How to thrive, not just survive, as a freelancer

Jan 29, 2019

This is a post from a member of the Freelancers Union community. If you’re interested in sharing your expertise, your story, or some advice you think will help a fellow freelancer out, feel free to send your blog post to us here.

Working for yourself is an exciting, fulfilling, and (at times) terrifying experience. Many of us have previously spent time working for someone else, which can make the transition to solo work daunting. Here’s what I’ve discovered so far to help me survive, and thrive, while running my consulting business.

Keep a precise schedule

When you aren’t accountable to a time clock or a standard 9-to-5 day, it is easy to get sloppy with your time. To be as productive as possible, I plan my week on Sundays. I write a weekly to do list, and then block out my Google calendar.

My typical schedule cuts the day in half. I work on personal things from 7 am to noon, and my professional life starts from after lunch and ends around 7pm to 10 pm. I write a daily to-do list, and use a timer to keep track of my time.

I work from home most days, unless I’m traveling. I schedule appointments in the city all on one day to maximize my time.I also try to schedule my calls for the week on one day, back to back.

Manage stress

When I used to work for other people, my tension derived from toxic colleagues, dysfunctional workplaces, and containing my feelings until I left work.

Now I feel the stress of having too much to do and knowing that I’m the only one to do the work.To combat this, I work out every day, and I incorporate meditation and deep breathing exercises into my daily practice. Try it!

Don't work 24/7

It’s important to take mental and physical breaks to avoid burn out. I take a Sabbath from Friday night to Sunday at noon every week — which allows me to reconnect with family and friends, have fun, and give myself a break so I'm fresh for the coming work week.

Travel smart

Several things can make hitting the road for work easier. I’ve enrolled in TSA Pre-Check, created a travel packing list, and joined the loyalty programs of my favorite airline, hotel chain, and car rental companies so that I rack up points each time I travel. I keep a to-go kit packed with beauty samples and my favorite masks, and I'm always thinking of new ways to make my experience more enjoyable.

Be authentic

The most important and challenging part of self-employment is accepting yourself fully. I’ve removed myself from toxic environments, and the only critical voice left is inside my head.

I practice radical self-acceptance because I must depend on my brain and my body to do the work to support myself. Being an entrepreneur has built my confidence with each client I get and project I complete. I am forced to love myself because that’s the only way to survive.

Clients pay for YOU; all of your expertise and your experience. Show up in a way that you never have before while being your true, best self.

Margot Note is an archivist and records manager. In her consulting practice, she helps individuals and organizations harness their history, suggesting ways to use collections to connect with people. Read more at margotnote.com.