It’s been about a year since I resigned from my full-time job and it was one of the scariest, yet utterly liberating things I’ve done for myself. I’ve written about racism and bigotry in the workplace and well, I’ve experienced some things. Working in Cape Town as a person of colour is quite something and you’re likely to encounter some wild workplace behaviour.
We’re in a different time and in the midst of a pandemic right now, so I wouldn’t recommend this move to everyone. But I made up my mind to leave full-time employment in May last year and formulated a three month exit plan. In order to ensure that I would have a steady income, I branched out to my network and landed some great clients. I paid off my debts, bought a laptop and got my savings in order. I haven’t looked back since.
It’s been the best choice for me, right now, even with the uncertainty of the future. Here’s what I’ve learnt so far.
Know yourself and what you can cope with
It’s important to be realistic about what you can handle as a freelancer. Working freelance requires a lot of a) advocating for yourself and b) managing your own schedule. I knew that I had very few reservations about reaching out to my network and sometimes I got rejected or the work wouldn’t come in until months later. If you’re not okay with uncertainty, loose ends and potentially waiting around for work – this might not be for you. It takes trial and error but it’s imperative to find a way to manage your schedule your calendar and workload. Figure out if you work best with a whiteboard showing your to-do list, a physical diary/planner or Google Calendar. You’ll get more done in your work space and personal life with a solid management system in place.
Take regular breaks from work
Now I’m not gonna act like I take my own advice here, because I don’t. I just took a short holiday break for my birthday month and realised how important it was to shut off from the constant work onslaught. My line of work is all about staying connected, online and aware of global headlines/trending topics. It’s vital to set aside time to recharge, rest and feel more creative so that you can excel at your own projects.
Separate your workspace from your bedroom
I know that not everyone has the space to have a separate office in their room, but I found it helpful to separate my workspace from the rest of the house. I work in the corner of the lounge with my own desk and I find it’s important for my own focus and to get into “work mode”. Due to COVID, we’re not really frequenting coffee shops, but some people find it’s more productive for them to leave their homes entirely and work in a remote office or cafe space.
Know that you can go back to full-time employment
Yes, really. If you realise that freelancing just isn’t for you or that you’ve gotten all you need from the freelancing space, you can go back to “normal” 9 to 5 work. You’re still employable and life doesn’t have to stick to one plan. Don’t think that anything has to stay the same because you made one choice.
And finally, if you’re feeling overwhelmed about leaving your job, remember why you need to leave.
The weeks leading up to my resignation were some of the most stressful and miserable of my life. Honestly, I was done with formal employment as a concept. Since going freelance, I work with one of my good friends, in multiple industries I love and even wrote an e-book (!!). I was apprehensive about my choice at first, because I had never done this before, but it all worked out the way it was supposed to. I’ve reclaimed my time, sanity and life. And I’ll be honest, it’s not always simple to just leave and it’ll feel scary when you’ve made the decision. But I don’t have the Sunday blues anymore. I can get out of bed. My skill-set has grown and I’m making work I’m so proud of. All of that? Priceless.
Hope this was helpful!