As I settled into my freelance career, however, I began to find the routines that actually worked for me. Even though financially I wasn’t as stable as I had been, I finally felt free, confident and strong enough to work independently. I fell in love with working in coffee shops, scheduling client meetings and handling my own business. Even the stress that comes with managing multiple client accouns alone felt like success — an achievement that I actually had a client base to stress over.
But with the new year came a period of reflection for me, as I finally took my first holiday from freelance work and spent some time working on myself instead. I began to notice that there were things I missed about full-time work, about the office life and the stability that comes with long term employment. Whilst I don’t think I would ever want to return to full-time employment, I do want to share some of the factors I’ve been missing recently — maybe in the hope of finding that I’m not the only freelancer who also feels the exact same way.
Listen to What I Miss About Working Full-Time
If you can’t tell from my podcast ‘The Lonely Freelancer’, sometimes working for yourself can feel a little isolating. Without a team around you, your work becomes entirely all-consuming and hours can steadily pass without you even opening your mouth on some days. For majority of the time, I do love working alone. I like being able to curate my working day, prioritise my own tasks and allow my unfiltered creativity to come through. I also like the acknowledgement that comes with a completed project, that I achieved this all on my own and I’m proud of that. But I am also increasingly aware that my own social circle is relatively small, and almost every single person I know now has formed a relationship with me through a working environment. I met my boyfriend at work, I met some of my best friends at work, I go out for drinks with ex-colleagues, I speak to them online, I ask them for advice on new client work…I am incredibly grateful for the people I know now and I do worry about what the future will hold for my self-employed social status. It’s hard to make friends as an adult and even harder to make friends when you spend most of your days working alone in your flat. Without shared lunch breaks, Christmas parties, after-work drinks and team building days, it can feel like here are so few opportunities to connect with other people in this life and I’m still working on figuring that side of the business out.
It’s important for me to acknowledge that right now, I love working alone. I love connecting with new clients and managing projects and scheduling tasks. But sometimes, just sometimes, it would be nice to have someone else to share the load. Someone else working with the same client, someone else who understands the intricacies of the business and who can provide that much needed sounding board when the work begins to pile up. Someone to empathise with my workload. Some days I also miss having a role, having just one job to do and being able to do that job incredibly well — without worrying about all of the other elements involved. Becoming a project manager, accounts team, marketing taskforce and client communicator can be overwhelming and stressful, and there are definitely times when I miss just being a small marketer in a much larger team.
When you work in a full-time role, although the hours might be longer, the time you spend worrying about work is often shorter. For most people, their jobs require a commitment of 9–5, 5 days a week (*although there are definite exceptions i.e. medical professions, emergency services, etc…). My job requires a commitment of 7–10, 7 days a week. Although I won’t spend every single one of those hours working, it can often feel impossible to stop thinking about work. Clients can email you at any given time of day or night, bugs can be found, websites can break and questions need to be answered and it’s your job to respond to them. Waiting for feedback on a project can feel agonising, and you’ll be checking your emails constantly for a reply. For marketing in particular, even the simple act of using social media can be a reminder of work, with new platform updates and trends appearing every single day. When you work in a full-time role, you’re encouraged to switch off at the end of the day, to go home and relax. For a freelancer, your working hours aren’t just flexible, they’re constant and you need to be available for contact every single hour of the week. It can feel like a lot of pressure and can be incredibly draining to adjust to at first.
Access to Support
Since becoming a freelancer, Google has become my new best friend. Without in-house access to IT teams, accounts departments and HR representatives, being self-employed often means trying to find your own support on a very strict deadline. If my laptop breaks or my internet cuts out, there’s no one for me to turn to for help. I can’t simply ring down to IT to ask for an update or for a replacement computer — I have to find the solution myself or wait for a fix. As every hour of the day is counted for, with expectant clients and deadlines to meet, this is a big drain on time that is always unpaid. I often miss being able to ask someone else for help with technical issues, being able to rely on someone other than myself (and my begrudging boyfriend) and to be able to get the problem fixed so much faster than I’m currently able to.
One of the biggest things I miss about working full-time? Having a reliable, consistent income every single month. Whilst I have great clients who are fantastic at prompt invoice payments, there are always months where money feels tight and my sense of financial security begins to worry me. Luckily I am a stage in my life where I have no major financial debts (students loans notwithstanding), no dependents and no huge bills to fork out for but I still have rent to pay, food to buy and travel to accommodate for. Over particularly spend-heavy periods like Christmas, money can be an even bigger struggle and it’s often hard to create budgets without knowing just how much work could come in over the next three months or so. This unstable income could also pose a problem when it comes to looking for property or trying to lease out a flat or office space. Without a consistent monthly income, landlords are much less likely to offer me accommodation should I choose to move out — one of the biggest disadvantages of being a freelancer.
However…I wouldn’t change what I do. Today I’m writing this blog post in my cosy flat, with rain pouring down outside onto my window, as I sit with a hot cup of coffee in my comfiest cardigan. I woke up early and started the day truly productive and motivated. It’s quiet and calm and controlled and I love it.