8. Network like the blazes
This is not just to get business, but to soothe your soul. Get out and go to events as much as you can. Things to inspire you, things to inform you, things to get you talking to other humans. Or stay in and go online: join groups, comment on posts, offer people help (please do this, it’s good to give too), ask for advice. You never know what can happen, and who will remember you. Having said all this, I’m not a big fan of ‘networking events’. I’ve dragged myself to some and have had to listen to the most boring of slide presentations, and then awkwardly stand there holding a sausage while someone frisbees me a business card, and tells me their new unique business idea which is the Airbnb of… please can I go home now? Be creative, go to events that sound interesting to you, without thinking about whether it’ll bring you business. That’s the great thing about freelancing, you never know which path you’ll go down next.
9. Become nerdy and boring about being organised
When you go freelance, after being used to working for someone, you kind of forget you’re now running a business. Don’t. You are now a business person. You are a CEO. That means you have other things to think about asides the actual work. That means you need to plan your weeks properly, like your account manager used to do. You need to sort out your finances like your HR person used to do. And so on. I’m saying this through hard-earned experience. Also, what I recently learned is, planning is not just about slotting in work, but also planning in sports, time to cook, do music, sit in a candlelit room with your eyes closed, things that make you feel human and alive.
10. Face up to finances
It’s easy to ignore this stuff, until May. Get it sorted as soon as you start freelancing. I got free tax advice at the Betahaus Office Hours, which was very helpful, and I am lucky to have a German husband to do the Steuererklärung. Now, after three years, I got an accountant ( Klier & Ott , they’re great) to help me with some questions I had – and thank God I did. I’ll admit I didn’t know you needed a separate bank account until I met Kontist , but I’m on that now, honestly.
11. Meet people from your own profession
This kind of comes under networking, but I mean it differently. I always want people to know they’re not in competition with other writers/designers/fire breathers/whatever it is you do. You can help each other. The world is big. There’s enough work. And even if you do feel like you’re in competition, this is also good, it will motivate you, and make your work all the better. This is a big reason I set up a freelance group for copywriters in Berlin , holding regular(ish) events and sharing info and jobs on Facebook. It’s been a great outlet for me, and it seems like others find it useful too. Another reason to know other good people in your line of work is, if you have a job offer and are too busy, you can pass the client on to someone else. They will be thankful they didn’t hit a dead end, and may come back to you in the future.
12. Seek help if you need it
Thankfully, the world seems to be ever more welcoming to people admitting that things are getting hard for them. After I got back to work I started with great energy. A few months later, realised I was doing too much, and couldn’t quite work out how to juggle job, kids and home. I felt like I wasn’t finishing things and had no time for myself (quite honestly, the work part was fine, but other things were suffering). I went to see a business coach ( Melanie Fieseler , see point 6) and she truly saved me. She helped me plan my weeks better, and focus only on important things. I still drop balls, but not so many, and I don’t feel so bad about it anymore. If you don’t have the funds for a coach right now, try a massage, a weekly lunch somewhere decent. Treat yourself. You’re earning money to live your life, as well as pay the bills.
13. Don’t work in your pyjamas
It’s a good idea to get dressed. First thing. Your work will be better for it. You’ll feel better in your head. And get outside, too. Berlin is lovely in most weathers. Enjoy living in this beautiful city, and being able to go for a swim in an outdoor pool, or sleigh down a snowy slope, when everyone else is sitting in an office.
So really, if you’re looking to go freelance, just do it, now. It’s like having a baby, there’s never a right time. And on with this metaphor... it’s hard at times, and always uncertain, but the work you put into it will help you grow into a better person, and it’s so incredibly rewarding. Your future self will look back and ask you why didn’t you just make the jump, what did you have to lose (especially in Berlin)? If you’re still uncertain perhaps you could work out a way to get fired from your job?
If you’re already freelancing, congratulations, I’m happy to call you a colleague and I hope we can meet sometime and discuss our best Finanzamt experiences/useful software packages/easiest website builders/most challenging payment issues/favourite work pyjamas.