When I told my network that I was going freelance, back in Spring 2018, one supportive message, in particular, stood out. Fran had worked at an agency that I worked with a few years ago, and we had always got on really well. Now freelancing herself, she got in touch and offered to become “mutual mentors” – essentially, to develop a working relationship where we would have regular contact to talk about aspects of working for ourselves. She explained that she thought this would benefit her too, despite being established in her freelance career, and that this therefore wasn’t just a favour to a newbie. I leapt at the chance.
We agreed that we would aim to video chat for around an hour once a week initially (but with the caveat that we could reschedule or skip a week depending on what we had going on). Almost a year on, we’ve spoken to each other most weeks and we both really value that time we spend together. I’ve put together five things that I get out of the relationship – and you could too – if you found yourself a Fran!
Having someone to talk to about my work goals has helped me refine and focus on what I need to do to hit them. For example, when I said that my goal was to invoice a certain number of days in the year ahead, she asked me how I would break down the steps I would take to hit that. I had been thinking of it quite passively, but she helped me to realise that there was a lot more I could be doing, when I’ve less work on, to help grow my profile and my pipeline. On weeks when I don’t have much paid work on I really feel a push to make sure I will have something to report on in terms of actions to develop in those areas!
It can be quite isolating when you work for yourself. Not just in terms of the physicality of working at home but mentally, having no one to talk to properly about your business. Sure, I can talk to my husband about what I’m up to – but he works in a completely different sector, in a very corporate company, and has done for 10 years. So when it comes to discussing challenges I’m facing, or relationships I’m managing, he can’t really offer much useful insight. Fran, on the other hand, works in a similar area to me. So when I messaged her and asked her if she could fit in a quick unscheduled chat about a difficult situation I found myself in, and she called straight back, I was able to be quickly reassured that my feelings were valid, that she understood my situation, and briefly discuss how to move it forward. That she then checked in again the next day to see if I felt better was above and beyond.
There have been times when one of us has had one of those days… You know the ones. When you have a list as long as your arm, deadlines looming, but no fuel in the tank. Motivation through the floor and a rising sense of doom. In that circumstance we know we can email each other and ask to be held accountable. Sending a message asking “Can you email me at 12 and make sure I’ve finished that proposal?” really helps get the blinkers on and push you to achieve what needs doing.
An external eye
When you work for yourself you have no one else to sense-check your work for you and sometimes that can be a really valuable tool. I don’t need someone to mark my work for me, but if I’m building a proposal from scratch it can feel quite daunting knowing that I have to send it out to potential clients without having had anyone just check it’s a sensible idea, or that the document does all it needs to. After all, these pieces of work might be key to winning or losing your next client, so having someone who can take a look from outside and give you useful feedback and encouragement is really helpful.
The external view isn’t just useful for looking over work. It also gives us a chance to say, “Hey, this thing has been on your mind for a few weeks now so what can you do by next week to feel better about it?”, or, “That sounds brilliant! When this situation happened last time you weren’t sure, but you sound so confident now.”
We can provide insight and advice, but we can also help each other reflect on our personal growth.
We don’t spend the whole of our conversation talking about work. We also catch up on our hobbies and how we’re doing with the work/life balance; we chat about what we’ve watched on TV and what the weekend ahead holds. This ‘watercooler chat’ is just as important and helps us reconnect with the reasons we’re freelancing.
Guest Blog: Fundraising Consultant Lisa Clavering helps charities grow and improve their fundraising. Her main area of focus is helping organisations to better use digital channels, with a focus on building engagement, to grow a committed and interactive audience. Find out more at lisaclavering.com
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