The joys of freelancing

Today marks the sixth month since I registered as self-employed with my tutoring business, English with Claire, and I couldn’t feel more positive about it.

Over the last sixth months I have learnt so much about myself and my capabilities, and yes, I’ve even learnt some more hard truths about life. Do they ever stop hitting us in the face?? Freelancing has always been something I’ve wanted to do – a sign of independence or good management skills, perhaps? But let’s be honest, working in your pjs and having freshly brewed coffee whenever you like certainly isn’t a negative either, right?

I have been able to connect with so many other people in my situation, from freelance writers, self-employed teachers and people who do a mixture of jobs. As always, Twitter has been full of wonderful people and I really recommend it for professional use.

I’d like to share my fairly novice view of freelancing, which due to COVID19 definitely includes working from home (WFH) as well. Two very new things to face individually, let alone when they’re put together.

So, let’s move on to why I have enjoyed freelancing so much over the last 6 months.

  1. Freelancing? Freedom?

Well, the word free does appear in both for a reason. There is so much freedom in freelancing. Could I make a tongue twister here? How much freedom does a freelancer find if a freelancer finds her freedom? Anyway… Being able to start work at 5am when you can’t sleep, or 10am if you’ve had a bad night, is certainly wonderful. Being able to have endless cups of tea or coffee, have snacks at the desk or listen to music without being ‘told off’ – it’s all wonderful. Being able to set my own schedule and work as I please, and in my comfy clothes!, has been really superb.

However, for most of the time I have had a routine. I wake up between 5:30 and 7, eat breakfast and have a coffee before work and then have a chunk of 5 or 6 hours where I just work as much as possible. Some days, this becomes 14 or even 16 hours, and other days it hovers around 4 hours. Work has fluctuated a lot due to the virus, but I’ve tried to be as productive as possible no matter what.

Pyjamas, fresh coffee and half a face of make up!

So, despite aaaalll of the freedom that working from home and freelancing provides, I do think it’s important to create a schedule for yourself and if you deviate from time to time, that’s okay too.

2. Time for yourself

I like this one. When you’re working in an office, or a school, or wherever it is, it’s probably quite likely that you’ll have a commute, either driving or by public transport. Although you can do little bits on your way to work, it’s unlikely you’ll be doing much that’s productive. My commute used to take 20-45 minutes, depending on the traffic, and it was often on a noisy bus or train, so focusing wasn’t always easy. I usually listened to music and stared out of the window.

By not commuting, I save at least 2 hours a day in terms of travelling, arriving early and doing odd jobs such as photocopying, cleaning desks or something else.

2 hours a day is quite a decent amount of time to be ‘refunded’ into your life and it certainly adds up. Even when I start work at 8 or 9, I have noticed how many things I am able to accomplish in the morning. Waking up at 5 or 6 gives me a chance to open my eyes, do a bit of marking / blogging / reading for work before having breakfast and a coffee. Jonas and I usually do this together, which is an even nicer way to start the day. If I’m focused on a job, he’ll often make it for me #winning.

I can quite easily do chores between classes and don’t feel the pressure of having to do them when I finish work, which I used to hate. Coming home to a pile of dishes and bundles of washing was never fun, and changing the bedding is one of my biggest annoyances (but no, I still do it regularly. I’m not dirty!). I never wanted to any of those things after a long day at work, but now I don’t mind as much.

Hooray for chores!

Now I can enjoy my coffee on the balcony before work, or potter around the house to take care of my plants, watch Netflix, go for a walk, or pretty much anything really. It has made a big difference to how I organise my time and given me the opportunity to value myself, and my skillset, a little more than I have done in the past.

Just finishing up a cup of coffee on the balcony!

3. The excitement of a new role

This may not apply to everyone, but as a freelancer I have often been through phases of not having any work. That may be writing, teaching or something else entirely, and it gets tough. There have been a few moments since March where I have begun to panic about finding enough work for me to pay the bills. Thankfully something has always come along in time, but in those moments when you’re not sure it really does get my heart racing with worry!

I still feel nervous when applying for roles or contacting people about potential work, and I often don’t expect to hear back from them (why not, Claire??) so when I do get a response that’s positive it really does lift my spirit!

Yesterday, for instance, I was offered a short spell of work for a school and I couldn’t quite believe it when I read the email. I was so excited that I treated myself to a takeaway and a beer! I am now ‘safe’ for another 4/5 weeks and that is a great feeling.

Edit. They decided to cut the contract short, but I’m now excited to get back to my favourite routine and my own students!

4. Developing (and expanding) my skillset

I absolutely love this part of what I do. When I worked in a school I was never able to attend skills sessions. Either they weren’t an option in the country I was in, I’d miss the last train home, or I didn’t have enough money.

Working from home has given me the opportunity to attend online skills sessions whenever possible. I have attended over 10 in the last 6 months and they have been invaluable. I find it even more exciting that these have been held online, from various cities around the world where people have joined from different time zones. I know that the virus has impacted this, but it is still a positive change in my opinion.

Online workshop with other ESL teachers

I have been able to attend sessions on English exams, grammar lessons, Chinese classes, writing tutorials and so many more. Although I’m not lazy and have always tried to keep on top of my skills, these recent opportunities have been amazing!

5. Little communities around the world

Through freelancing, and working from home, I have been able to join online communities that I didn’t even know existed. I have joined groups of freelancers, WFH teachers, writers, tutors and Chinese speakers where I have been able to log on to an online ‘staffroom’, coffee in hand, to chat about anything and everything. Although I do miss a real staffroom, I have connected with far more likeminded people online.

Again, I still recommend Twitter for professional connections but sometimes you can get lost amongst the followers, competitions and ‘threads’ of things that aren’t entirely relevant to you.

These communities have added to my positive experiences lately, as I have been able to check in with people to share our thoughts and feelings, discuss work, home life and much more.

We grow through challenge.

Are you a freelancer? Are you working from home?

I’d love to know what your thoughts are and if you have any positive experiences to share.

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