How to survive your first few months of self-employment

I’m feeling rather inspired this week, following a series of chats with old friends and former colleagues who are taking the big step of becoming their own bosses.

Since I’m fast approaching my first anniversary of self-employment, I offered them my advice. Some was profound; much was hard-won; all was unsolicited. But they all took it pretty well, so I thought I’d replicate it here.

For your reading pleasure, I present my lessons learned in my first year of freelancing.

Make the right kind of friends

When I first floated the idea of working for myself – a few years before I actually took the plunge – two horrified company directors rounded on me. The idea was “risky” (there’s risk involved in quitting a steady job? IT LITERALLY HAD NOT OCCURRED TO ME), it would “ruin my corporate career” (sort of the point, no?) and “it really is worth thinking about who will pay for your children” (a fair point… if I’d had children. Maybe just a sexist point, then).

I imagine I’m not the only corporate escapee to have inspired that reaction from colleagues. So if you’ve got as far as quitting your job to pursue your own business idea, chances are you’ve already worked out that some opinions should simply be filtered out.

But now that you’re out there doing it, you need to go one step further. Don’t rely on your criticism filter to protect you – instead, get out there and find the people who will become your cheerleaders. You’re looking for freelancers, entrepreneurs and creative types who are energised by your passion and who see risk-taking as a normal part of life rather than the sign of a deviant personality. They do exist, and you need them in your support network.

Take care of the basics

In the first stages of your business, you’re unlikely to have your own office – and if you’re freelancing, you may never have one at all. Most of your meetings will take place in coffee shops, where ordering a coffee is as easy as blinking. You’ll drink a lot of liquid and a lot of caffeine, and if I need to explain where that leads… well, let’s just say I’m not going to explain.

But – disaster! – without an office, you may well find yourself ‘caught short’. And since it’s not hugely impressive to greet a potential client with a pained expression and a high-pitched request for directions to the nearest loo, you need to be proactive.

This is as close as I’m going to get to a Golden Rule of freelancing: When you see a loo, use it.

Enjoy the little moments

When you’re used to a nine-to-five job, it’s easy to forget that life goes on – in homes, streets and town centres – without you. But once you’re working for yourself, you’ll begin to bump into the outside world all the time. You’ll be able to do your food shopping in the morning, work on your laptop in a café, and go for a mid-afternoon run in the park.

If you’re anything like me, you’ll feel faintly guilty for not being tied to your desk all day. If that’s you, stop. Remember that you’ve chosen this lifestyle because you wanted it… and enjoy the feeling of rebellion now that you’ve got it!

You’ll soon get used to the idea of life outside the office, and your only problem will come when you’re offered another job (it’ll happen more often than you expect) and suddenly realise that you’re officially “unemployable”… in a good way.

Welcome to the club 🙂

Image: Child Entrepreneur Lemonade Stand by Steven Depolo is licensed under CC BY 2.0