New Year, new you? Many people make New Year’s resolutions, and in some cases it will be to give up their present dead-end or mind-numbing job to work for themselves. If you do, you’ll be joining a growing number of start-ups of people who couldn’t get work in the last few years or decided to stick two fingers up at the corporate ladder instead of climbing it.
If you are one of those people to have made that decision, firstly congratulations. Secondly, you’re going to need all the advice you can get about this wonderful world of working for yourself. There are three core attitudes you will have in a regular job that will have been hard wired into your psyche. You need to break them, and now, if you are to succeed in becoming another freelancer.
The “9-5” Attitude
It’s history, it’s dead. Forget it. Divorce yourself from the thinking that you have to start and finish at a certain time. There’s nothing, no rule that says you can’t work 11-7 or 1pm until 9pm, or even 11-3 or 1-5. It’s easy to get stuck in that mindset, it’s hard to break and it’s easy to feel guilty when it’s 9:30 and you haven’t had your shower and wasted the last hour on Facebook sharing pictures of cats with such amusing phrases as “I Can Haz Cheezeburger?” before moving to Instagram to show everyone what you had for breakfast. You are your own boss and though this does mean self-discipline, more important is flexibility. Sometimes you may need to start early or finish early, or start late and finish late. The clock is not your guide, your brain and your body will be. When you’re tired, simply stop.
The Monday to Friday Attitude
You will need to work weekends and it will be infrequent if you’re lucky, regular if you’re unlucky; either way, you will sometimes need to give up a weekend day or a complete weekend. Like above, there is no law that says you should work a set number of days each week, or even which days. I’ve taken Mondays and Fridays off in the past to do errands. It’s easy to think of these working weekends as “overtime”. You need to drop that line of thinking too because you’ll work all weekend and then get into the habit of working Mon-Fri, a 7-day stretch because it’s “normal office hours”. There is no longer any such thing as normal office hours and days any more, and not when you have clients in the Middle East who work Sunday-Thursday. Also, you need to wind down. You might only have worked 4-5 hours over the weekend, but this isn’t about how much time you’ve logged, it’s about disconnecting yourself completely from the work attitude and recharging your batteries. Even if you only did a couple of hours on Saturday, take a day off during the week. You’ll thank me later.
The “Chained to the Desk” Attitude
“Sit there, don’t move until your officially designated lunch time. If you leave your desk, only do so for toilet breaks and work purposes.” Throw that out of the window right away. You can take a three hour lunch break, you can take a morning or afternoon off, do 4hrs of work, go out for a coffee with a friend and come back later to do some more work. That’s the beauty of working for yourself – you have that flexibility. Make the most of it, enjoy it, work with it because that’s the only way you are going to get by.
Though the three attitudes above are designed to give structure to your day, and generally succeed in that, they are counter-productive to the freelancer who works from home. Whatever your reason for doing this, you can’t have set rigid days and times or you will start to wonder why you gave up working for somebody else in the first place. Make the most of the times when you don’t have much work to relax and do other things, and effectively plan your time when you are busy – you really do not want to feel overwhelmed.