Musings on working for yourself by Mark Ecob
‘Mark, it really is priceless being nobody’s b*tch’
Said a contact of mine when I started out on my own. And they were so right. But Freelanceland has its own topography to negotiate, you trade in-house issues for out-of-house issues. The trick is to keep the balance in your favour.
Gone are the days lining someone else’s pocket with your efforts and generally dancing to the beat of their drum. But gone too are the accounts department, IT support, the security of a monthly salary, the flow of work, team members who can help you out when you’re busy and the line manager who will listen to your problems.
It’s a cliché to mention all of the extra skills you have to pick up – being designer, accountant, IT, and marketing all in one, that’s the easy bit. It’s the routine things that you don’t think about that are the most surprising, and the biggest is managing yourself.
If I didn’t have kids, I think I would have to get into a studio with other designers (never say never). But as it is, they’re a great leveller. They bookend my day, and I’ve learnt to work effectively in the time I have. If you sit in front of the telly with your laptop all day, you’ll never get anything done. Have a time you go to work, and a time you stop. In the middle of the day make the most of a quiet hour to yourself or get out to run an errand.
Human contact and getting out of the home studio is essential. My partner and I are lucky to have a dedicated space to run the business from, it’s sacred, but physically getting out of Dodge is really important. Before doing so, I was Mr Chatty – too much conversation with the Postman scared him away. Then I discovered co-working spaces, and events like Jelly where you get a free day a month working with other work-at-homers in the local area. I set up a lunch group for other freelancers too. All good, but being a miser who didn’t want to pay for a desk space, I looked for something else. I dialled up the London.
Showing my portfolio to new clients, having coffee with old ones, and best of all – becoming Associate Art Director for Unbound, have all mixed my working routine into a nice balance. Getting out to where your clients are is really important to your sanity, but also to keep up with what’s going on. Just being with other motivated humans is the basically the point.
If you are motivated in your work, you’ll be fine, but if you’re not the kind of person to kick your own behind into gear then working at home is probably not for you. When I’m ill, I still work – unless my hand has dropped off or I can sit up straight, there is always something I can do. Here’s my golden tip. If you’re sat there with no energy to work – just start. Pick up your pen, Wacom or otherwise, and just begin something, the rest will come.
There are a hundred things I could say about working for yourself, a blog doesn’t really cover it, but suffice to say your out-of-house view (and the things that come with it) is very different from working for The Man, and the learning never stops. I’m not saying I have the balance right, I work too much, but I’m getting there.
At the end of the day, I’m nobody’s b*tch (well, apart from my kids’ that is).
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