A year in the making

Today marks the first year of full-time freelancing.
On the 28th February 2011 I lost my job at the design agency I was working at in Edinburgh and immediately started taking further the sporadic freelance work I had already been doing in my spare time.

What a year – good times, bad times, long periods of brooding in isolation. So how would I summarise the last twelve months?

The highs

It has been hard to stay motivated and focused, and there have been long periods where I haven’t, but being able to take time off to spend time with my family at the drop of a hat has been invaluable.
Being my own boss – being in control and responsible for my working life – has been an absolute tonic.

Being self-employed gave us the freedom to sell our house and move to new climes when we upped to Somerset last October. Moving to Frome has been one of the best things we have done as a family and being freelance has given me the flexibility to work from anywhere.

The community has been a massive help in making those first tentative steps into working for myself. Twitter and the web design community at large have really helped me survive this part year – in getting me work during dry spells, in keeping me sane and in helping me solve the problems I have faced.

To anyone that has replied to a tweet, offered me work or just been there. Thank you.

The lows

The worst thing about being freelance for me has been the isolation. For the majority of the last year I worked from home which proved massively unproductive. It was also extremely destructive – the boundaries between work and home life became blurred to the point where I was finding it difficult to focus on either. When I was with my kids I was thinking about projects I was working on and vice versa.
An unhealthy pattern that has been easily solved moving into the great coworking space at the Old Church School

I’ve also had problems with cash flow more times than I’d like – it is all parts of the learning curve but have suffered some difficult spells when clients have been late paying or not had a proper payment plan in place to smoothen the quiet periods.

Lessons learnt

So what lessons have I learnt and what tips would I give to myself if starting out again?

  1. Learn to say no. I’ve never yet regretted saying no to something
  2. Get money up front. Cash flow is king
  3. Get an office. Working in isolation is not healthy
  4. Make your own work. Don’t wait for work to come to you
  5. Don’t take too much on (and avoid smaller jobs)
  6. Make time for your business. Whether it’s accounting, marketing, attending great conferences or local meet-ups it is important to devote time to managing your business

The year ahead

It’s been a great year – I’ve not made a great amount of money but I have learnt a lot about myself and where my strengths and weaknesses lie in web design.

Hopefully the coming twelve months will see me focus much more on work that I find enjoyable and profitable.

I love working for myself and I look forward to the chance to work more in conjunction with others and the opportunity to build some beautiful things.

Comments

Please add your thoughts …

You can use Textile

Fascinating reading your summary of the last year. I am a few months into my first year freelancing and experiencing all these things too.

I like the advice you gave – it would be nice to have enough things on the go that I could say no to something!

Dan

Great blog post – really glad to hear so many positives coming out of the year. Also good to be honest about the negatives and how you’ve learnt from them. Stuatr (still learning how to say no!)