Freelancers have the best deal when it comes to work, according to a new survey. They typically work 38 hours a week and earn a median wage of £43,000 which is well above the national average of £25,000. The survey, carried out by Dr Jonathan Sapsed from Brighton University’s Business School, found freelance workers to be amongst the happiest and most productive, primarily because they had no Boss. Many of the freelancers surveyed had been previously made redundant but looking back, found that turning self-employed had been the best thing that could happen to them.
The digital age makes freelancing easier than ever before. We have immediate access to speedy technology from home, and can talk and collaborate with colleagues on demand. The era of the micro-entrepreneur encourages freelancers to take their careers into their own hands but also demands that individuals work more creatively.
This all sounds like great news but there are pitfalls on the freelancing path which can be avoided.
- Sharpen your tools. A very big advantage of working in an office is instant access to new ideas, techniques and training. We learn from the formal training on offer but also from colleagues and through organic change. It is very much harder to stay at the top of your game as a freelancer, and especially if you run your own business and time is money. You must make time for training and development. This might include online courses, reading books and business materials, or joining forums. Try and take a formal class, or course, at least twice a year.
- Have an active network. Freelancers avoid office politics but they can also miss out on office fun, if they work at home or change company a lot. Make sure you have plenty of contact with the outside world (Twitter doesn’t count) and maintain good face-to-face relationships. This could include on-site meetings with suppliers and clients, meetings with business groups or even a regular gym class. Don’t become isolated for the sake of both your well-being, and your career development.
- Stick to a timetable. Freelancers have flexibility to work when they want but its easy to work too hard, or too little. Try and stick to some sort of timetable, even if its your timetable. Schedule in meal breaks, outside time, meetings and rest. Have a least one completely work-free day a week. If you err on the side of too much work-time in front of the TV, be disciplined about your targets for every day. You’re still managing your career after all.
- Career goals. On that note, having career goals is just as important for the freelancers as for the office-bound. You should be aware of your 1 year, 3 year and 5 year career goals and ensure you are doing what you need to do in order to meet them. There are upsides to having no Boss but many are very helpful in terms of managing careers. Your financial goals are also very important to put down in writing. You may be living your dream life but are you saving for retirement, can you afford holidays and can you pay your taxes! It may be helpful to partner up with another freelancer to share your goals and to meet regularly to review them and keep yourselves honest.
Dr Sapsed’s survey was featured in The Sunday Times on January 25th, 2015.