Riding the freelancing rollercoaster

Accountant in Fulham, Putney, West London

What’s it like to take the plunge and leave corporate life to start your own freelancing business?

Rachel Auckland, who runs Citrus Learning Design, knows……

What made you decide to become a freelancer?” That was the question I was most often asked when, eight months ago, I left full-time employment and started to design eLearning and workshop materials for a variety of customers on a project basis.

For anyone thinking of taking this step I would first like to say that a more appropriate question might have been “Why did you wait so long…?”. The experience has been an unequivocally positive one.

I didn’t go in completely blind. To be successful, you need to know what you’re aiming for and how to achieve it – even if in the broadest of terms. Everyone’s goals will be different. And this means that the right approach for one person doesn’t work for another.

My goals were to get involved in a variety of interesting projects while supporting my current lifestyle. In the hope that it helps those with similar goals to me, here are some lessons I learnt when researching for my new career – and others I picked up in my first few months.

Start in the right way!

For me this meant having an initial project agreed with my former company and a financial safety buffer to cope with peaks and troughs of work. Not everyone will be fortunate to be in that position. But I found it gave me a fantastic cushion with which to simply get used to working in this new way without worrying about financial stability. It has also meant I’ve been able to delay creating assets such as a website and examples of my work until I had refined what I wanted to be known for.

I also drew up a list of contacts – LinkedIn and personal address books came in handy for this. I’m still referring to this list. On the sound advice of existing freelance colleagues whose advice I sought, I avoided being overwhelmed by responses. Instead I chose who to contact and when.

Focus your time

I stick to a routine that mirrors my former working day. This gives me time to design, complete my admin and network.

This goes out of the window during busy times of course. So flexibility certainly helps. With my sort of role you can’t always plan your time to fit neatly into a Monday to Friday box.

I also focus on what I do best. Which is why Blue Dot provide support for booking keeping and annual returns. I realised early on that I didn’t want to spend hours on something that someone else can do far more efficiently!

Pause but don’t stop your social life

I knew it would take effort to get my business launched. So I put some social plans on hold during the first six months. But my social life didn’t stop entirely. I felt this would be unrealistic and would result in me regretting my decision to work on a freelance basis.

Enjoy your new working life!

I’ve still a long way to go with my freelance career. And I know it will take continued persistence with both highs and lows ahead. I’m already enjoying it and if you are taking your first steps, I hope that like me, you will too!


Inspired by Rachel? Follow her blog – Citrus Pips – and you can find her on LinkedIn as well.