Thinking about taking the leap and starting your own freelance business? First off, congratulations! But second, let’s face it, freelancing isn't a piece of cake. Jumping into freelancing can be difficult, especially when you've previously worked in an office or community centric work space. In my first two months of full time freelancing, I struggled with feeling extremely siloed, and with staying organized, motivated, and inspired when I'm my own boss. But thankfully I've discovered a few tips and tricks that have worked for me to stay energized, creative, and happy while freelancing!
Photo: Sarah Wolfe Photography
1. find your spot
Whether it's your local coffee shop, a home office, or a shared workspace, find your spot. You should feel comfortable, inspired, focused, and have enough room for your work. Shared work spaces like WeWork will often also have office like amenities, like conference rooms, to help you run your business.
Also, don't be afraid to mix up your setting. I often rotate between working at my favorite places in Seattle, including Capitol Coffee Works, Miir, and The Riveter.
2. grab a buddy
Another way to fight to freelance loneliness is to find a work buddy. Do you have a friend who also does freelance? Has a side hustle? Works from home? Organize regular working sessions together, or just a coffee date to decompress, to help motivate and inspire each other. It's incredibly beneficial to be around someone else's energy and to bounce ideas off each other, something I missed from working in an office.
3. stay on top of the money
Sales tax, self-employment tax, income tax, expenses, budgeting...financial elements that need as much attention as the product or service you're providing while freelancing. Keeping an up-to-date and accurate accounting system will save you a huge headache when it comes time for taxes. For me, that looks like several pages in an Excel workbook that I update daily and setting calendar reminders when fees or taxes are due.
4. create a routine
Without having to be at work at a certain time, creating a routine feel impossible. I have found creating a flexible framework for my week has helped me a lot. The routine that works for me is to have alternating days of shoots where I'm out all day and editing where I go to my spot of choice or meet with a freelance buddy. I also try my best to wake up at the same time every morning and to schedule my earliest shoot of the day at the same time every day.
5. podcasts (seriously)
Seriously. Podcasts. They have helped me stay sane while freelancing, from learning something new, having a good laugh, or just to keep me company. It’s a great alternative to watching TV (too distracting) and more engaging that listening to music (which I also do). I listen to podcasts while editing, traveling to shoots, and doing things around the house.
For personal development and nonfiction: Science vs., Often Ambitious, Reply All, Harry Potter and the Sacred Text, and Criminal
For comedy and keeping me company: My Favorite Murder, That's Weird, Can We Cult, The Dollop, Getting Off, Do You Need a Ride, and Anna Farris is Unqualified
Photo: Sarah Wolfe Photography
6. take time for self-care
Self-care is on every list for everything, but it rings so true with freelancing. Self-care is also something I am still working on myself. Being your own boss, getting yourself out there, and always trying to make ends meet means it can be hard to stop, say no, or take time for yourself. I often joke I work 40-day work weeks, but it's completely true. And even when I travel for "vacation", I still try to fit in a couple shoots.
Self-care looks like something different for everyone. Sleeping in once a week, taking a spa day, going on a weekend getaway - figure out what gets you recharged and excited to get back to work.
One of my goals as summer approaches is to actually take a weekend - two days in a row when I don't have any shoots and don't do any editing. To be able to do this, having a routine is essential (see point three!)
Freelancing can be hard, but it certainly isn't impossible! What is the most important lesson you've learned from freelancing?
Thanks for reading!
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Karya Schanilec is a Seattle based photographer specializing in fashion, portrait, and performance photography.