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How to Live a Freelance Life (and Keep Smiling)

The question of how to live a freelance life is often asked by people who are fed up with the day-to-day grind of the office.

But should you go ahead and take the plunge, or are you better off as an employee?

Lynn Reynolds has been a freelance writer for two years, and wouldn’t go back.

But she realises there are certain things about freelance life that would have been great to know up front, but which nobody ever seems to mention.

So gather round, and take notes if you must: here are four things every new freelancer should know before they hang out their professional shingle.

  1. You need an accountant

This is the number one piece of advice in the toolkit labelled “how to live a freelance life”. Seriously.

Even if you think you’re earning too little to make this kind of professional help worthwhile, you still need an accountant.

The only kind of freelancer who doesn’t need to hire an accountant is a freelance accountant.

Tax laws are complicated, and they change with every budget. Hire a good accountant within your niche, and at the very least you’ll be free to do what you’re good at, instead of labouring to decipher the subtleties of self-assessment.

And if your accountant is really worth their salt, they’ll offer money-saving business advice, too.

  1. You really must take time off

I bet there’s a good reason you decided to live a freelance life. For a lot of independent workers, that reason is to replace grinding office hours and a ridiculous commute with productivity and vitality.

Yet what’s the first thing you do when offers of work start coming in? Graft around the clock, that’s what.

Because this is the fast track to terrible mental and physical health (go on, ask me how I know), I caution you in the strongest possible terms not to spend every waking hour engaged in work tasks.

Don’t work all the time, even if you love your work more than you love melanzane parmigiana. Schedule at least one day off a week and actually take it.

Your future self will thank you.

  1. You don’t have to work as though your old boss is watching

Being an employee is really about situating your carcass on your employer’s premises for eight hours a day. Being a freelancer, however, is about getting results.

Spot the difference?

Every new freelancer should know that because of the limitations of the human attention span, sitting at your desk for hours at a stretch is rarely the most productive way to work.

It’s highly likely you’ll get more done if you work in short bursts and take regular breaks.

  1. You need to find a substitute for those convenient workplace friendships

When you’re in full time employment, you’ve got a ready-made social life if you want it. You’ve certainly got as much casual chat as you can cram into your coffee/cigarette/toilet/lunch breaks.

When you do finally work out how to live a freelance life, you’ll miss this. Even if you’re an arch-introvert, you’ll miss it.

You definitely need to find a substitute.

Facebook is great, but the Loose Ends app is better. Why? It allows you to get out in the real world and meet your friends face to face, even for the shortest of times.

I love to use it for arranging lunch dates with friends who’re in my area.

Sometimes, when I’m meeting with clients at their premises, I’ll check to see if anybody near my destination has set up a loose end. If not, it’s easy to create one.

Forget the larger question of how to live a freelance life: if there’s one thing every new freelancer should know, it’s to download Loose Ends.

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