If you’re thinking of activating your ‘out of office’ email response indefinitely and working for yourself instead, read this first.

Were I asked to compile a list of things I don’t miss about working 9-5 it would include self-explanatory bullet points like commuting, being forced to meal prep lunches, and begging my boss for annual leave. As for what I yearn for about an office environment? You can be sure that water-cooler moments with colleagues, brainstorm sessions, work perks, and meeting new people feature high on the list. Oh, and free coffee!

It is almost like I blinked and a year has passed since my last experience of a full-time office grind. The transition to working completely for myself certainly had its highs and lows - and in fact was initially more of a necessity than a choice as I found searching for a reliable, steady gig rather fruitless.

Image via Instagram/Neuehouse

Image via Instagram/Neuehouse

Full disclosure: I am absolutely horrendous with budgeting and I have always spent my money as soon as it lands in my bank account. Therefore the notion of not receiving a steady pay cheque and/or paid time off were two major deterrents I faced when projecting whether I could survive outside of traditional employment. I also felt extremely skeptical that writing full time could be a viable career.... spoiler: it can.

For better and for poorer (!) it’s been a great learning curve working for myself thus far. The paid projects are becoming more frequent, and I’m learning to be proud of what I can offer as an independent contractor.

Tempted to make the transition? Consider this your career care package before making the leap.

Finances

Money might be the elephant in the room, but you do need to address it. Consider how much you need to comfortably survive each month, taking into account both rent, food, and utilities, alongside luxuries like socialising. Then consider how many jobs you will actively have to take on to afford these monthly costs - more importantly, determine whether you actually have the ability/passion to complete this work.

For most people, it’s a good idea to have a ‘rainy day’ stash containing enough to cover three months worth of expenses before you quit your day job. Don’t forget, it often takes a minimum of 30 days for invoices to clear, so having some pennies to fall back on is a wise move.

Routine

People often think that those who work from home rarely change out of their pajamas, and that they take leisurely lunches in front of daytime TV soaps. While this might be true for some, in reality it is essential that freelancers also stick to some sort of schedule.

For me, the most productive days start with a 7am workout and being at my laptop showered by 9am with a coffee answering emails. Even if my office is my kitchen table, or a local coffee shop, an early start forces me out of the bed and into work mode. When there’s no one to technically ‘show up’ for - you have got to learn how to be strict on yourself.

Always Look for More Work

In reality, employers probably won’t come to you as you start out. Try to get the ball rolling immediately and don't slack on keeping the word out there. Whether it’s pitching articles to publishers, contacting brands, or asking to meet prospective clients for lunch; the more projects you obtain and deliver on, the more your reputation grows.

Know Your Worth

Being aware of the industry average of a fair daily/hourly/weekly rates is absolutely vital to your success as a freelancer who can stand on their own two feet. Take into consideration what you would project your annual salary to be and use it to determine how much you should be paid per project. This fee is something you need to stick to and constantly re-evaluate so you are not being taken advantage of. Alas on the other hand, be careful not to oversell yourself. Be humble yet confident in your abilities and you will determine a justified rate.

Become an Authority

When I was a final year Journalism student, my professor (the head of my course) told me in front of the class that I would never find work if I only wanted to write about “fluff” (fashion, lifestyle, and women's interests in general). I’ve heard he’s still peddling this line to his fledgling students. With all due respect, as a writer, it’s quite imperative that you are extremely knowledgeable about your most passionate subject. I’ve found that it’s actually more lucrative to be a trusted authority on one thing - whether it’s food photography, fashion styling, fitness writing, or music reviews. Nail your craft and you will always find work.

Promote Yourself

This can be the most draining and taxing element of working for yourself. However, an impressive LinkedIn page, a sleek online portfolio, or an awe-inspiring Instagram that showcases your work will ensure you have the best possible representation of yourself and keep people coming your way.

Invest in Yourself

Don’t be afraid to spend some of your hard earned cash re-investing money in your new venture. Business cards, networking opportunities, and equipment obviously don’t grow on trees and can end up an after thought. However, taking once off financial hits might just propel you even further forward. Just remember to keep receipts of your outgoings.

Housekeeping: The following link on CitizensInformation.ie is a fantastic primer about the ins and outs of tax, PRSI, company registrations, allowances, and more.

Search for work on sites like Upwork, Indeed, Simply Hired, Irish Jobs, LinkedIn, and Career Jet.

For co-working spaces, check out Flex Huddle, We Work Dublin, TCube, Republic of Work (Cork), Dogpatch Labs and Iconic Offices.

Read how Irish illustrator Laura Callaghan - who works for Nike, Adidas, and NYLON - got her start here.