May 19, 2016

14 Things To Remember As A Self-Employed Person


I am in no position to be doling out “advice” but what I can do is tell you what I personally have learned in hope that it might help you (you, reading this!) even slightly. Particularly if you’re looking to take the “jump into the unknown” soon.

I’ve always had lots of multiple things on the go and I don’t remember life before having “side-hustles” BUT I have mostly always had a steady job too. My last job was at a well-known women’s magazine and although I only worked four full days a week (so I could also do my side-hustle on the….side), I still had a place to go most days. I had a routine.

But since the start of this year, I’ve been a fully-fledged Self Employed person.

Which means: no set routine.

So, I had to make my own.

And of course, now that I’m almost six months in, I’m so so so happy I made the choice. And I wanted to share my learnings with you, maybe you might want to Ride Solo like Jason Derulo at some point in the future.


Illustration by

1. Put some proper clothes on

Sounds obvious but I’ve really learned how much my mood can depend on the effort I’ve made – even if it’s just putting on a clean chic polo-neck jumper. Not necessarily caking on the make-up or wearing a ball gown (lol) but just respecting yourself and your work day by getting properly dressed and making an effort, the same as you would if you had a “proper job”. It’s all psychological, and you’ll be better off for it. It’s easier to feel like a badass when you are wearing something badass.

2. Don’t box yourself in

Get outside if you’re feel a bit stuffy. Even just for a bit of fresh air here and there. I find that if I’m having a “working from home day” and struggling to stay motivated I’ll have a little walk or pop to the café down the road with a smallish to-do list (like 3 or 4 things on there) and tell myself that I’m not coming back to the house until they’ve been done. Movement and fresh air often leads to better ideas and a clearer head. Go for lunch with a mate.

3. Organise meetings early, or Skype

Lots of people say that having meetings is the biggest drain on your time ever. But for me, personally, having a really early meeting or a meeting around 5pm to end my day is a really nice thing to work around and gets me pepped up. I look forward to my meetings, whether it’s a book-related one, or a brand campaign I’m working on, or a person I’m working on a secret project with at the moment; face-to-face meetings are really fun and nice and if you’re used to be around people in an office then you’ll probably enjoy filling your days with actual IRL people. I make sure I organise meetings either book-ending the day so I can have solid desk-time during the day or I schedule a group of meetings all on the same day  if they are in central London for example, so I don’t waste time travelling around. I don’t think “meetings” necessarily drain you, but travel time certainly does. ALSO: if you’re lacking the time, then try Skyping instead.

4. Payment!!!!!!!!!!! 

An obvious one but make sure you put your payment details (within 28 days for example) etc on your invoices so you’re really clear on the timeframe you expect to be paid. Some companies have different policies but at least if you outline your terms and they can confirm. Follow up a few days before to check they are on track. Also: have a monthly budget. Check out the Finanical Diet for help on how to make a budget template in Google docs and how to stick to it. For me, not having a rolling salary has actually made me better with money. Also: keep some money back and GET AN ACCOUNTANT. They know best. And they save you losing hair when it’s Tax Time.

5. Build relationships

Chat to other freelancers, check rates with each other, recommend your friends if you’re not right for it, but someone else is. Build a circle of mates who you can all bounce things off of. Don’t ~network~ but build solid relationships over time. Make genuine contacts. Be mutually beneficial to people. Getting chatting even if nothing comes of it as they might get in touch later down the line. Put the effort in. Market yourself: build a newsletter, Twitter lists, website database. ETC.


6. Join groups

There are so many private groups on Facebook for lots of different things. Whatever “service” it is that you offer, make sure you join some groups (search them, or get recommendations off people you know) as people normally post “hey, does anyone know someone who can help with XX”) and it’s an easy way to get work. Be discoverable on LinkedIn too, I know everyone hates LinkedIn but it’s amazing the stuff that can come out of the woodwork.

7. It’s OK to say “no”

It’s ok to turn stuff down. Being self-employed doesn’t mean “saying yes to any offer under the sun” – make sure you know what you’re vibe and brand is and what sort of work you want to be doing.

8. Accept that you will have quiet moments

Freelancers are busy creatures (and at the moment life is MAD). But: you will have down days. You will have days where literally nothing is sent to your inbox. It’s nothing to do with you, it’s just a quiet day. Don’t freak out. Make the most of it. It’s probably the one quiet moment you will have for ages.

9. Don’t cram

This is a mistake I made at the beginning: cramming too much into one day. Whether that’s back-to-back meetings or putting 20 things on my to-do list with the deadline being the next day. Go easy on yourself, make things achievable. Then you’ll feel good at the end of most days, not bad. If you can achieve just one, or two or three things on your to-do list each day, you’ll feel like your smashing it. Be nice to yourself. Give yourself enough time; make it easy on yourself to meet deadlines. Don’t over-promise.

10. Have a cut-off point

Whether you start working at 5am and finish at 3pm, or start at 11am and finish at 8pm, or whatever your schedule is (we’re all different) have a cut-off point in the evening where you switch off, shut your laptop and FINISH WORKING. See point 10 below, too.

11. Have an actual work space

It’s important to be able to shut the door on your work. To say “I’m done” and “I’m going to relax now”. For me, merging the two doesn’t work. Yes I’m probably going to be tweeting from the sofa during the evening but being out of my serious “work” space and into a neutral “home” space is important, I think. Try and have a distinction between the two.

12. Don’t feel guilty!

Being self-employed means you can work really weird hours, and work five weekends in a row if you’re not careful. So if you want to have a bath at 4pm on a Wednesday, do it, enjoy it, and don’t feel guilty for having an hour off.

13. Don’t wait to feel “inspired”

There is never the “perfect environment” or “perfect moment” to start a piece of work, or do the best job. You just have to crack on and do it, and not wait to feel a certain way. Sometimes, we’re not in the “mood” but that’s life. Good mood, or bad mood, try and be disciplined and get started. Getting started on something is often the hardest bit.

14. Believe in yourself.

Sorry for the cheese, but it’s true. Believe in your abilities and your skills. You are good at what you do. Believe in what you are offering. Believe in how much you’re worth, in time and money. You’ve got this. Every day you are slowly building another layer to your business. It might seem slow, but slow and steady wins the race.


No Responses

  1. James says:

    I love this and feel like I can relate to it (in some way or another) by being at university. Having to decide when it’s time to crack on with an essay or begin researching something.
    I can 100% agree with putting on clothes. It definitely helps get my mind in check and also having a ‘work space’ 😀
    PS I can not wait to read your book!! 😀

  2. I really love this article – thank you! It’s an eye opener! I’m currently working 4 days a week to work on side-hussles and that has made all the difference! The hardest part of doing your own thing is definitely getting started. Xx

  3. Claire says:

    This is great, Emma, and I really enjoyed it, thank you! I’d also like to make reference to number five and offer a hello and friendship leaf! I’m a freelance writer and would love to stay in touch!

    Thanks again for the great read!

    Best wishes,


  4. Gemma says:

    I love these tips! Although I’m not self-employed or anywhere near the stage where I can be, everything you’ve said is still super helpful and has inspired me even more to keep going with everything! Also, I love your little office space, it’s lovely!

    Gemma x
    The British Feather – A UK Lifestyle & Home Decor Blog

  5. Arianna says:

    The first point you made, the one about dressing properly is actually quite interesting: whenever I am at home and I have to work, I usually stay in my pajama and I don´t get things done. I think it´s psychological.. so yay! You are so right!


  6. Lindsey says:

    Emma, this is just so amazing. Thank you so much. Perfect timing! You’ve unraveled my confusion/worry about being self employed and I feel so much more clear and positive.

    You diamond. X

  7. Rene says:

    I think the hardest one for me is “12. Don’t feel guilty”! I always feel like I’m skiving if I clock off “early” for a walk (even if I have hit all the deadlines for the day or week!), which is daft as part of the appeal of working freelance is being able to do just that!

  8. I’m finding lately that it’s really so important to have a cut-off point. I used to just work and work till super late at night but then I started noticing that it wasn’t adding anything positive and that I’m actually much more productive and creative when I finish work early. Thank you! Very inspiring list!

  9. Elizabeth says:

    There are great suggestions! I never thought to look at Facebook for groups or jobs!

  10. Lori says:

    I LOVE this blog post … I’m totally re-inspired. You have a brand new fan & follower. It’s okay though, I stop short of stalking and being creepy. lol. Lori Zonneville McCullough

  11. Jilly Bird says:

    Oh Wow! You used my illustration!

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