Working as a freelancer was always part of my master plan, mainly because of geography.
When your specialty is health, medicine and sciencey stuff, job opportunities are largely restricted to London, yet I could not envisage living there long term.
The solution, I convinced myself, was simply to enjoy the London lifestyle for a few years (tube-office-pub-tube), get some experience under my belt then move back t’North and work for myself.
There were those that raised a sceptical eyebrow but this is exactly what I did and I can now tell you not only is it possible to earn a good living as a freelancer, it brings with it a whole host of benefits I did not expect. That is if you can cope with a little uncertainty in your life.
For any of you considering working for yourself, here’s my top five reasons to take the plunge.
1. You don’t have to get dressed
Most working days my commute is a walk up a flight of stairs. No one cares if you are in your PJs because they have no idea.
That’s not to say you shouldn’t get dressed. There is something to be said for looking presentable as a way of getting into the right mindset.
But working in slobby clothes is a treat everyone should have once in a while.
2. The more you do the more you earn
If you’re doing it right and don’t fall into the trap of working for free, your earnings will be linked to productivity.
If you take on more work, sit at your computer til the wee hours to meet deadlines then you should at least be rewarded handsomely.
Pretty much the opposite to the average staffer experience of working harder and harder doing five people’s jobs thanks to necessary cutbacks yet year on year yet earning the same measly wage.
The most common question I am asked is how do I motivate myself to actually work (subtext am I secretly watching trashy daytime TV?)
Well its fairly easy – if I don’t work I don’t get paid.
It is not at all hard to get stuff done when there is a specific financial incentive attached.
3. No office politics
Before going freelance, I wouldn’t have even considered this one but after rounds and rounds of job cuts and efficiency savings at all three of my pre-freelance gigs, I would say this is now the thing I love the most.
I don’t have to get involved in petty niggles brought on by the slow chipping away of staff morale.
I don’t have to play mind games and second guess what people are up to.
I don’t have to deal with management consultants coming in to tell me how to do my job or non-sensical restructurings that leave all the best members of staff running for the hills.
All I have to do is take the commission, do the work, meet the deadline and move on to the next job.
I mostly work from home, but when I do have to go into an office I turn into a bemused observer watching the natives act out their bizarre rituals.
4. Flexible working
When I started out, flexible working meant travelling to London two days a week to work part-time for the BBC (in a job I was offered just as I planned to move 150 miles north) and building up my freelance career from home on the other three days.
These days flexible working is all about fitting in childcare and it is a HUGE benefit to the entire family.
The youngsters among you who don’t have nippers won’t care about this yet but those who do will be looking on with envy.
I can’t stress enough how easy I have it compared with those who have to work set hours with unbending bosses watching their every move.
It also means we pay for two days childcare but I work on average three days a week, building up time in evenings and weekends.
You can’t work with children around (pre-school children anyway) but you can work unusual hours and have start and finish times that fit in with the nursery day.
Flexible working means you can have that long weekend away, that you don’t have to worry if your holidays clash, that you can take more than four weeks a year should you wish. Of course if you’re not working you’re not earning but it’s surprisingly easy to make up the time.
5. Being the boss
Of course someone else is paying you so effectively they are in control but for all the bits that matter you are the boss.
You choose when and how you work and when you have a break.
If you’re sick or tired you can go have a nap and catch up later without anyone breathing down your neck (or even knowing).
And depending on who you are working for and the relationship you have with them, you are quite often left to your own devices in terms of the work.
There is definitely no micro-managing. Out of sight, out of mind. All anyone cares about, is that you deliver the goods on time.
And in my yearly appraisal, I always do excellently.
Next time… The downsides and how to manage them