Most people I know are searching for the perfect work/life balance. One option is going freelance, question is does it offer he hallowed flexibility we crave? Or is it a hotbed of insecurity and never finding time for holiday? Here journalist & editor Hannah Silver aka Mundane Mummy tells all:
• For a lot of people, going freelance holds the same inviting, elusive air;
coupled with moving to the country as Something You Will Do One Day.
• There’s no commute or anyone breathing down your neck, but just like
moving to the country, it’s not all roses around the door and better quality
of life. Unexpected loneliness, at first, can make you feel like you live in
beautiful isolation even when you’re holed up in a Hackney flat.
• Live by the Guides motto and be prepared. Before you take the leap,
make sure everyone knows you’re doing it and that you’re looking for
work. It’s a lot easier to be freelance when you’ve already done your time
in the industry. Keep your contacts close.
• You need good WiFi. You really really need good WiFi. Be prepared to
have a small breakdown if it breaks / you move house and have to wait
weeks for it, spending your evenings on your laptop on the pavement in
Hoxton Square stealing the free public one (ahem).
• Flexi working is a great thing, or will be when it exists. At the moment, it
• Now if we’re lucky we don’t have to work 9-5. We have to work all the
time. We’re sold the dream of our days being our own – and they really
can be – but the increasingly blurred lines between work and leisure come
with their own disadvantages.
• The main one being, you can never switch off. In my early twenties, I’d
race out of work the second the clock hit six and not give it another
thought until ten am the next day. Every freelancer will laugh, slightly
hysterically, at the thought of doing this now.
• Weekends and evenings are your new Monday morning – a time to get shit
• Your emails WILL OWN YOU. You can’t miss a commission – what if they
never try you again? (Or so your paranoia will tell you – in reality, once
you’ve found a regular job they tend to be loyal.) You have to respond
speedily to clients – word of mouth is e v e r y t h i n g.
• Just a note on word of mouth – I have got every single job in the last ten
years through word of mouth, whether it’s recommendations, people
moving jobs and employing me in their new capacities, PRs hearing of
roles and telling me to apply etc. I’m not great at networking, and you don’t
necessarily have to be, but once you have a job, do it well and be nice…
• … but don’t let them take advantage. Don’t be so frightened they’ll go to
someone else that you let them walk all over you. Know your worth and
charge it. Don’t back down. For example, if they keep coming back to you
with amendments and you end up doing the same piece of work 15 times,
say something – and learn from it. Next time, tell them to begin with how
many edits you can offer.
• If you’re not sure what to charge, join freelancer groups and hover / ask
questions. Look on Facebook, for a start. I’m a member of a female
freelance journalist group on Facebook who are militant about getting the
rates you deserve – if you take a lower payment, it impacts negatively on
• Don’t go above and beyond. I learnt the hard way that if you start replying
to emails on a Sunday night, people start expecting you to – and you don’t
get paid extra for it. Quickly, a brief note on a Sunday can become a client
emailing you on Friday at 9pm and again, tartly, on Sunday morning
asking you if you’ve seen the below? Don’t do it! Work at this time by all
means, but consider lining up emails to send on a Monday morning. Stick
to office hours for correspondence which will help set boundaries.
• Say goodbye to maternity pay / holiday pay / weekly birthday cakes.
• Ride the wave. There’ll be times you have so much work on you’re crying
into your computer at midnight wondering how you’re going to get it done.
And there’ll be times when you have so little work on you’ll be crying into
your computer at midnight wondering if you should jack it all in. In both
cases, you’ll survive. If you need to find something else to tide you over,
• There’s something about freelancing when you have kids, in particular,
that makes you feel unnecessarily apologetic.
• It may turn you into a serial liar. Baby unexpectedly woken up and
screaming over the monitor while you interview the CEO of a huge luxury
brand? Your colleague has brought her baby in. Slogging up the hill in
Hackney Downs with buggy, dog and scooter when client rings an hour
later than they’d said? You’re just running into a meeting (I have said this
so many times – on the nursery run, at school plays, laying in bed with my
newborn daughter two days after giving birth).
• As well as becoming a liar, you’ll become a people pleaser. You’ll say yes.
To everything. You’ll ward off the ever-looming freelancer fear with a
chirpy, can-do attitude, where nothing is too much trouble and everything
can be done right away.
• You’ll also become a little tiny bit unhinged. Days will lose their sharp
focus, and acceptable times to get dressed and eat lunch – and what you
eat for lunch – will become foggy. You’ll relish going to the post office and
enjoy standing in the queue rolling your eyes at how long it’s taking, along
with everyone else. When you do go to an event, you’ll be the last to leave
every single time, so excited are you to be out, dressed nicely and with
• Despite all this negativity, despite the fact you’re juggling every single ball
and dropping them all, despite the stress and the fear and the loneliness –
it’s all worth it.
• It’s the best decision I ever made.
• Last Monday at 10am my youngest daughter stood in front of me, covered
her face with her hand and said BOO! for the first time, with such pure
delight and pride I cried. Being there with them the majority of the week is
a privilege. About.. 64% of the time. But that’s good odds.
• Yes you’ll have to pay for it that night but you really can take the day off
whenever you fancy, and as long as you get the work done, your time is
your own. It’s liberating.
• You can work in bed. You can go for a run or get your hair done when you
fancy it. You can be in to sign for your packages. You can avoid the
commute and you can escape the rat race and all the existential doom this
• You can still do a job you love (and you must feel passionate about it to do
this) but on your terms. You can still set a great example to your kids, but
without the crippling guilt that comes with missing the summer concert.
• Yes, there’s no holiday pay, but you don’t need to switch off as
desperately if you don’t hate the job you do. Saying that, it’s still important
to take a break and put your out of ‘office’ on when you are spending
quality family time. Sometimes, things can wait.
• There’s no getting around the fact maternity pay is a hassle. Freelancers
can claim maternity allowance but it’s so low it may be worthwhile to
continue working (it was for me). Once you’re settled though, working
around a little baby is easy, and than later nap times and evenings are
magic. The pay-off, of course, is you don’t have to rush back to the office
full time before they’e one. Peaks and troughs.
• There’ll be the odd wobble, the odd dream job that makes you think, what
if . . But once you’ve been freelance, it has to be something incredible if
it’s going to tie you back to your desk.