How Flexible Working Helped Launch My Freelance Career

How Flexible Working Helped Launch My Freelance Career

Over the years I’ve worked for some brilliant companies where flexibility has been part of the culture, so when my employer floated the idea of working flexibly from home permanently, I jumped at the opportunity to control my own day.

I’ve been working flexibly from home for around 3.5 years now, which has significantly improved my mental and physical wellbeing. My relationships have all benefitted, I cook healthy meals most days and usually get to that 5 pm yoga class I could never quite manage when I worked fixed hours in the office.

Flexible Working Opened Valuable Opportunities During Lockdown

The initial years I spent working from home for a flexible employer gave me the time I needed to start a successful freelance business on the side, which has been invaluable over lockdown.

The industry I worked in previously all but collapsed due to covid, but luckily my flexible working pattern and established side hustle meant I was able to make a swift change into full-time self-employment almost instantly.

What Does a Flexible Day Actually Look Like?

One of the best things about working flexibly is no two people’s days look the same. I’m particularly productive in the mornings, so I like to wake up early and plough through my challenging tasks before the day gets going.

I usually take a cup of strong tea to my desk and start with the most challenging task on my list by 6 am, then break for breakfast at around 10 am. The rest of my working day is relatively relaxed, because doing the toughest projects first eases my day naturally as things progress. I tend to leave the most enjoyable work for last and always aim to finish my working day with a late lunch in the mid-afternoon.

Having the flexibility to start early means I can get the day’s hurdles cleared before breakfast, and finish work with enough daylight hours to still enjoy some of the day at leisure. Working this pattern means I never feel as though I have mountains to tackle on any given day, and I can always get to appointments without any hassle.

As the kind of worker who conks out in the afternoons, I use this pattern to my advantage to enjoy other things during the hours when I’m least productive. After lunch I go for a walk, head to the supermarket, enjoy a fitness class, take a nap or meet up with friends for a coffee. This is also a great time to catch up with my family.

Working this 6 am to 3 pm pattern lets me work a full-time job with a half-day schedule to enjoy a balanced lifestyle. I break for breakfast rather than lunch and finish my day when I naturally start to feel tired and demotivated. This gives me the illusion of working part-time in a full-time role, and means I can always deliver my work to my clients early in the day for better service and improved availability should they require any same-day changes to be made.

Flexibility Has Become My Most Valuable USP

Working flexibly means my only commitment is to do my work and look after my clients with the highest possible level of care, which is a style of working that suits me well. I like to look after people, so every client I speak to becomes a personal part of my day. Having time flexibility means clients who get in touch outside of regular working hours are easily assisted at a mutually convenient time, which gives me a competitive edge over others who work during office hours only.

My early morning work pattern also means I can easily extend my working hours to suit clients when needed without staying up all night or losing the evenings to long nights and endless overtime stuck in the office.

What Are the Challenges of Flexible Working?

Flexible Working Challenges

All jobs have good days and bad days, and flexible working is no exception. For the most part the ups far outweigh the challenges, but there are a few pitfalls to look out for which should be handled with a strategic, structured approach.

Inclination to Overwork

Flexible workers tend to work long hours, and are often available well past appropriate working hours. Knowing when to stop is key to a balanced life. In my home, I make sure that my work laptop is never used in areas of the house where I like to relax, which helps me switch off.

Being Your Own Cheerleader

Imposter syndrome is easy to catch, so it’s essential to give yourself a pat on the back for goals reached. Something I struggled with in the early days as a flexible worker was motivating myself on days when things don’t go well. I’ve learned the importance of letting go of the challenges to start every day with a good attitude, and treating each new project as a fresh new start.

Empowering Your Inner Critic

When you work flexible hours there is nobody watching over your shoulder to tell you when you are doing well or veering off course. It’s essential to give yourself an honest performance review from time to time, and to recognise when you’re not at your best. The ability to self-critique improves productivity for enhanced performance, and makes flexible home working fulfilling and engaging.

The Key to Success is Structure

Routine is the single most important driver behind the success of a full-time flexible employee. It doesn’t matter how you structure your day around your personal lifestyle, as long as you can train your brain to focus during work time and relax during downtime.

Flexible working has opened so many doors for me by tapping into skills I was underutilising, and helping me realise how much free time I can have if I just move my work schedule to a more suitable time of day.

However you like to work, there are very few downsides to having flexibility, but so many wonderful opportunities to enjoy a fuller, more relaxed work-life balance.