How to be a freelancer - 5 tips when working for yourself
Updated: Jun 23
✨ MELANIE FULLBROOK
Having lived freelance now for over decade, I have come to learn many useful things from many people about how to structure my time, how to maintain a healthy life work balance and how to ensure I am making the most of my choice to work for myself. Below I have chosen 5 of the things I used to struggle the most with and that I now feel that I have more control of. I hope it may be helpful to anyone considering a move over to the dark side of freelance life - or anyone struggling to keep themselves motivated in their current work.
1. Where to work:
Although I am still sometimes guilty of deciding it is a good idea to do my work from my bed - it definitely isn't something I want to be in the habit of. It can be very difficult to find good places to go an work, especially on a budget and when needing to make long calls or have Skype conversations but below are a few suggestions for those with and without disposable income.
* Private Member's Clubs:
These can be amazing places to find a quiet corner for long afternoons on the laptop and are incredibly useful as impressive, centrally located meeting spots for potential clients. Prices can hugely vary but lots of places offer deals for under 30s (if you are lucky enough to be in that bracket). It can be a very worthwhile investment
* Shared Working spaces:
Now a craze over the last few years, paying membership for desk space in shared working environments can not only give you a sense of community when working alone but can massively help you focus. Recommended spaces include WE WORK with over 47 spaces across London and also SECOND HOME.
* Cafes, restaurants and libraries
If you just need to get out the house fora few hours to stop yourself going mad, or else you need quiet spaces when out and about to make proper work calls then it can be amazing to scout out local cafes or restaurants that aren't too busy during the day and the real gold dust is ones that don't play loud music. My current favourites are Cote Brasseries (£3 for a cup of tea, spread all over London and very peaceful).
2. Who to work with:
It is never a good idea to spend day after day working alone on your laptop without human interaction. We at Revels In Hand are incredibly lucky to have formed a happy trio with a constantly pinging Whatsapp group and the constant need for meetings to discuss decisions. If you however are an actor or director working solo between rehearsals rooms; it can be a wonderful idea to try and have at least one compulsory face to face a appointment each week. This can be a coffee in the diary with a friend who works in a similar industry or else going to a workshop or joining an online community of likeminded freelancers that do networking meetups etc. However you like to do it; talking through things with another person can be very rewarding. I know many writers who have paired up to share work every fortnight or musicians who meet each week just to jam and share new material.
3. How to use your time:
I am an avid list maker and scheduler. It can sometimes be impossible to know where to start a working day when there is no one to tell you what to do so I find it incredibly useful to make a list in the morning and prioritise it in order of what needs to be done first. If I don't order my list I tend to find I end up doing all the easy things and the harder tasks that will take longest keep getting left until the end as I avoid them. I find great satisfaction in ensuring I get through my day's list and also in knowing that if I can't then tomorrow's list is already started. I also find it really important to give my day a structure - whether this be splitting up my time by going to the gym or going for a walk - or just ensuring that I know what tasks I can do when. I have found that commuting time is now precious as I use it to attend to all my email responses. I write them all and edit whilst travelling and then send as soon as I am off the tube. It means I don't waste time doing them when I could be doing more creative or active tasks.
4. How to manage your money:
This is a hard one but I have definitely found a way to ensure I save as much as possible never find myself painfully living hand to mouth having made errors. You may think me overly organised and will probably ignore my advice but I promise you I am never stressed about money despite not earning much.
* Any time you get paid move 30% straight into another account. Mine is fondly named The Tax Bucket and it means I never overspend and always have plenty to cover my tax and NI contributions plus any emergency costs I haven't planned for.
* Do your income and expenses at the end of each month. It only takes 1 hour and it stops the end of the year being a horrible mammoth task of trying to find receipts for things you don't even remember buying.
* Do your taxes in April. Leaving them until the deadline not only means they are stressful but doing them early means that you have the whole year to ensure you have comfortably saved enough to pay what you owe. No nasty surprises or cleaning out your bank account in the New Year.
* If you are bad at budgeting properly on your own then there are plenty of budgeting apps and also the most popular card of all time - MONZO. You can set limits on what you're allowed to spend in a day and also keep track in real time of what you are spending.
5. What to do when there is nothing to do:
Finally - on days where it feels like you have no pressing tasks and no one needs you to do anything it can be very easy to feel dissatisfied and useless. You can easily spend a whole day watching rubbish on TV and sinking deeper into a whole of uselessness. Don't get me wrong, the odd morning treating yourself to some Game of Thrones isn't a sin. There has to be some perks to being freelance! But... I can't recommend strongly enough using these days for self care and for progressing yourself in ways you don't normally have time to do. I am a professional chef so sometimes these days will be for making a recipe that I haven't made before that requires a lot of technical skill and waiting time. Other days - I focus on my acting career and play the piano / sing for a few hours to keep my skill set up or I learn a monologue to be ready if an audition comes in or I meet with a few friends and just read a play I've been interested in producing. Other times I start researching different people I could contact - casting directors or potential clients. Whatever I do I make sure that those days aren't wasted. If I am struggling to be fully productive then I will take myself off to the cinema or to a museum or to an art gallery. Whatever it is, I always try to end a blank day happy with the choice I have made to be freelance.