One Year as a Freelancer – What I Have Learned

Where my freelancer journey began

Let’s start a little further back, New Year’s Day 2017. I’d been umming and ahing about whether to do a yoga teacher training or not. I love yoga, it changed my life so much, but I was already signed up to do my Personal Training Course which would be every Saturday until April, if I took this teacher training I had my eye on, I’d have to leave my job at the end of March to be able to do it, as my hours at my job wouldn’t have accommodated the course. I knew I could do some freelance translation work, but I didn’t have any other income. I’m not sure what clicked for me on that day but I decided I would just do it, so I applied. My mum, who is my biggest supporter and the person I go to for advice, wasn’t entirely sure it was the right decision. I had a flat to pay for in London, bills to pay, a course to pay for, and how was I sure I’d make any money? Well I definitely wasn’t sure, but what I knew in my heart was that I couldn’t work in an office anymore, working for someone else wasn’t my jam and I have realised that client relations and project management wasn’t the job for me.

So that landed me at my last day at my old job last year at the end of March, I was a little sad to go, but I had two days before the start of my yoga teacher training AND two days of PT exams to get through, so I went straight from work into revision mode, exams and then my first day of my YTT. I was lucky in that I got some good work through translation as well as blogging over April and May, and I went into my first two months as self employed making a decent amount of money. I got my first class at a studio as a fitness instructor and never really looked back.

This brings me to today, I’m sat on the Northern Line going back home, it’s 2pm, I’ve taught two classes so far today, I’ve had a PT client and am teaching a corporate yoga class this evening. My schedule is full. I feel a little tired. Am I happy? Yes, most certainly. Did I make the right decision? 100%. I know freelance isn’t for everybody, managing your own time is hard, but I love what I do and I enjoy running my own schedule, so for me it’s perfect. However there have been some ups and downs, it’s not been easy. I know I am still a newbie, but I want to share with you what I have learned over the past year.

Make a Plan

My mum made me write out a business plan for how much money I would need to make per month, and where that money would come from. It significantly helped me to focus, and I felt more stable with a plan. I am not a business person, business isn’t my forte, I am lucky that both my parents are self employed, as is my aunt, my step mum and several of my friends. If you’re not fortunate enough to have that, then find someone who is freelance and seek advice from them. You are not alone in this, there are loads of us out there! I would also try and have some money set back, even just a few grand in case things don’t quite go to plan.

Delegate

As I am not into businessy stuff, I’m also not a numbers person and I never bothered with bookkeeping or doing my own taxes. I pay for someone to do it. If you live in London, seek someone outside of London (both my bookkeeper and accountant are in Devon) as it’s significantly cheaper. I know that it would stress me out so much, take too much time, and be a waste of my energy to do it myself. Delegation is the key to every business, and you are a business, remember, you are not alone.

Allow For Transition Time

It takes time to get used to your new way of living, so be patient. I went through some ups and downs, a friend and fellow freelancer calls this the 5 stages of grieving for your old job. I felt an amalgamation of fear, happiness, joy, sadness, confusion and eventually it just mellowed into my new normal.

At First Say Yes A Lot

I know we are trying to learn how to say no, but as a new freelancer who may not have stable clients and a steady income, say yes to things. Just say yes. Do the stuff nobody else wants to do, be willing and be ready, if like me you’re a fitness instructor/PT/yoga teacher, take cover at the last minute, be willing to go the extra mile, because not many people are and trust me people notice this and it will pay off.

Network

The word ‘network’ used to freak me out. It made me think of those business parties you’d see on TV shows, people in suits making small talk and exchanging business cards. That is not networking. Networking is just being friendly, talking to people, being open, trusting in the universe that natural connections will occur, sometimes from the people you least expect. When you are a freelancer and you work for yourself, you are your brand, every person you meet could be a job for you, I actually got a job through a guy I once snogged in a night club, I’m not even joking, it happens (and it wasn’t because I snogged him, I want to make that clear!). Essentially be nice, be yourself, don’t be a dick to people, and the right things will come your way.

Be Prepared

This one is big. If you’re a PT or someone who works with their body, injury is your worst nightmare. The same goes for if you’re ill. We don’t get sick pay like everyone else. I twisted my ankle and had to take a week off work, I was lucky that I could get my classes covered and that I could take Some translation work, so I didn’t miss out, but if the fitness stuff was my only source of income, I’d have been worried. So make sure you get insured and try and have a back up plan. Be prepared for holidays to be blissful but also to be stressful, whether it’s because you have no income for a week, or because you run a business and your employees might not be able to leave you alone. It’s not the same as just putting your OOO on, sending your handover, and forgetting about work for a week.

Finally, it’s worth taking the risk

If there is one takeaway from this past year, it’s this: just fucking do it. That risk I took one year ago when I left my secure, safe job, has paid off. I have made so many huge leaps and bounds, am making about £10k more per year as a freelancer, and have never felt more like myself than I do right now. I’m finally figuring out what I want from life, what I want to achieve, what foot print I want to leave behind when I’m gone and how I want to help shape the future, it’s pretty big. This wouldn’t have been possible without taking that leap. Your leap of faith might not be leaving your job, you could love your job! I don’t think everyone has to be self employed at all, but I do think everyone has a purpose in life and sometimes you have to risk something to find what that is!

Thank you so much for reading as always guys! Are any of you considering going freelance? What are your barriers? I’d love to talk more about it!

9 Comments

  1. emma 4th April 2018 / 4:56 pm

    I am due to go freelance as a PT in June and I am SO nervous… thank you for this, this has helped me feel confident I am doing the right thing. Thanks for sharing x

    • Hannah 4th April 2018 / 4:58 pm

      Ah I am so glad! Honestly it was the BEST decision I could have made!! Feel free to ask any questions, my instagram handle is @hannahrosecluley and Id be happy to answer any questions as and when you have them 🙂 xx

    • Hannah 12th April 2018 / 4:13 pm

      I am so pleased! I really hope it goes well for you, I’ll be keeping my fingers crossed!

  2. Catalina 4th April 2018 / 9:13 pm

    Hi Hanna, thanks for your lovely article. I’m thinking of starting my own business and of course I feel scared, nervous, anxious (mainly thinking if I’m going to make enough money)
    How do you use media (your blog) to make money? How do you find support from brands? How would be best to advertise my business using social media? How do I make people know about my business?
    TIA

    • Hannah 12th April 2018 / 4:13 pm

      Hi Catalina, I think everyone has that worry lovely, so do not allow that to stop you! I don’t actually make money from my blog or my social media, if I do it is not much at all, and it’s through brands who contact me. I advertise my yoga classes on my website, my Instagram and also via an email list. I hope that was helpful, I think just talk to people who are in the same industry/situation as you, seek advice and read a lot!

  3. Georgie 5th April 2018 / 12:05 pm

    I am literally at the beginning of this right now and loving life. Left my job in the fashion world in July last year, went travelling and since December I’ve been back and teaching yoga. I’m also developing a few other creative projects. Yes the money stuff is difficult at the moment but I’m so much happier and every hour of work is for me x

    • Hannah 12th April 2018 / 4:11 pm

      That’s amazing Georgie! I hope it’s going well for you!!

  4. Vicky | The Flourishing Pantry 5th April 2018 / 11:02 pm

    Absolutely loved this Hannah! I have just made the decision to do this too, after a year doing freelance but working for other people (and saying yes a lot). I am now trying to build something of my own and I know it’s now or never. Let’s hope I’m as positive as you this time next year!

    • Hannah 12th April 2018 / 4:08 pm

      Ah amazing! Good luck, this is so exciting for you!

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