It's February – how did that happen? The whole 'time flies' thing is quite a cliche though isn't it? Maybe the flying speed is normal time speed, and we're all just in an unreasonable state of surprise about it all the time.
Nevertheless, it doesn't seem like more than a month has passed since it struck midnight and turned into 2013, and doesn't seem like I've been freelancing all that long.
Around the 3rd or the 4th of January, I started getting a little anxious about all the work I had to do, but of course I couldn't get started until the 7th, as that's when I was due back at work. Then I realised – no, that was when I HAD been due back at work in my old job. What was I waiting for? This oddly liberating feeling that I could decide when to go back to work was the first positive thing about being freelance.
Even after I started work, I spent the first couple of weeks in a strange feeling of limbo, like I was waiting to really go back to work. I'm very fortunate to be doing something that I love, but it can make it feel like I'm somehow cheating the system, and even although I do spend long days working away on things, I am still left with a feeling of waiting for the work to start. I think I just associate work with boredom and frustration and when those things are absent, I'm not sure how to tell that I've been working.
The second revelation about freelancing came when the nursery phoned me to tell me that my little girl had a temperature and needed to come home. 'OK,' I said, closing down documents with my free hand, 'I'll be there in a sec'. Then I made the ten minute walk through the woods and picked her up.
Last year, such a phonecall would have been followed by a very uncomfortable conversation with my boss, a drive home, picking up a poorly girl and feeling both sorry for her and stressed out at her for feeling poorly at an inconvenient time, all washed down with a huge bucketload of guilt for feeling such an awful thing. Then, when I returned to work, I would have been called into one of those stomach curdling meetings that last year was peppered with and asked what I planned to do to make sure such an incident didn't happen again, told to make a 'robust plan' to find someone else to look after my children when they are ill (which, with no family nearby, was impossible), and then docked a day's pay, turning my 'barely paid after childcare' job into a 'paying to go to work' job.
The difference this time was phenomenal. As I walked through the woods to get my baby girl, who was just ill, and just needed her mamma, I remember thinking that even if nothing else good ever came out of my decision to be self-employed – even if I had to pack it in tomorrow – it was all worth it for this one incident.
I am learning a lot about working from home in other ways. I have learned that I HAVE to get outside every day. With taking the children to nursery and dropping them off, this is usually a given, but I can't wait for it to be lighter at night or in the morning so that I can start running again too. Most of my job is computer-based and I'm quite aware of not moving around as much as I should. I could get quite fat, too, with nobody around to see how much I snack or what on.
I'm also aware of how isolating it could be. I have made a big effort this month to do things with friends, go to classes and other places with the children and to fill my non-working time with social interaction. I'm also fortunate to have good friends who are freelancing, so the odd text or e-mail swap during the day gives a feeling of solidarity. I am a quiet person and am perfectly content with my own company so it doesn't phase me, but I don't want to turn into a hermit either.
But what about the numbers? Surely that's the most important question – tell us about those all important numbers! Well, here we go.
Three: This is the number of funny pictures of my cat I took on my phone this month.
Two: This is the number of funny pictures of my cat I posted on Facebook this month. It would have been three, but I realised I was averaging about one per week of my self-employed life. And I don't even like my cat very much at the moment.
One: This is the number of work-related events I've been to – and it was fab. I went to the Toy Fair in London.
One: This is the number of new roles I have started in January. Yipee!
Five: This is the number of clients I have worked for during my first month.
Two: This is the number of pieces of work that cropped up in addition to the work that I was anticipating.
16: This is the number of nursery hours I have booked for my children per week.
20: This is the number of hours of booked work that I have each week, before any extra jobs.
My big plan about no more evening and weekend work has, therefore, fallen by the wayside –but I'm ok with it. It feels totally different working in the evening because that's how you're structuring your time, doing the job you love, and working in the evening because it's all the time you have to do the job you love, because you're spending all day in a job that is making you miserable.
That little moment when I got to pick up my poorly daughter without hassle, without guilt and without a backlash made the freelance decision worthwhile – but actually, this whole month has made it worthwhile.
And I earned more this month than I would have in the job that was making me miserable, too. That may not be the case every month, but I am so glad that I was brave and took the leap. So far it is paying off.
Ps) Both photos taken in this past month!