Freelancing: 2 month review

I’ve been freelancing full-time for 2 months now and since it’s the end of the year, I’ve been evaluating where I am and what I can do to improve over the coming year.

A prerequisite: why I quit my job

I didn’t quit my job to try and build a multi-million pound company, or to spend 18 hours a day working while not seeing my family and friends. In fact, it’s quite the reverse.

Here are the broad strokes of what I wanted to achieve by quitting my job:

  • Improve my physical and mental health (lose a little weight, play more sport, be happier)
  • Increase my creative freedom (pick and choose clients/projects, work where I want, when I want)
  • To broaden my horizons and seize new opportunities (in particular, I want to focus on my writing but who knows what might be coming next)

What went well

Reached my financial goal

Money—I was of no doubt—would be the biggest cause of stress. More specifically: lack of money and poor cash flow. My initial target was to match my salary for the first three months which would help alleviate some of the stress and worries and I’ve managed to do that. My monthly outgoings have also decreased (no commuting costs, not buying lunch every day, etc.).

Improved my health

I’m generally exercising more and eating better. I’ve lost some weight (and put some back on over Christmas). I’ve just joined a local squash club. I’m not as tired and I’m happier and less stressed. This is, of course, a sliding spectrum that changes from one day to the next but it feels like I’m heading in the right direction.

My mailing list

I’m four newsletters in and having great fun with my mailing list. I ran a competition to encourage signups (you can read about that here: How I Grew My Mailing List from 0 to 238 in 3 Weeks) and now have around 250 subscribers.

What went ok

Daily writing

I write best in the morning—with a clear head and a mug of coffee—so I try and get up around 6am. Some mornings I achieve this and others I waste an hour on Twitter, Facebook, and Amazon. Occasionally, I won’t even get up until 8am. Next year I’ll be focusing on turning writing into a daily habit: something I just do, regardless of inspiration or motivation.

Stop working at a reasonable hour

I try as much as possible to stop work when my wife finishes (which alternates as she works shifts). Some days I finish at 5pm and others 8pm. We then sit down and eat together and perhaps watch a bit of TV. I’ve been fairly good at this but there’s definitely room for improvement. The office is out-of-bounds past 9pm and that has worked well.

Routine

When you’re an employee and you turn up to the office at the same time, eat lunch at the same time, and leave work at the same time, there’s a natural routine that develops. When working at home, it’s a different story. You have to work at creating a routine.

I’ve worked hard at getting up at the same time (6am), going to bed at the same time (9pm) and going to sleep at the same time (10.30-11pm). This allows for plenty of time to read in the evening (which incidentally is the best way I’ve found to fall a sleep). To avoid distractions and the temptation to check email, I’ve banned screens from the bedroom (with the exception of the Kindle). I’ve found I’m reading more than ever and feeling refreshed and ready to work in the morning.

What went badly

Distractions

I try to get in the zone, that elusive phase of hyper focus, as much as possible. If I’m lucky, I’ll achieve this for an hour a day. Notifications pinging, the phone ringing, IM buzzing, etc. are all to blame for breaking focus (if I’m not to blame myself).

I’m conscious of the huge amount of time that email takes up despite trying to keep Airmail closed as much as possible throughout the day. That said, 16%1 of the total time on my Mac has been used for communication and the vast majority of that is email2, followed by IM. I also spend an alarming amount of time on social media (12%) although this does include weekends and downtime.

Not spending time on my business

I’ve booked in days on the calendar to ‘work on my business’. This could be working on the new 16by9 website, working on documentation, processes, marketing, etc. These days would constantly slip due to incoming client work, a proposal I’d need to write, or a meeting I’d need to attend. Spending time on my business has taken a back seat when it shouldn’t.

Not getting involved in local events

Working at home, in solitary, can quickly become isolating and lonely (although I do have a lovely work colleague to keep me company). Being an introvert, this suits me most of the time. I’ve not been to any local events recently, though, and this is something I need to work at especially as there’s great stuff happening around Birmingham.

Things I’ll be working at over the next 2 months

  • Wake at 6am every day of the week and write (at least) 500 words.
  • Finish the working day at 8pm latest (only under extreme circumstances can this be broken).
  • Allocate a minimum of 8 hours a week to work on my business.
  • Half the time I spend on social media (to around 6%) by using RescueTime to block access throughout the day.
  • Cut down how long I spend on email by checking it three times a day: at 9am, 12am and 4pm. Try and get this down to below 10% of total time (currently 16%).
  • Keep writing for the mailing list and blog as often as possible.
  • Attend at least one local event or conference.
  • Revise my business plan (I’ll be writing about this soon).
  • Play squash at least once a week, walk on average 10,000 steps a day.

That about covers it. What will you be working on in 2015?

Happy New Year, everyone.

  1. I use RescueTime, an app that runs in the background and tells you how many minutes you’ve spent on productive or unproductive apps.
  2. 16% doesn’t include the time I check email on my phone, which is too often.

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