Happy Freelance Living | Part One: Goals
Hello there, fellow freelancers and creatives! I recently posted a poll on Instagram asking if it would be useful for me to share my thoughts, tips and truths about freelance living - and the result was a resounding yes, so thank you! It’s been just over a year since I went freelance, and although there are thousands of people out there who have far more experience than me, I wanted to share my thoughts while the last few months are still fresh in my memory. (That sounds like a really traumatic time - it wasn’t.)
When I was scribbling down a little plan for this series, I originally thought I should start with ‘Preparation’ - what to do in the months leading up to going self-employed. But while I’d love to give you a list of all the things I did before going freelance - how much money I saved, what my first year plan was, all that stuff - in all honesty, I had about one month to prepare for the fact that I was going it alone. Here’s the story behind my choice to go freelance…
December 2017 - Dave and I had been broken up for two months and I wasn’t sure what the hell I was doing. In what I now recognise as a state of complete misery and denial (hindsight is a wonderful thing), I decided I needed to leave Petersfield and start afresh somewhere else. I handed in my notice at the farm, we decided I would leave at the end of February, and I started looking for new jobs. Then on New Year’s Eve I got really drunk, saw Dave, and by the end of January we were officially back together - hooray! What a bloody whirlwind. Now I had no desire to leave Petersfield at all, but my replacement had already been hired at the farm. I searched high and low for a job I would love as much as the farm (impossible), and in the end, it was my sister and Dave who persuaded me to take the plunge and attempt something I’d only dreamed about - I stopped looking for work, and started planning a way to work from home, write stuff, paint stuff, create stuff and pay my bills. One year on, I’m the poorest, happiest and most hard working I’ve ever been, and I’ve never looked back!
WHY CREATE GOALS?
So if we can’t start with preparation (save a load of money if you can, but otherwise wing it), I thought ‘Goals’ were the next most important thing. The word ‘goals’ has become a bit synonymous with annoying #girlboss photos on Instagram. You know the ones - where a perfectly groomed twenty-something sits writing a journal outside a coffee shop, staring icily through her shades and brimmed hat as she looks absolutely nothing like a real freelancer. If you’re not in leggings at midnight eating your fifth hot cross bun of the day, you’re going nowhere.
We all need goals. They help us decide who we want to be in the days, weeks, months and years to come. They can be typed into spreadsheets, scribbled on post-its, carefully arranged in bullet journals or just floating around in our heads - and they can also be flexible. When I first went freelance, my goals were completely different to what they are now, mainly because the first year has been a real learning experience and I’ve also been able to figure out what makes me happy/productive/creative/rich.
Goals can be purely based around creativity - what you want to make/write/paint/photograph/film/bake/produce, and how these things can help you move forward with your career trajectory. It took me a year to stop thinking in terms of the next few weeks, and start preparing for the entire year, planning out what I wanted to achieve, why I wanted to achieve it, and how it could pull me into the following year with momentum, clarity and positivity. Goals can also be purely practical - how much money do I need to survive? How can I make my working hours more productive? How can I sharpen up my brand image?
The most important reason to clarify your goals is because the hardest and most rewarding thing about freelancing is being in control of your own life. When done well, you will experience insane freedom, creative power and general contentment, but if you’re not 98% organised/disciplined/motivated, it can all crumble around you. The topic of discipline and motivation is for another post, but by setting yourself goals, you are already bringing focus to an often chaotic and overwhelming lifestyle choice.
HOW TO CREATE YOUR GOALS
Going freelance can be incredibly overwhelming, mainly because you rely entirely on your own identity to take you forward. I was no longer Tiffany who works at the farm and writes/paints on the side. I was TIFFANY, THE WRITER AND ARTIST. To cope with this overwhelm, I recommend the following exercise:
Grab a piece of paper and pen, and write your name or business name in the middle.
On one side, write down all the ideas/roles/work/products that are already associated with your name/business. This could be anything - for example, if you’re a photographer you might be shooting weddings, managing someone else’s social media, creating content, running a website, shooting films, writing articles, etc.
On the other side, write down everything you want to achieve but haven’t yet found the time/space to do. If you are a graphic designer, this could be working for glossy magazines, designing your own clothing range or creating music artwork - the sky is the limit.
Go through everything on the page and decide whether you still want to associate yourself with these things, and whether they belong in the past or the future. For example, as a photographer you may enjoy photojournalism and hate shooting weddings, even though weddings make good money. Goals are there to set ambition, not to spark quick, unsustainable changes.
Now grab another piece of paper and rewrite a new list of everything you want to aim towards in your new freelance future. This is your goal list, and the next step is finding a way to turn them into reality.
You may be half-way there with some of them, and smashing lots of them already! For example, my current goals for 2019 are focused around the publication and promotion of my next two books, restocking my Etsy shop with cool new artwork, writing for new magazine titles and growing my Instagram community. The things I’m moving away from are writing for free, overloading my schedule with pet portraits, and working evenings and weekends (more on that in another post!).
The next part is something you have to work out for yourself. Pop the kettle on, take your list of future aspirations and write a super detailed plan on how you think you might be able to work towards them. Nothing is set in stone and there’s no such thing as failure - you may work towards something and later decide it’s not what you thought it would be, or you might get distracted by something new entirely, which is fine! The worst thing you can do is restrict yourself with enforced rules and unrealistic standards like: ‘I told everyone I would write a book within two years and I haven’t - I must work to the death until it is done!’ It sounds cliché, but the best thing about freelancing is being your own boss - you have only yourself to please, and if your career trajectory takes a natural swerve in a new direction, go with the flow.
It’s also important to remember that not everything you do in your working life has to be pre-planned as a ‘goal’. My day-to-day lifestyle is full of spontaneous commissions, emails, networking events and creative pieces that I never planned to do, but ended up fitting in nicely with the time/ideas/space I had available. Freelancing is a constant balance of seizing the right opportunities with both hands, whilst also learning to say no to things that don’t fit with your vibe. If you stay positive and open-minded, the universe is usually on your side.
Next up in this series, I’ll be talking about studios, workspaces and the importance of your ‘home office’… Subscribe to my newsletter to stay in the loop!