So this popped up on my Timehop today:-
I just can't believe that it's been a whole year since I gave up my employed job in the NHS. Steve says it feels like longer but to me, it feels like I've only been a work at home parent for a few months.
It has been a giant learning curve though - and a lot of what I've been through is probably the same for any kind of full-time self employed role. I've learned a lot about business, blogging and myself this year. Here are a few points for starters:
1 - You don't need to work 24/7
In the year before I left my employed role I would work 24/7 on my blog and easily worked 100 hour+ weeks. I think this is needed at the beginning of most businesses but it really isn't sustainable in the long term - you are supposed to work to live not live to work. I was sensible enough to not leave work until I had earned an amount I was happy I could live on for 6 consecutive months so in theory, I should have spent less time working once you took my employed role out of the equation. I didn't though and if anything I worked more - I often stay up until 3/4am working. When you work from home and your work is about your life, it's really easy for the lines to become blurred.
It is only in the last 3-4 months that I have realised that I don't actually need to work 24/7 and I now properly schedule time off into my diary and work more productively and yeah - it works! If anything I get more done. I still need to work on the whole not sleeping when an idea pops into my head though........
2 - Know your worth
The most stressful part of full time self-employment for me has been knowing my worth and trying to stick to this. Someone may offer me £50 to write a blog post and in my head I know that my blog is worth way more than this but then I also think I don't really know where my next pay cheque is coming from and that money could be used to pay for the kids' school trip. It's a REALLY tough balancing act. Again, it has taken me a full year to realise this but there are plenty of people out there willing to pay £250+ per post. It's really hard when you need the £ but if you think about it, you just need 4 x £250 posts per month to earn the same as 20 x £50 posts. I've been really strict on how much I will produce a blog post for in the last few months and this month has been my most profitable month to date.
(Remember that North East Family Fun is 4 year's old and it has taken me FOREVER to get to this figure - my £250 might be your £100 or my £250 could be your £500 - what to charge is a very personal thing and it definitely changes over time. It doesn't really matter what you decide to charge but do make sure you know your worth).
3 - Always go the extra mile
It's always nice to go that extra mile just as a general life rule but I think when you rely on yourself to earn your own money rather than an organisation, it is especially important. You want to make sure people work with you again and again and going that extra mile is a good way to do this - throw in extra social media promotion, create an unboxing video, send a screenshot of a Facebook post featuring their product that has worked well, share their content or special offers with your readers......it all helps to secure future work and ensures you stand out from the 100000s of other bloggers out there.
4 - Getting Paid
This is something that I REALLY struggled with at first. It is so difficult when you have £1000+ worth of overdue invoices and no £ in the bank. It all came to a head this summer when I had two invoices worth £600 overdue by quite some time and I was really relying on them being paid so I could pay off the balance on my holiday. If they weren't paid, I would have had to cancel our much-needed holiday. Talk about stressful!
Since that day I have been a lot stricter with invoices and I now have 14 days as my payment terms and write DUE DATE | xx/xx/xxxx on all invoices and include late payment fees. I will chase the invoice on the day it's due now rather than waiting until it's a couple of weeks overdue and so far, this has worked and I haven't had to deal with any late payments for a while.
5 - Work on establishing good working relationships
This point is similar to #3 but I can't stress this enough. If you work with a PR and it's been a good experience, ensure you work on that relationship. Help them out if they ask you (as long as they aren't taking the mick - see 'know your worth'), reply to their emails in good time, meet for coffee....... most of my highest paying work is through businesses and PRs that I have a good & established relationship with.
6 - Network outside of your circle
Sometimes it is very easy to get sucked into the bloggersphere - there are lots of blogging groups online and most of us have blogging pals we can bounce ideas off BUT I don't think this is enough. I've attended at least 12 networking events in this past year and they are worth their weight in gold. I wouldn't say I have necessarily picked up much business through networking but chatting to other business men and women and being forced to talk about your blog really takes you out of your comfort zone and does wonders for boosting your confidence. Plus, meeting with other businesses and finding out what they're up to is usually very inspiring.
Working at home is SO lonely. I have lots of blogging friends but a lot of them either have a job or don't live in my vicinity. Being able to meet up with people on my wavelength who are local to me is the perfect excuse to get out of the house.
7 - Holidays are important
In the past, I have always taken holidays from work but never from my blog - it has always felt like I don't need to take a break from my blog and it's as if it's actually part of me but you know what, I was wrong. Now that I rely on my blog as my only source of income, although I still adore blogging, it now very much feels like my job and I do need a break. I took a full 10 days off when I travelled to Spain this summer and it was absolute bliss. I scheduled some social media posts featuring old posts before I left and my stats didn't drop at all. While I know I'm probably never going to take a full 5 weeks annual leave, I can see the value in taking a break. It really helps you recharge and switch off. I'm planning on taking a full 2 weeks off work over Christmas for the first time in 3 years and rather than worrying what it may do to my stats, I'm actually really looking forward to it and seeing it as a much needed chance to recharge my batteries.
8 - Don't forget the reason you are self-employed
Why did I become self-employed in the first place? There were a number of reasons really including the fact that I couldn't really handle being micro-managed, I had big plans that I couldn't express in my employed role but mostly, I wanted to be there for the kids when they needed me. I used to work 12 hour shifts every Saturday and Sunday and although I would see them Monday-Friday, missing out on every day moments and our weekends together was tough. Sometimes, I find myself working when I should be spending time with them and I think it's important to remind yourself why you're doing this and take some time to enjoy the benefits that being self-employed brings.
9 - You won't know how you used to fit work in
I have no idea how I used to fit in an extra 12-24 hours work per week! I think the more time you have, the busier you are!
10 - Learn when to say no
This is SO important. Again when you're self employed, it's easy to say yes to everything. Especially if it pays well. This can lead to feeling overwhelmed and it's something I am very guilty of. I'm not kidding when I say that I had 23 outstanding blog posts due last week. They all seemed to come along at once! Although I'm really careful now and only say yes to projects that I really want to be part of, feeling overwhelmed is still an issue and as well as learning when to say no when they project isn't right (which I am good at), I also need to learn to say no when my workload is already too heavy (or ask if the brand can work with an extended deadline).
11 - Get organised
I am not organised in my home life at all but one place I am organised is my work life - I have a planner and notepad for everything from invoices due to expenses to blog posts I need to write and even when I need to add posts to Pinterest - everything has a system and it has helped me to plan my workload effectively.
12 - Learn Basic SEO
If you'd like to earn money as a blogger in the long term, it really pays to teach yourself at least the basics of SEO. Over 70% of my blog traffic for North East Family Fun is either through a search engine or direct so that's around 20,000 page views every month that I've received with zero marketing. It now takes me around 4-5 hours to write a blog post that I could have written in an hour in the past but taking this time to ensure the post is 'search engine friendly' really pays off in the long term.
13 - Find Your Own Voice & Write Honest Reviews
Regular readers will often say that they trust my reviews because if I've had a bad experience, I'll say so. I think as long as you are honest and fair it's much better to do this. A lot of PRs will value an honest review over a sugar-coated re-write of a press release too and writing with honesty means that your blog has authority. Some people may disagree with your opinion and that's fine - also remember you can only really write about your experience. It's equally important to not be afraid to give something a glowing review if you feel it deserves one.
Working as a self-employed blogger is definitely the most stressful and hardest job I've ever had but it is also the most rewarding. Make sure you follow me on Facebook here and add me on Snapchat (NEFamilyFun) for more blogging & social media tips. This blog will fully launch in January but as today was a special anniversary, I really wanted to share this post.
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