Never. NEVER thought I would do this. But I’m two months into flying solo as a freelancer and so far….so good, actually (and my final beta blocker is still sitting wrapped in its foil, not needing to go anywhere. Yet…)
Ah, if I’m honest, I’ve had the odd panic. But given the ups and downs of the last few months that may not be directly relatable to my new-found working life. And, to continue down the path of honesty, the panic all started after a night out drinking too many deceptively large glasses of wine in a trendy London bar (fancy a nightcap of bear fear? I swear somebody slipped a shit load of slow release anxiety and palpitations into that last glass of Pinot thinking I’d need a kick start in the morning).
So, I’ve been freelancing two months and I feel mighty privileged to have kick-started my new venture with three of the best clients ever. So, yeay me! But celebrations aside, here’s what I’ve learnt so far about what we need to do to make freelance life even more pleasant….
Feng shui the shit out of your haven
There are certain sources of bad energy in any home. And the most evil of those energies comes directly through your flat screen TV. Jeremy Kyle. It’s like something from the Poltergeist 1, 2 and 3 joining forces, crossing the streams and infecting you with demonic screams of ‘oi, you! button it!’. DO NOT allow Jeremy into your haven. If it has to be the telly, ‘Never Forget the 90s’ is pretty decent. Or blast some Absolute Radio through the telly box. OR, if like me you have just realised what that mysterious direct debit that’s been coming out of your bank account for the last 6 months is, then enjoy the Destiny’s Child back catalogue on Apple Music.
So the 90s ambience is sorted. And thanks to a rather expensive, highly under-utilised six months, there’s unlimited music available at the touch of a button. But beware…it’s incredibly easy to sit on your arse in your pyjamas in the lounge. And keep going. And keep going. Boundaries, missy (*slaps own wrist*). So, I’ve chucked all the crap out of the office, added some nice new picture frames and Christmas candles (sorry. Not sorry.) and I now have a contained workspace, that smells like Christmas and sounds like angels singing (currently on album 2 of my seemingly unlimited Destiny’s Child archive).
Get a shower FFS!
I’m not gonna lie. If you think nobody’s going to see you all day it’s pretty easy to stay in your pyjamas and let your hair go for three days without a shampoo. But it starts to drag you down. Beyoncé’s singing about Independent Women through your iPhone (I’ve not sussed out how to use hubby’s boom bar yet – luddite tendencies) and you’re like, ugh, I’ve been wearing this t-shirt and spag bol stain for four days now…
You might not be leaving the house today but before you start work get your daily routine in order. Get showered, brush your teeth, get dressed, feed the cats, shout at Katie Hopkins or some Tory MP on Twitter, make a cup of tea and ONLY THEN should you fire up the laptop. Otherwise you’ll be sitting there stinking like a festering old dressing gown complete with tea-stains, a greasy mop and yesterday’s mascara.
Myer’s Briggs told you to be extroverted. So what are you waiting for…
I do quite enjoy working from home. And given the fact that I over-share on every social channel in existence (bar Snap Chat where my luddite tendencies go into overdrive) I think I feed my high-scoring extroversion a good diet of external expression. Still, freelancing can be a lonely existence if you don’t have IRL conversations to satisfy your need to talk, debate, gossip about EastEnders in between emails.
Luckily for me, I have tonnes of freelance friends. I’m not sure if we’re all incredibly brave or just a bit shit at working in the office environment. Regardless, a trip to Tom’s burrow for high tea (think Hyacinth Bucket on Tyneside) and me, Rosie and Charlotte are fuelled with calories and conversation to keep us going til wine o’clock (I hate myself for using that phrase too.)
If you don’t have your own Tom Bucket and associated burrow (i.e. purpose built office at the bottom of the garden) then get your arse into the local coffee shops where you’ll find all the other freelancers plugged in, switched on and flying high with endless espressos and double chocolate cake.
On the subject of caffeine…
I think I drink MORE caffeine working from home. No idea why. It’s possibly to divert my attention away from the chocolate chip muffins and Wotsits that keep winking at me every time I open the cupboard.
By the end of the day I’m fired up instead of shutting down. And too many cups of tea and Diet Cokes create far too many loo breaks which only interrupt a busy day (having said that, running up and down the stairs might tone my bum ready for the Costa Del Sol’s busy beaches next month…)
Get out and breathe
It’s FAR too easy to sit in the house day in, day out. The number I’ve times I’ve had my lunch on my lap, scooping up a cheesy jacket spud with a fork in my left hand, while my right hand continues to refresh Twitter on my laptop to see if that Tory MP has blocked me yet (dammit…maybe I wasn’t harsh enough? One day I’ll get one of those much sought-after ‘blocked’ screengrabs).
Set a lunch break and head out the front door. Even if it’s just to the post office to pay for the newspapers (that’s not my luddite tendencies kicking in…that’s my nostalgic way of supporting the Guardian’s responsible news reporting).
Tomorrow never comes…stop worrying about it
I’m enjoying this freelance lifestyle. I’ve got enough work booked in to see me through to 2019 and I’m feeling damn good. But, wait…what if…what if it all dries up. What if…what if…
Ah fuck you anxiety. If tomorrow gets too close, I’ll look for employment. But whilst my fabulous new clients are keeping me busy, I’ll stop panicking and start living this life I only ever dreamed of. It’s real. And I’m doing it. And I’ve re-discovered Janet Jackson on Apple Music (ahem…I’ll switch back to Violent Femmes and Sonic Youth shortly…I’m just on a break…)
A Series Of Unfortunate Stereotypes, my book about mental health stereotypes, self-stigma and 80s and 90s nostalgia, published by charitable mental health publisher Trigger Press, is available now