A warm welcome to Tamara, over at Doodles Of A Journo, our guest poster today.
Many people dream of having a job where they can work from home, choose their own projects and control their own working hours. It sounds like bliss. Often, however, the reality is somewhat different. Being your own boss means solving your own problems – from keeping your workspace tidy to managing your own accounts, doing your own admin and bringing in your own clients.
It’s definitely doable, but it will be infinitely easier if you put reliable support systems in place for yourself. For example, I am useless at keeping tabs on numbers and managing my financial paperwork, so I outsource this to a professional accountant. This not only takes a huge weight off my shoulders, but means that things get done on time, my desk isn’t buried under half-finished balance sheets (it’s actually buried under half-finished story ideas instead) and I don’t end up paying penalties for overdue tax returns and so on.
One of the major unforeseen issues I’ve come across in my ongoing journey towards fulltime freelancing (I currently work for a company in the mornings and freelance in the afternoons) is that of remaining professional. I hadn’t really thought about it before, but I’ve realised that it’s difficult to get clients if people don’t take you seriously. And it’s difficult to get people to take you seriously if you come across as unprofessional.
Here are a few tips I’ve found that have really helped me in this area. I’d appreciate any other advice you have that might help those of us who are working from home (or planning to).
- Dress the part. If you turn up to a meeting with a potential client wearing your gym pants that you’ve had since 1985 paired with grubby flip flops, you’re not likely to be seen as professional. Even if the meeting is at your house and you don’t feel the need to wear a suit, make a little effort to look good. Put on make-up and comb your hair. Clients need to know you’re willing to put in the time and effort on their projects, but they’re not going to feel that way if you can’t even be bothered to brush your teeth. When I first started doing telephonic interviews as a journalist, I actually dressed up just for the phone call. My thinking was that if I look professional, I feel professional and then I act professionally.
- Be reliable. Just because you’re not working regular office hours doesn’t mean your clients aren’t. If you say you’ll email a document to a client by close of business, make sure it’s there by close of business. Don’t send it at 9pm because that’s when you feel like being online.
- Keep up with your industry. Nobody will take you seriously if you’re not onboard with the latest trends and news. For example, if I want to pitch a story to a magazine, I check that it hasn’t been covered before and make sure that I have a good grasp on the magazine’s content before I contact the editor at all. If I pitched an idea for a story on a celebrity fashion profile to a financial journal, I doubt my name would spring to mind when they’re next looking for a freelance writer.
- Manage your time. It frustrates me that many of my friends think I have oodles of time to sit and twiddle my thumbs just because I work from home in the afternoons. That said, I do have the luxury of occasionally taking the afternoon off to see a friend who’s in town for a visit or something similar. But if I let the occasional time off become a regular occurrence, I find that I’m not only putting more pressure on myself (if I take today off, I have to do double the amount of work tomorrow), but I also lose the motivation I’ve built up on a project.
- Invest in the necessary tools. This may mean replacing your 15-year old fax machine that only works once in every three times you want to use it, or spending a little money listing your services in a relevant publication. You’ve got to spend money (even if it’s only once every while) to make money. And remember that most work expenses are tax deductable.
- Find out from someone you trust whether you make a professional impression. A friend recently pointed out to me that it’s high time I get my website up and running, especially if I want more website copy-writing jobs. She’s very right and that’s next on my agenda.
Tamara is a freelance writer who runs the very interesting blog Doodles of A Journo. She has previously mentioned that she likes writing feature articles.