So you’re leaving the sanctuary of the corporate world, trading the steady pay cheque for the chance for greater excitement and fulfillment.
But let me tell you what you need to know before you embark on this romantic quest, knowledge earned from my 20+ years as a freelance writer and communication planner.
You may be anxious now, but don’t fret too much about fleeing safety. The corporate world is about to become less secure. After recessions, technology and global competition, many companies will shed employees as if they’re fading glamour stars.
Fortunately for you, fewer jobs-for-life will mean more opportunity for freelancers, independents and consultants of all stripes.
The words of change
This change and uncertainty will also expand your vocabulary. You’ll learn to wield “restructuring” and a slew of words invented to shine up this rough reality.
You’ll also learn tech vocabulary. Terms like “systems migration” will roll of your tongue. Really.
Sharing will no longer be limited to giving a hungry pal half your sandwich or revealing your deep secrets.
You’ll also try to master BTW (by the way) and many other initials, once everyone starts communicating on tiny portable phones. LOL.
These tiny phones will also connect most people to the office all the time, or 24/7 as you’ll say.
When you have children, you’ll be relieved your clients’ office rarely extends into your home. Train your clients to apologize when they call late. They’ll have young kids too.
Oops. I’m supposed to share my wisdom more than dazzle you with glimpses of how your personal life will change.
However, while I’m on spoiler alert, I can’t resist advising you to get rid of that new office you’re enjoying so much, buy a house and work there. Not just because it will help you with your growing family responsibilities, but also because it will turn out to be a kick-ass investment.
Yes, younger self, respectable people will say ass—and worse.
That’s enough new vocabulary. On to the tips that will sustain you.
Words of wisdom
When you’re working from home, you’ll need to make a point of getting out more, especially to fitness classes and networking events at the International Association of Business Communicators (IABC).
You’ll also need to make sure that home, especially the fridge and television, doesn’t become a distraction. Hire people more often to clean, paint and take on other chores you’ll be tempted to do when you should be marketing.
You’ll fiercely deny this advice when you’re crazy busy. But during those no-work mornings at the gym you’ll realize all too well how wise always-be-marketing is.
Don’t put your eggs into one or two baskets. Often your regular clients will seem like more than enough. But when they lose their jobs in this brave new world, you will too.
While you now think that freelancing means you’ll be your own boss, never forget that every client, most prospects and even chance encounters will be your master. Make sure you stick with the nice ones.
That’s right. If you’re good enough, and you are, you can select clients almost as much as they choose you.
Having nice clients, suppliers and other work friends will encourage long-term relationships to blossom. If you hop from project to project, you’ll burn out. And you’ll get lonely.
Empathy will help, on both social and professional levels. You’ll need to read your clients’ minds and divine the hearts and souls of the people they want to communicate with.
Many of your long-term clients will become loyal buds, part of the rich tapestry of work, family and friends the freelance life can weave.
Learn to live with the reality that you will never have time and money together. Either you will be working long hours, but have lots coming in, or going to the gym during the day so you don’t worry about where you’ll get your next gig.
Sharpen your tools
Hold onto that Mac. You will be tempted to switch to a PC because of lower costs and, at first, easier communication with clients. But you will be more creative, instead of bored silly by memorizing commands. You’ll be surprised by what inspires you.
Keep up your French, even if your best practice opportunities are television and trips to francophone countries.
On that subject, take more holidays, real holidays, with no kids or parents.
After all, you’ll never see written on the tombstone of a long-time freelancer: She spent too much time at the beach.
That brings me to one final piece of wisdom: Wear your bikini more often. Twenty plus years from now, you’ll understand why.
Good luck, younger self. Good laughs too.
Now if I could only channel my older self, to advise me on the next 20 or so years.