NFD: some obscure and obvious freelancing tips


If – like me – this is your first National Freelancers Day then you’ll be sharing in my unbridled excitement.

Just like when old Saint Nick slides down our chimney chutes the NFD is a great excuse to revel in the merriment and help your fellow freelancing man… All we need now is a horrendously alcoholic cake and a drunken family punch up and the holiday is complete!

As an NFD gift to you I am sharing in a few personal freelancing lessons learned… a couple the hard way.

Some are incredibly obvious – others are a little more obscure.

Suit

Photo by disparkys

Obscure: Dress to Impress

It sounds strange but any freelancer working from home needs to dress for work. Whenever I get up and hit the showers I always ensure that the only thing I might not do that day from a normal office job is get on the tube. Even if you work 1m from your own bed, loose the baggy trousers and shirt-up!

The best piece of advice I ever got for freelance writing was to “treat it like a job; not like a hobby!” Sometimes it’s easy to slip into living and working from home. The other thing that’s easy to slip into is the slippers – if I’m wearing joggers then I’m not ready for journalism. If I get up, groom and dress smartly enough then I’ll be much more focussed and my mind will be in the right place.

OBVIOUS: Organization is Your Friend

Any effective freelancer needs a solid work plan and they need to stick to it.

I have learnt the hard way that trying to mentally arrange all of your projects is detrimental to your work and your health. It’s a frantic freelance moment when – having left yourself a good few hours in the afternoon to complete that newspaper commission – you look back at the clock and it’s past seven.

There have been several sleepless nights where I have laid awake wondering just what I’d missed today – there have been even more sleepy days where I’m desperately racking my brain for what needs to be done.

And whether you’re old school or new school it doesn’t matter, as long as you find a managing method that works for you. I swing both ways: for my long-term planning I keep a day-to-day diary and for daily chores I use Google Tasks, Docs and Calendar.

On Laptop

Photo by Wonderlane

OBSCURE: Stay mobile

I don’t just mean in getting some quality fresh air everyday (which is vital!) This is something that I do myself to distinguish between work and play. The beauty of a laptop is that it can be mobile and so should you! If you want to take half an hour and watch some Seinfeld reruns online then do it AWAY from your work desk. The longer you spend there – having a break or breaking even – the more it feels like your slaving away at a desk.

Without a strong difference between relaxation and writing, your brain can never really relax. Instead, plug in the laptop in the lounge and do your Dexter marathon or Facebook stalking there. When you return to your work desk your brain should start returning to work mode.

It works for me; might just work for you?

OBVIOUS:

  • Set realistic targets – Don’t try going overboard to overcompensate; you’ll just keep snowballing and keep feeling worse…
  • Take regular breaks – Freelancing is a legitimate(ish) job so give yourself legitimate time off; take twenty minutes for a smoke and an hour for lunch…
  • Read! – One of the most important things you can do; you’ll enhance your knowledge, understand different article types/structures and inspire yourself for new pitches and queries…

Oh, and get down to Freelance Switch for some more excellent advice…

And seeing as I’ve shared in the NFD festivity, I will gladly accept gifts in return. Although I will accept fellow freelancing tips, anything that I can spend or eat would also be great!

Happy NFD!

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About Matthew Caines
Community & content for the Guardian Culture & Media professional networks | founder of @wannabehacks @withinreachmag | find him on Twitter @mattcaines

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