So you’ve decided to go freelance
Unless you’ve come into a sizeable sum of money and can do what you please, for most people going freelance involves a transition period whilst you set up. You have to prepare practically and mentally to make the shift. You have to build up the one job whilst you scale back the other. While you’re still in the beige 9 to 5 job it really helps if you consider this moment as a different career.
Transitioning is challenging
This is a tough moment because it is expected that we give our paid job over and above our contracted hours. Even when I was made redundant with no new job lined up I did 40 plus hour weeks to wrap everything up, make sure they were okay, and ignored my increasingly parlous financial position.
It’s hard to step away from the day job and carve out your own time. It’s tempting to just read that last email, or finish that document so you can start on something new the following day. We all do it, even when it’s to the detriment of our family or social life. If you’re trying to carve out a new career it often gets relegated to the bottom of the to do list. First comes the day job, then family and friends and last comes sorting out your escape/ feeding your dreams.
You have to prioritise your dream
If you are serious about making a change, you have to address this issue head on. Nobody else but you will be pushing this forward. You won’t have a boss breathing down your neck asking what’s happened to your latest newsletter. Or a family member saying, no don’t worry I’ll do that, you focus on you (not unless you are very lucky). The only one driving this passion is you. So you have to make sure you make the time to turn your dream into reality. This takes discipline and determination. This is also the moment when I see most clients failing.
Find the time or force the timetable
The most common piece of advice to make time is to sectioned off bits of your diary and dedicated that to your set up, make them unbreakable appointments. This works for some people, unfortunately it didn’t work for me. I constantly used those appointments for all sorts of other ‘things that have to get done’.
What works for me is setting up a project with a definite date that I tell other people about. I don’t wait till I have the whole thing worked out. I give the event a name, work out a price, book a venue and advertise it. Now I have to get all the background work done or face refunds and ridicule. The first course I ran as a freelancer had the vaguest outline when I advertised it, but boy was I motivated to produce something before the due date. So I did.
Think about how you would resolve this problem in your own unique way.
Dealing with family
Work and family will both conspire against you. Not deliberately, it just happens that way. Family can be the hardest to deal with. They expect you to continue doing what you’ve always done for them. Even if you have had the conversation about the changes you want to make and asked for their support and understanding. It’s great if you can get buy-in from your nearest and dearest but if you find sorting out the family keeps encroaching on your time then maybe drop an evening or weekend class, and focus on your new project then. People are used to not seeing you at those times. Sometimes you must be monstrously egotistical, shut the door and get on with your project. Remember in the end they will benefit too and hopefully understand. But if you’re not firm you will struggle, so ask yourself, how much do I want this?
Dealing with the day job
If possible, be more firm with work. Don’t let them encroach on your out of hours time. Don’t look at emails outside of the office or finish reports at home in the evening. Remember, they won’t put extra hours into supporting you. Even if they do, you have no obligation to do the same for them.
A more radical way to get that extra time is to scale back your job, go to part time so that you can use the day/s you’ve freed up for your new job. This will mean a pay cut so be clear that you are willing to sacrifice some money to go after your dream. If your current job won’t let you be flexible find a new job that is specifically part time. Remember this is only temporary.
Find a part time role
Part time jobs are a double edged sword in that you may land up doing a full time job on part time pay. The up side is that most employers taking on part time workers know you are doing something else the rest of the time. It is therefore easier to say, sorry, I can’t do anything for you on my off days.
I have found being up front with organisations about this works well. If you are going to look for a new part time job it may pay to make it complementary to what you’re trying to set up. Want to be a party planner? See if you can find a part time job with an events company.
Alternately go for a part time job that you can leave at the door. That way it doesn’t occupy head space once you’re home. This is the reason many creatives do bar work or admin, those jobs don’t follow you home or divert you down paths you hadn’t planned taking.
Consider the day job as an investor in your new career
Now that you are setting up for yourself you are in a Transition Career. The day job is essentially funding the set up of your new job. If you think of it as a sponsor or investor it changes your relationship with them. You might not feel quite as trapped if you view them in this different light. And that may give you the head space you need to set yourself up.