If you’re freelance (or thinking about being freelance) it’s often fun to play the what will I/won’t I miss from being employed. As much as the benefits (far) outweigh the disadvantages there will of course be a few things you wish you could retain.
A steady salary being one of them, holiday actually meaning holiday. Free wine Fridays! Because who doesn’t miss that.
But while some of these may be outside of your control, being self-employed is about creating your own dream company. By this I mean deciding: what perks will I build back in now I am my own boss?
Just because you’re self-employed doesn’t mean you don’t still need to invest in yourself, just like a company would for any employee.
Here are some of the “perks” that I’ve decided my dream freelance job should and will always contain:
Personal development fund
This was something I was much better at in the early days before things got crazy in my business but I think personal development is one of the most important things for any professional. By this I mean investing in courses and workshops to better skills, going to industry events to learn and network and even just picking up books that will broaden your mind. Now this can fall by the wayside when you start your own business and don’t have enough money to pay your rent, let alone book a coding course. But personal development doesn’t have to be expensive.
Events, art galleries – even working within a creative space like the Virgin lounge where you can go for free if you have a bank account with them, or a bustling coffeee shop, can help. By opening your mind and developing it, you’ll be a much better asset to clients in the long run.
Business goals and income planning
Just as you’d set “personal development goals” in your yearly review while working for a company there’s no reason why you can’t set freelance business and income goals too. This means setting a reminder in your calendar every year to look at what you’ve achieved and what your goals are for the year ahead. Then putting actionable steps in place to help you achieve them. For example: a goal of earning £500 more per month could look like “find two new blogs I can contribute to”. Simple right?
Office space and setup
I’m lucky to have a room in my house that’s an office, but I also find working at the kitchen table just as productive. One thing I did invest in early on was a good laptop, a ton of ink for the printer, some sweet stationary (Kate Space and kikki.K are by far my favourites) and the type of tools comms professionals swear by. For me that was Sprout Social (now swapped for Buffer), a Microsoft Package and a Dropbox business account.
I’m not saying you have to go crazy and spend thousands setting up the perfect Pinterest office, but do invest in your equipment. Working for yourself means begrudging every £40 ink cartridge but by setting yourself up with the right equipment, you’ll save a lot of friction in the long run.
Let’s face it, I really, really like new clothes. I feel more confident in outfits I’m happy with and I have definitely found my “work style” over the last year or so. When you work from home most days it’s easy to fall into just wearing whatever comes out of the cupboard in the morning. Yet when you look good you feel good and it certainly helps make those surprise Skype video calls easier too. I will never feel guilty about investing in my work wardrobe, because the confidence it brings ensures it almost ends up paying for itself.
Wishlist of Future Perks
Here are some of the things I want to build in moving forward in my business.
I so miss the strategy days from my old company. They involved heading to a beautiful house in Royston, drinking tea that was boiled on the hob, having lunch in the local cheese shop and finishing the day with wine around the fire.
Oh, and a ton of brainstorming and work planning too of course 😉
The point of the strategy days, was that by getting out of the office and away from distraction you truly do get to drill down into your product/startup/company. One every few months would help us get a clear picture of what was next.
Strategy days are definitely something I’ll be looking to build back into my own business, even if it means one day a month working at the Barbican with a ton of felt tip pens.
Even though commuting is not something I miss at all, I do miss the “time” it provided. Each day I had an hour’s worth of overground train travel where I could read a book, listen to a podcast, search social media or blog, without feeling an inch of guilt. Now that my commute is about 10 seconds, I find it really difficult to keep this same “time” slot free for non-work time. Even during meals I find it difficult not to be checking emails or reading Slack. I do have two long dog walks either side of my day, but I’d also like to build back in the odd 20-minute slot to read or work my brain without actually doing work if that makes sense.
This is self explanatory and probably something all freelancers can agree with, but I find it really, really difficult to take time off these days. When I’m physically away from work on “holiday” it becomes slightly easier but outside of trips I find I don’t ever really take days off. I once hired a business coach who told me she took six weeks off a year just to work on her business, reflect and refresh. I think I’d struggle to take off even six hours! So this is something I’d like to work on to be better at, to ensure I truly can enjoy making my own schedule – and so I might hit a “normal” amount of holiday days as you would when you’re employed by someone else.
Which job perks would you ensure you kept while being freelance? I’d love to know.