When I first started working freelance, I had this idea for a post. However, I hadn’t been working as a freelancer for that long so I figured I should probably wait. You know what people are like! Nine months later, I feel like I’m finally ready to write it.
I didn’t start my freelance career in the most orthodox way. You see, I had a job. I was working full-time, but I was fucking miserable. The company wasn’t great; there was a lot of unrest and a lot of us were unhappy. It didn’t bring the best out of us. I was toying with the idea of finding work elsewhere or trying to make it freelance. Job-hunting was hard. It was difficult to do whilst I had a job and it was also pretty soul-destroying. I had spend a year at this company and had barely anything to show for it because well… they sucked. When I was hired it was sold to me as a vibrant marketing agency with lots coming up. In reality, they barely utilised the social media team. It as a real struggle and my self-worth completely plummeted.
I was made redundant before I could find another job and it was a really scary time. I had just moved in with my boyfriend after years of wanting to live together. We felt like we were finally in a place where we could afford to, then this happened. I spent months job hunting and just had absolutely no luck. My interviews were going well, but it was always the same thing: “we went with somebody with just a little more experience”.
It felt like there was nothing I could do. How do I get more experience if nobody will hire me? I was so unhappy and felt incredibly guilty. I just couldn’t pull my weight. On top of that, I was also trying to process grief for the very first time. My mental health was at an all-time low and I lost some ‘friends’ because of it too. It was a really tough year and I’m really proud of myself for getting through it! Just when it felt like things couldn’t possibly get any worse, I found myself giving freelance a go. After all, I had no other choice and I made it work.
Since I have had a lot of people reach out and ask me for advice. I thought it was about time I try write something up.
Save up first (if you can)
The first few months of working freelance were tough, I couldn’t even make rent. When I was toying with the idea, I always thought in the back of my mind I’d have to save some money first. All of the savings I had went on a deposit and the first few months of rent, but if I had been able to plan I would have tried to save. Of course, renting in London means my savings are pretty much non-existent now (*cries*). No matter how small, if you have some money save it away somewhere. You’ll never know when you’ll need it.
What do you do when you can’t afford to save?
The next logical step would be looking at your expenses and only keeping the essentials. By essentials I mean the stuff you need to live. Food, electric and stuff like that are obviously most important. If you have direct debits for things like Netflix, subscription boxes and other luxuries, cancel them as soon as you can! You’ll be surprised at how much it all adds up. This could also work as a motivator too, you can focus on working towards getting back to where you were and using these things again.
If things get really bad, you could take a part-time job temporarily. I ended up applying for a few but didn’t get anywhere with them. I know other people had to borrow money from friends and family when they first started out. Others have had to sign on for job seeker’s allowance or housing benefit, don’t think you’re ever above it. Do what you can.
Expect the first couple of months to suck
Rome wasn’t built in a day. Unless you’re comfortable or well connected, chances are you won’t see any real income for the first few months. I don’t know about you but when I was struggling financially, I was struggling mentally too. I felt worthless because I couldn’t contribute to the household income. It felt embarrassing at the time having my mum stock up on food for us, when really I should have just been grateful to have people in my life kind enough to do this. Not everyone is in this position. I had no money to go out and socialise with friends. To be honest, I felt overworked and underpaid. There was not one second that went by where I wasn’t worrying about my situation and figuring out what to do. It’s all too easy to just sit in and wallow when there’s not a lot going on.
How can I manage my mental health if I don’t have access to care?
With the NHS so underfunded, you gotta do what you can to get by. If that means crying it all out, cry it out. If you feel yourself slipping into dangerous territory, I highly recommended calling the Good Samaritans number (116 123). They really helped me during this time. Working from home can be awful lonely, it helped having somebody to talk to without leaving the house. I also recommend trying to break up your days and go outside when you can. Even if it’s just around the block, or to the doorstep.
Another thing that helps is not trying to force things. If it’s a day where I feel like I can’t get out of bed, I’m going to have to run with it. At the beginning, I would try force myself to get on with my day and this would make things worse. It would cause me to spiral; I woke up feeling bad, I was feeling bad about feeling bad, and I was feeling bad I couldn’t do anything about it. Sometimes if I take some time out, I’m able to continue later. The beauty of working freelance is that you can manage your own hours and it does come in handy sometimes as mental health can be unpredictable.
Consider other avenues
I know a lot of my readers are people who wish to blog full-time and I’m about to burst your bubble. I used to have this dream too and I don’t really believe it’s fully attainable. If they’re not already pretty rich, most people who blog full-time will have other income. For example, I am a freelance social media manager and I write this blog. Although a better example would be a blogger who actually makes money from their blog. It sucks because so many people are not open about their situation and it creates a false sense of hope. I’m not saying full-time blogging is impossible, it’s just more work than people make it out to be. Whether it’s affiliate links, selling old stuff on eBay or dog-sitting, it’s always worth considering other forms of income as well.
Before you tell me I’ve missed something, don’t worry part two (and possibly more) are coming!
Photography by Kaye Ford