connect with new people and had to learn to market myself in order to get by added a lot of extra pressure to the situation. As I was updating my website into the early hours each night and scouring Eventbrite for meetups, I couldn’t help but ask myself why I hadn’t done this marketing groundwork while I was still in full time employment.
I joined this health tech community as a virtual member and within a day I decided to come along to a show and tell. Show and tell in the world of start ups and freelancing is basically code for knowing your shit.
During my stint as a digital project manager, I was used to translating one language into another which is basically copywriting. I communicate a business idea or proposition into something tangible that resonates with readers. I also started to realise that the process of creating interesting and engaging content was too frequently overlooked. I decided to become a freelance copywriter so I could help more companies to tell their story effectively.
Coffee shop offices
The time before I got a co-working space was bumpy to say the least, I worked in pretty much every coffee shop in Bristol and even tried a University cafe before they turfed me out saying the cafe would be needed for cafe purposes, what, like, meeting for a coffee and checking emails? Heck, I didn’t care, I just got mistaken for a student! I’m not sure if anyone can relate to the working in coffee-shop guilt but I definitely crumpled after a few looks from a barista in Boston Tea Party when my pot of tea for two had gone cold. Caffeine became a well-acquainted friend but I think it got too close for comfort when I found myself getting coffee jitters due to too many guilt-coffees.
I started to feel a bit stuck in Bristol so I did what I usually do and make light of a big decision, found a flat and moved to London. London was the push that I needed, breaking out of the routine I had gotten used to for four years had given me new found confidence to attend events, meet new people and to just throw caution to the wind. London has a wealth of cool co-working spaces but the one I picked is cheap and cheerful based above a library in West London, this has been good for me for two reasons: cabin-fever meltdowns have since been averted and there’s a nearby Waitrose which doesn’t have a queue for the free coffee.
Talking about myself to a group of strangers
A friend told me about another co-working space which is dedicated to health startups called the Health Foundry. I joined this health tech community as a virtual member and within a day I decided to come along to a show and tell. Show and tell in the world of start ups and freelancing is basically code for knowing your shit, as everyone went around the circle talking about their incredible businesses, I was hurriedly making notes about my own story, experiences and reasons for doing what I’m doing before it was my turn.
When it came to my turn, I told my story, my passion for helping other people and desire to take some control back in my life and how this has helped form a speciality in the world of Public Health, Fitness & Wellbeing. For everyone else it was a chance to network, but for me, that evening was like a form of therapy, a chance to collect my thoughts and work out why my unique selling point is.
My day to day
Since moving to London, it feels like I’m walking up the fast lane on the escalator (because the left hand side is always the side for people who need to get to places) which is awesome. I now have 5-7 clients and I’m talking to a few more about potential ideas. I am working with ambitious, driven and innovative individuals and startups who are pioneering services and products for the greater good. I get a stride in my step after a positive meeting knowing that my clients are using my services because they like me, my approach and no-one else. For me, that feeling overrides all the other feelings of doubt and anxiety.
Freelance life is initially difficult to process, recognising your own working patterns and setting your own optimal working conditions takes time. Setting up m own website, designing my own logo and learning to create and edit my own story and my USP also took time. My advice to anyone consider freelance life would be to start doing the groundwork earlier even if it does mean working long evenings after a full day in the office. The value of a good co-working space is actually priceless, find a nice space you like within budget and you won’t look back (remember to think of cash flow when it comes to ongoing monthly direct debits!)
Finally, learn to collect your thoughts and get in the practice of attending networking events because more often than not, you’ll find alot more about yourself than anyone else in those situations. On the note of learning about myself, my God, there are so many bad habits that I hadn’t confronted until now, equally, I am incredibly efficient working for myself and feel good pumping all my own energy into my own business.
I never knew just how much I would learn about myself when I went freelance but all I know at the minute is, I’m bloody loving it.