Six things I’ve learned in six months as a freelancer

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Freelancing is a greatly rewarding career path. It allows you to do lots of stuff that you can’t do when working a 9-5. You get to spend all day wearing slippers and if you have lots of overseas clients, you can have meetings with them while wearing your PJs or while pulling faces and sitting on the loo. I said you can, I don’t say I do those things. Freelancing can also be a real pain in the arse. Sometimes you wonder how you’re going to eat, how you’re going to pay your rent or just generally how you’re not going to die and then, shezam, you finally get paid by a client who owes you a remote control truck full of money or you land a gig you’ve been badgering somebody about for months on end. With the good comes the bad and with the bad we grow and all of that. I can’t claim to know a lot, heck, I can hardly claim to know a lot, but I have learned a few things in my first few months freelance of driving solo.

There are a bunch of good people in this industry (but keep your wits up)

Quite possibly the most important lesson. Cynical as I am, I am still naive about people in the same industry helping each other out. There are some great people in the world, there are some brilliant people in the same industry who’ll give you a leg up while you’re stumbling through your insane decision to take a risk and those are the people who you need to cherish. Never burn a bridge,  never take a job for granted and never stuff up a deadline with a new client. However, there are also people who are less good – it’s just one of those things. Don’t be suspicious of anybody, but do guard against what you share with whom. I’ve made some great allies in the past few months and I’m sure there are many more to make – it’s all about picking your team right.

Tax is a complex tapestry best navigated by a paid driver

I wanted to do stuff with words because I was quite useless at numbers. When it comes to being a freelancer and tax – there are a thousands tips and tricks you might not know about, no matter how much you read. The best way to do a tax return is to pay somebody who does it every day, not only will they know where to cut corners and help you save some bucks, but their service is also a tax deductible, bonus!

Never stop reading other people’s work

It’s easy to forget to read. Books, blogs, magazines, features…

When you’re always chasing a gig or a deadline or a client for payment, it’s easy to forget that part of your job is to, you know, read stuff. Thanks to the wonderful advances in technology there are many ways to store stuff to read when you’ve got some extra time (see the next point). Make sure you read and absorb as much as you can. The only way to get smarter is by playing (or in this case reading) the smarter opponent.

There is always time for an extra gig

It’s amazing how much free time you can find in the time once you know how much you waste doing annoying but necessary things. Traveling, commuting, walking or just generally getting around is the best time to rack up the mileage. I’ve got a few corporate clients who I write some tricky copy for, stuff that’s not related to sport. It’s stuff that I often struggle with because I’m always so distracted by sports stuff when sitting at my desk. I’ve found the best time to squeeze in gigs like this is when I’m arbing about commuting somewhere or sitting around waiting for a meeting. Put a pen and a notebook in your bag and when you get a second, get cracking on the stuff you really don’t want to do. Even if it’s something you want to do – a magazine feature, for instance, start penning down some ideas…just…write…whenever, wherever (yeah, thanks Shakira). Just write. Transcribe when you’re on a plane, on a train or sitting around waiting for somebody. Make use of every single second you’ve got – it’ll save you some potential headaches.

Traveling will change your life

I went from being somebody who hardly traveled to traveling quite a bit. Some of it I got lucky with, some of the clients I worked for covered my expenses, the rest, I hustled. I hustled because I knew that it would not only shape me as a person, but also shape my career. It’s done both. When you can travel, somehow, somewhere, do it. Seeing different parts of the world, experiencing different cultures, different cities, different people, it’s one of the best things anybody can do. Making it happen is a must, even if it means selling off your kidney on Ebay (note: please don’t actually sell your kidney on Ebay). The great thing about freelancing is that it’s generally a job which allows you to work from anywhere in the world as long as you have access to a computer. It’s one of the main reasons why I would encourage anybody thinking about making the leap to do it. Travel whenever you can, when you can to wherever you can – even if it’s somewhere in your own country you never thought you’d go.

When you’re on deadline, everything that can and will go wrong…WILL GO WRONG

Once you’ve knuckled down enough clients to not die, you will become best friends with deadlines. Some editors are lenient, some not so much. Murphy, however, is a real bastard. Whether it’s the power going out int he Lord’s press box or a cafe being without wifi, generally when you are pushing for a tight deadline, everything will go wrong. This is easily avoidable by ensuring you file way before deadline…unless, of course, you’re writing for a next day, daily publication. In that case, buckle up and enjoy the ride.