What My First Full Year Taught Me About Freelancing, Full Time Blogging And Going It Alone

What My First Full Year Taught Me About Freelancing, Full Time Blogging And Going It Alone

This year has been really eventful. And actually one of my worst years on record. If it wasn’t for doing that Instagram Look Back on my stories then I honestly think I’d have left 2018 feeling like nothing good happened. But that’s what happens when the year seems overwhelming, it seems like there’s no good – when really there is. The simple act of showcasing my happiest moments from the year on my Insta Stories reminded me that 2018 may have been sad, tragic and hard, but it’s also been eventful, memorable and a huge year of change. I’ve learned a lot – probably more than I’ve learned in other years in recent memory, and as a creative person I welcome the chance to change, learn and grow all the time. So I’m trying to flip my negativity into something positive!

The biggest accomplishment from 2018 was without a doubt my work. It’s the thing that makes me so incredibly proud and also gives me a lot of pinch-me moments. When I had Hayden in 2017 I expected to go back into my full-time PR Management role afterwards, but so much changed and I couldn’t sit still during my maternity leave! That’s the creative in me you see, my brain never stops! So I started a business 7 weeks after he arrived (stupid or brave, I still don’t know) and it’s evolved a lot from there, changed direction and become a career I could honestly only have dreamed of. But within that journey, into full time blogging and going it alone, I’ve learned some really vital lessons in going freelance. Both practical and personal, it’s been a journey full of discovery…

Why I went freelance

You need savings behind you…

One of the first lessons in going freelance it’s almost impossible to do it without any money behind you. Some people may achieve it – but I’m skeptical. Because everyone has to start somewhere and businesses need money to begin. Even those stories you hear where the founder ‘started with nothing’ actually show that they did start with something, even if it was very little. Whether that was a couple of hundred/thousand pounds on stock to sell, or money for websites/branding etc. It’s (in my opinion) impossible to build a business with nothing behind you. So you’ll need to build a nest-egg first. The other thing I’ve learned – the hard way – is that without savings you won’t make it. As a freelancer/blogger etc you’ll quickly learn that an invoice paid on time is rare. And sometimes they don’t get paid at all. There’s a lot less financial security in being self employed so the sensible thing is to make sure you have savings. It will surprise you how often you need to dig in to them.

How to start a freelance business

You must be willing to sacrifice pretty much everything at times…

Being self employed and going it alone isn’t for the faint hearted, it’s not easy and you need to be brave. There’s tonnes of curve balls you don’t expect and it’s never plain sailing. I wasn’t sure at times I could hack it to be honest – and I’m a strong person. What it’s taught me is that freelancing and being self employed isn’t for everyone – and neither is full time blogging. There’s so many reasons why, but trust me on this one: it’s not for everyone, and that’s okay. And it sounds heartless but the biggest lesson I’ve learned this year is that you must be willing to sacrifice everything to build your empire. Times with the family, social events with friends – while your business is establishing you’ll find you need to miss these. And probably more times than your comfortable with. It’s tough to chew right? But it’s a fact. I’ve missed countless social events, I’ve felt like a bad mum for having to sacrifice time with my kids when I’ve had a week full of meetings etc – but I’m building this business to provide stability for my family. So for me it has to be done. It’s incredibly hard, and a major source of mum-guilt for me. I also rarely get ‘date nights’ or time alone with my fiance, it’s been a huge strain on our relationship but he supports me and what I’m building, so we’ve come through it. But it’s a storm we weather, and it’s not easy. Don’t ever let anyone tell you freelance or self employed life is easy. Especially at tax return time.

Mark your milestones…

One of the fun lessons in going freelance and things I’ve learned, is to mark milestones. When you work in an office and hit your targets, your boss will praise you, send an email to the team or something similar. Well you work alone there’s none of that, so it’s important to be your own source of praise. Heck, you deserve it! I celebrate the little things with a treat – a nice dinner, a new lipstick etc. But I celebrate the big things more. Because I’ve achieved something that deserves it, and it’s important for my motivation levels. When I made my first £10k I marked it with a piece of jewellery – I wear it everyday. When I’ve paid my upcoming tax return and marked one full year ‘on my own’ I have another treat lined up. And at Christmas I marked surviving my first full festive season (as crazy as it was!) with a spa day.

How I became a full time bloggrt

Try to switch off regularly…

This is my biggest problem. I’ve learned the need to regularly switch-off, but putting it in to action is hard for me. To be honest, near impossible. The problem with being a freelancer and self employed is that there’s no one else to call on when a client needs something. And usually because you’re a freelancer, they assume (in the nicest possible way) that you’re just sat at home – and therefore can be called on for anything and everything. (That’s another lesson: manage their expectations from the beginning!) It’s also really hard to relax and switch off in the evenings when your home – your comfortable place – is also your office. Your brain can’t switch off when your work is physically within reach. It’s tough and if anyone finds the right balance, send me tips! Just because I haven’t fully mastered switching off though, doesn’t mean I don’t need it. I realised before Christmas I was near burn out. 3 solid months with rarely a day off. In fact if I’m honest there probably wasn’t a single day where I didn’t do anything for work. My brain and nerves were fried. I know this year I have to make more effort to switch off for the sake of my health. (And my poor fiance who bears the brunt of my frustrations!)

Fake friends, trolls and ‘online life’…

People are mean, really mean, online. And I never knew the strength I’d have to dig deep and find just to cope with it. Like I said, I’m a tough cookie but this year has tested me like no other. But it’s actually no different to any other working market place or sector. Every sector has competition, nastiness, bitchiness…but when you work online the platform brings it to the forefront, whereas everywhere else you probably don’t even know the things that get said about you or your work. And ignorance is bliss. Learning to accept nastiness, bullies and trolls is hard – but it’s part and parcel with being online. Likewise I’ve also learned about fake friends – the ones who chat to you, cheerlead for you but behind your back they can’t get enough of being nasty about you. There’s lots of those sharks and I’ve learned to truly only trust a handful of online peeps for this reason. It’s a painful lesson when you have to learn it the hard way, but the thing is that digital conversations are so fluid you’ll often find out what’s been said about you – whether that’s good or bad, I don’t know. Don’t let either the trolls or fake friends steal your joy.

How to become a full time blogger

Keep your eyes on your own lane…

It’s so easy to get distracted by what others are doing – no matter what your job is. You can’t help but compare. But comparison is the thief of joy and it steals away your pride and motivation and stops you taking as much pleasure in your finished work. If you’re constantly comparing your content, your client list, your collabs, then you’ll never be satisfied with them because there will always be someone else seemingly doing it better. (Doesn’t actually mean they are.) The nature of any job or career is that there will always be someone cheaper, someone with different experience…and the joy of blogging is that there will always feel like there is someone else getting more favour, getting more collabs and generally doing it better. They may actually be, they may actually not be, you’ll never know. Remember, Instagram isn’t reality, no matter what it looks like. But like any market place, blogging, freelancing, influencers etc:  it’s saturated, and talent should be celebrated not feared. Don’t measure your own worth and value as a blogger or influencer based on what others are doing – they’ll have a whole different set of credentials so it’s really a pointless exercise. Keep your eyes on your own lane, focus less on what others do and you’ll find a better level of self-worth and appreciation of your work.

Always retain your worth, never agree to terms that don’t reflect your…

I think I maybe learnt this before 2018, but it’s something I’ve found myself noticing in others a lot over the past year: bloggers often complaining about fellow bloggers getting paid for a campaign that they received no fee for. And it really bugs me because why would you accept any campaign you weren’t happy with? If the terms don’t meet your standards, then why say yes in the first place? You’ll never know who is getting paid, if there truly is budget available or if it’s just a gifting campaign. You’ll need to treat every email and offer individually and accept or decline based on your value. Because then it won’t matter if you got paid or not. Don’t accept samples if you really want a fee. Learn to say no if you’re not happy with something, it’s one of the key lessons in going freelance and being a blogger too.

How to be a freelancer

It’s going to be the most rewarding success of your life…

When you work for yourself either as a blogger or freelancer, the success you feel is like no other. You’ve achieved it all on your own, with little or no help. You’ve created campaigns, produced work and/or delivered content way past your clients expectations. It’s the best feeling and I’ve never known anything like it. It’s job satisfaction to the max and exciting all in one. When you know how much went in to building your empire, how much you scarified and how much sheer grit it took to make it, then the success you achieve when you work for yourself is like no other. So yes, to me it’s worth it.

…So those are my top lessons in going freelance – and that ended up being a lot longer than I expected, and I even had to cut some out! Maybe I should do a ‘Lessons In Going Freelance part 2’?! Who knows. But I’ve genuinely learnt so much in the past year, things I half anticipated and things I had no idea about. But most of all I’ve learnt that going it alone is a journey, and on journeys you never stop learning. So I’m excited to see what lessons the next 12 months have in store and where my business will go during that time. One thing is for sure, I’ve found a career I adore, the type I never thought existed and feel like the luckiest girl in the world to get to do something I so genuinely and thoroughly love.

Read the rest of my posts on blogging tips and tricks and how to maximise it here.

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What going freelance has taught me

Photo’s by Fordtography.

21 Comments

  1. January 1, 2019 / 10:50 am

    Such a great post! 2018 was the year I pretty much went full-time with my blog and although I’m still working on it and building it up I can definitely relate to a lot of what you’ve said here! x

  2. January 1, 2019 / 12:20 pm

    I think going freelance is honestly such a ballsy step and one i’ve always wondered about doing. It really annoys me that people can be so cruel online – they have not idea that they’re actually damaging someones business. I love your content and wish you a successful 2019!

  3. January 1, 2019 / 7:31 pm

    such an inspiring read, I couldn’t agree with you more on so many points! Definitely agree with you on just not accepting work that doesn’t sit right with you, I guess that way it avoids disappointment when you do see someone being paid! Hope you have an amazing 2019 xx

  4. January 2, 2019 / 9:39 am

    Can totally relate to this post! You killed it in 2018 though gal x

  5. January 2, 2019 / 5:20 pm

    Just the thought of doing this make me sweat! I’m blogging as a hobby though, so making it a business and earning money from it has never been on the agenda. You have done so brilliantly though, it really is an inspiration! 🙂

    Sarah 🌺 || Boxnip

  6. January 2, 2019 / 5:53 pm

    You were so brave, I couldn’t do it! Love how good your photos are on this post too xx

  7. Alicia
    January 3, 2019 / 5:43 pm

    This is such a great insight to full time blogging and some amazing tips too! – Alicia XO

  8. January 3, 2019 / 8:08 pm

    Amazing post Chloe. You’ve done so incredibly well and you’re one of the bloggers who I aspire to be like someday. Congratulations on reaching your first year and here’s to many more.

    http://littlemissmelanie.com

  9. Erin
    January 4, 2019 / 10:07 pm

    I love you to bits Chloe, don’t for a second think people don’t have your back. Take the good with the bad, I can’t believe you have had Trolls, I can’t think why anyone would do that, but there are more of us who support you than put you down. Reach out to us, we should chat more! 🙂 Also, you have smashed this year career wise, your blog is fantastic, your photos are beautiful, and you are doing so well, without sacrificing any of yourself in the process, you should be proud 🙂

    Erin || MakeErinOver

  10. January 5, 2019 / 3:11 pm

    Sounds like you’ve had a brilliant year, I can’t believe you started this business only seven weeks after having your little boy – AMAZING! You definitely need to mark your milestones and praise yourself for the hard work you’ve done, and switch off to make sure you have some downtime. Really good advice! xx

  11. January 5, 2019 / 4:07 pm

    I honestly thought you had been full time for much longer. I really loved reading this piece & can’t wait to see what your second year brings. I know you’ve had a lot happen this year but hopefully 2019 can be kinder to you

  12. January 6, 2019 / 8:53 pm

    This is such a brilliant post and something I need to take with me this year for sure xx

  13. January 6, 2019 / 10:02 pm

    I agree with so much of this. Freelancing is glamourised but also shunned equally too. It’s a damn good achievement and sometimes I remind people around me that I’m not just a freelancer but I’m building a business. Every decision impacts me financially and for the future and that to me is so important to be recognised. Well done, you’ve done so well to get this far and this will see you through with the attitude and work ethic you have! I wrote a similar post recently about my 9 months of freelancing and the pros and cons I’ve discovered. Every few months something else changes that makes me regain or even lose control! Not many careers can you reflect on your achievements like a freelancer does.

    http://www.thebeautytype.com

  14. January 7, 2019 / 12:12 pm

    This post is sooo helpful for people thinking of taking the plunge!
    I also loveeee the snaps in this post!

  15. January 7, 2019 / 7:32 pm

    This is such a good post! I am in a similar position in that I go on maternity leave in April and I have no idea how go back to my full time job and make it all work. I would love to be able to work for myself. I know it’s so much harder, but definitely worth the achievement. I’m so happy for you, it’s inspiring seeing someone else go through the process, well done! x

  16. January 8, 2019 / 12:50 pm

    I have been thinking about starting something of my own for a while, and these tips are really useful!

  17. January 12, 2019 / 6:47 pm

    Congratulations on hitting your one-year milestone Chloe – you’ve created some really gorgeous content this year (and some really thought-provoking stuff too) and you deserve to be proud of what you’ve achieved!

    As for your points around balance and taking time off, well, I’m reading Shona Rhimes’ Year of Yes right now and there’s some stuff in there that’s really resonating with me – as she started to say yes to more professional opportunities, she learned to say yes to switching off and more time with her children too and it’s really powerful stuff. Worth adding to the to-read list, I reckon.

    Anyway, here’s to Year 2 – looking forward to seeing what comes next!

    Lis / last year’s girl x

  18. January 13, 2019 / 7:53 am

    Congrats on your first year. You’ve done amazing, I couldn’t even imagine making a business out of my blog. Great post, I never quite realised all the pros and cons of going it alone. Here’s to you having many more years of success.

  19. January 21, 2019 / 1:35 pm

    These should be words to live by, you’ve mentioned so many great points! Especially when you touch on it being a 24/7 thing. Only thing I can suggest, is that when I used to work from home, after a set time, I locked my work laptop away, and wasn’t allowed to go get it. Not sure how easy that if for blogging as its everywhere!!

    I really don’t understand when people are cruel online. Its almost like they forget that there is a human, with feelings the other end of it, and just see the ‘brand’.

    Cant wait to see what 2019 brings!

    Em x

    http://www.emsworld.co.uk

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