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Day in the Life of… a Freelance Consultant

by Sian Edwards on January 12, 2015
Business

Wanting to leave the rat race and start your own business without the shackles of the traditional 9-to-5? Here’s our second Day in the Life article profiling another Australian business owner who took charge of her life and decided to work the way she wants.

Sydney-sider Heather Marano launched her  freelance consulting business from home in mid 2014 and tells us about a typical day in the life of a freelance communications consultant in PR, social media and content creation:

1. What time do you wake up?

Usually around 7.30am, unless I’m exercising in the morning.

2. What is the first thing you do when you wake up?

Have a coffee! I’ll have my coffee while watching the news and catch up on any emails that came through overnight. I’ll also use this time to review my to do list for the day.

3. Breakfast – yea or nay?

I’ll usually have breakfast at home while I’m working.

4. How do you get to work, how long does it take?

Given I work from home, it takes no time at all! This is one of the great benefits of working from home.

5. Lunch?

I’ll usually eat at home, but I occasionally schedule working lunches with clients or new business prospects.

6. What are the typical things you do every day?

Every day is different but usually involves liaising with clients, client strategy and planning, posting to social media channels, copywriting, distributing media releases, pitching to journalists, sending newsletters, and drafting content calendars. Most days I’ll have at least one client meeting, either in person or over the phone, Skype or a Google Hangout.

I’ll also spend some time every day on my bookkeeping whether that be invoicing, chatting to my bookkeeper or adding my bills and expenses to Xero.

7. What decisions do you make and what is their impact?

Most of the decisions I make day-to-day for my clients involve strategy or suggestions on tactics. Underlying this are decisions about return on investment for the client. I also spend a lot of time thinking about return on investment for my business, especially when considering new business opportunities or whether to subcontract work. I also spend a lot of time making decisions on how to best manage my time and prioritise tasks.

8. What do you love most about your job?

I love having influence over every aspect of the business. The sense of ownership is motivating and gives me a sense of purpose.

9. How do you manage all the tasks you need to do?

Having a really good to-do-list is crucial. I know it sounds almost too simple, but it’s true. I obsessively update my to-do-list. My list will cover the following week (at a minimum) with tasks allocated across each day from the outset. I use a word document; I find it so much easier to shift things around if needed and I gain the satisfaction of deleting items once completed.

Another strategy I use is to immediately complete tasks that I know will take five minutes now, but will take longer later. So, say I receive an idea for a social media post for next week from a client. Rather than put it on the backburner for when I plan on completing their social media content calendar later in the week, I’ll quickly create the template and drop the post in then and there. I find that when it’s top of mind and fresh, I can do the work much more quickly than when I return to something later and have to re-familiarise myself with it. I think about it as giving my future self the gift of time.

10. When is hometime?

I’ll usually pause work just before dinner, but will then be back on the laptop afterwards to tackle the last few things on my to-do-list. If I’m lucky I might finish up by 8pm or so, but I often find myself working until 10pm or 11pm. The thing about working from home is it can be challenging to separate free time from work time. I find I have to fight the urge to fill every spare moment with work. Of course there’s a simple solution to this – to know your limits and be comfortable saying no to work so that you don’t have too much on your plate. This is something I still need to work on!

11. How do you relax when you do get home?

Again, this is an area I have to work on, but I do take time out during the day. I find just walking up to the shops, going for a run or listening to music can help me relax and de-stress.

12. How do you manage the balance between work and personal life?

Because my job is flexible, it is fairly easy to balance hobbies, exercise, social engagements and work. I make an effort to socialise mid week to make sure I’m getting away from the laptop. However, as I mentioned, I do still find it difficult to put work aside if I find myself with nothing (important) to do.

13. How has the work environment/business changed from when you first began?

I launched my business in May 2014. Since that time I’ve obviously become much busier as I’ve landed more clients. I’ve also become more confident in areas I was less familiar with from the outset, such as bookkeeping. In terms of the business environment, I’ve definitely noticed a strong demand for freelancers which continues to grow.

14. Who and/or what inspires you?

Sometimes it will be the smallest things that inspire me. I’ll hear something obscure on the radio or I’ll read about something seemingly unrelated and I’ll realise it has application for what I do or solves a problem I’m facing. It’s like flicking a switch and things suddenly becoming clear. More often than not ideas come to me at odd times, like when I’m in the shower or just about to fall asleep.

15. Why do you do what you do?

I decided to start my own business as I wanted greater control over my work and more flexibility. I had never been that great at taking direction (a seemingly common trait for many entrepreneurs!) and doing what I do happens to turn that weakness into a strength. I enjoy the challenge of pitching for business and get a thrill out of landing a new client. Knowing I could lose a client at any time also motivates me to do the best job possible.

16. Tips for aspiring freelancers?

Two main things:

  • Be super organised. The most important skill is to manage your time efficiently. Even as a one-man-band it is important you always think of your operation as a fully-fledged business. So, get your accounting in order, make sure you have insurance, be active on social media.
  • Keep good records. Don’t keep everything in your head. This will ensure you always present professionally, will help you make better business decisions and attract new business, and will allow you to scale your business should you choose to do so.

17. How do you define success?

Success is finding purpose and meaning in your work every day. I think it’s a myth that we should aspire to love what we do (the reality is that those who genuinely love what they do, don’t love it every day) but we do have to feel driven to do it – not just by money or by power – but by a sense of ownership, accomplishment or the feeling that we are making an impact in some way.

18. What challenges have you faced in the freelance business and how do you overcome them?

The biggest challenge is time – not having enough it, using it as efficiently as possible and putting some time aside for yourself. As a sole trader, it is challenging to take time off. Soon I will take my first holiday since I launched the business. To take three weeks off has involved months of meticulous planning to ensure that all work is subcontracted out and clients are comfortable and feel supported in my absence.

Do you want to go freelance? Tell us why or what is stopping you in the comments below!

Image credit: Nomadic Lass

Sian Edwards
Siân Edwards is a Sydney-based communications professional with experience working in public relations, media and marketing roles in both the private and public sector. She holds a Bachelor of Communications (Journalism) and is passionate about writing and sharing information through different mediums. With an endless thirst for knowledge, particularly in the areas of digital marketing and social media, Sian is a true believer of 'lifelong learning’. When she’s not working in the corporate world, she is out and about exploring Sydney and beyond for her popular food and travel blog and building on her skills as a freelance writer and editor.
 
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