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Things I Wish I’d Known Before Starting a Freelance Business

In 2016 I entered freelance life and earlier this year I took it a step further and started my own Instagram training business – Easyinstamcr.  I knew it was going to be challenging, but in hindsight I was completely clueless as to what to expect.

 Here’s some of the things I wished I’d known before I left full time employment – good and bad:

1. You need the right mindset

You need to be your own biggest cheerleader, your own best friend and mentor.  You have to have such a positive internal dialogue going in your head or you will fall at the first hurdle.

Freelance life is tough and unforgiving so you have to be a combination of being made of teflon at the same time as being wonderfully positive and really curious and enthusiastic about any mistakes you’ve made.

‘Oh I’ve invested a shedload of money into my business this month on courses, promotions and equipment, but this month’s income in no way matches that.  No big deal… it’s all going to work out in the end’ – is the type of dialogue I bolster myself with.

You definitely have to view everything objectively and be okay with a lot of things going wrong.  And to be consistently really kind to yourself about that!   Because actually it doesn’t matter (as long as you’re not about to go bankrupt).  No-one ever built a successful, robust business without making some seriously bad decisions.  That’s just how you evolve.

2. It takes ages to set yourself up

I’ve seen articles suggesting that it takes anything from 18 months to 11 years before your business becomes truly successful. I spent a year being a freelance social media manager, but in May 2018 I launched Easyinstamcr my Instagram Training business. So at the time of writing this article I’m only six months into my business.  Potentially I’ve got a good while to go yet before I can feel more stable in my business (I really hope it’s not 11 years though!).

Naively I thought when I launched my website in May that people would just immediately start booking me for one to one Instagram coaching and workshops.  They didn’t – it’s much much harder than that.

But having had a reality check I’m doing a lot now to raise my profile:

  1. I attend networking events
  2. I try and blog regularly
  3. I speak at different events about Instagram
  4. I run an Instagram meet up called ‘Instacake’
  5. I’ve started a monthly newsletter offering Instagram tips
  6. I’ve got a facebook group to share Instagram advice

And it’s all starting to pay off as more and more people are getting in touch.  And thankfully I am enjoying the challenge of marketing myself.  I do find it a rather fascinating/frustrating challenge to overcome.

3. It’s worth going on courses

Oh my goodness.  The courses I’ve been on have been life-changing.  Not just because of what I’ve learnt on them. It’s the awesome teachers and people on the courses that have lifted me up and given me insights into other ways of living. From photography and marketing courses, to blog conferences and brand story-telling workshops – it’s all been rather marvellous.

Four silhouettes by the Scottish sea.

In July I attended a photography workshop on remote Scottish island, Easdale


Katya Willems, Instagram trainer, jumping in front of pink wall.

In June I went to the very brilliant Blogtacular conference in London

4. You can make up your own job title

This still tickles me.  I wanted to be an Instagram trainer so now I am.  There’s no boss or company policy to stop me.

5. I’m the boss of my time

I regularly go for an afternoon stroll at a nature reserve near my house.  I sometimes read fiction books in the afternoon.  I pop in on friends for coffees during the day.  On occasion I have a 2pm nap!

Admittedly when I’m stressed and have deadlines, I’m not doing any of the above.  But it’s lovely that I can.

Sunset with tree silhouettes.

A late afternoon stroll at the local nature reserve

6. Guard your mental health like it’s a pot of precious gold

I did sort of know this before I left my job at the BBC. I think the things I was most concerned about were loneliness and not getting validation for ‘doing a good job’ as I did most days in my permanent role. But as it happens managing my mental health in self employment has been more complex than that.

It’s true – loneliness can definitely be one of the hardest things.  I really have to make sure I do a bit of co-working, meet friends for coffee and just get out and about during the week. I get very weird and unconfident if I’m home alone for too long. I lose my bounce!

And as I anticipated I do have to find ways to feel good about my achievements.  My main outlet for this is wanging onto my poor boyfriend about all my achievements just so I can remind myself of how far I’ve come and that I’m doing well.  I also have freelance friends to share my successes with who help me keep clear about the progress I’ve made.

What I didn’t predict is that I have to make sure that I’m not overdoing it.  You can literally be thinking about your business every waking hour of the day.  This is completely EXHAUSTING.  Sometimes I don’t even notice I’m doing it until suddenly I’m so run down that I become unbearably grumpy and I can barely get off the sofa.  And it quite often ends up in me getting a really bad cold.  But I’m getting better at learning to slow down, take breaks, go for walks and meet up with people when I need to.  Because once you tip into burn out, it takes a while to get back to feeling good again.

Another mental health danger is the paranoia that you should be doing better than you are.  That’s a whole can of worms. My best advice is:

  1. Talk to friends and loved ones about this to keep you on track and to remind you that you’re good at what you do.
  2. Don’t compare the beginning of your journey to someone else’s middle of their journey.
  3. Remember that just because someone looks like they’re nailing every aspect of their business and personal life on social media, doesn’t mean that’s really the case.

On a positive note

Despite all the challenges I absolutely love freelance life and running my own business.  I live a fascinating life – I’m always learning, I meet really diverse people, I get to be more creative than I ever dreamed of and no one tells me what to do.  Honestly, it’s ace!

If you enjoyed reading this, you might like to read My Most Embarrassing Instagram Mistakes.

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