From the editor: the funny side of freelancing

An Olympic hurdler, an explicit ex-doctor and a schoolboy entrepreneur – National Freelance Day had something for everyone


I didn’t go to National Freelance Day expecting to hear a story about a man whose winkie fell off after he slid down a lampost.

But freelancing is a broad church.

There was a huge range of people at the NFD event in London from hairdressers to IT consultants. There was at least one Olympic athlete – runners are self-employed essentially but I, for one, had never thought of them like that. The day served up plenty of other thought provoking and eye-opening contributions at sessions that covered topics including mental health, getting a mortgage when you’re freelance and even whether it’s a good idea to pretend to be your own agent. (It’s probably not).

The keynote speaker rounding things up was Adam Kay. He worked in the NHS for around 10 years, practically the opposite of being freelance! But then he packed in medicine for a freelance career as a comedian and writer, a move that paid off spectacularly when his medical memoir ‘This is Going to Hurt’ sold a million and made him a Number One author.

He shared some snippets from the book, including the drunk man and the lampost tale above, and had the audience, ahem, in stitches with some fairly gory tales.

Tips for success

But he also shared his tips for success as a freelance.

As a freelance myself for most of the week they struck a chord. Some I’ve learned in my time  self-employed, some I’ll definitely be adopting.

So with a new and growing freelance section on this website and in the wake of National Freelance Day I thought I’d share them for anyone thinking about taking the step into self-employment or starting out as a freelance.

Wear clothes: A funny opener yes but Kay’s point was that if you dress properly, particularly if you put shoes on, it makes you feel like you’re at work and you’ll get more done

Eat as fuel rather than as a distraction: all freelancers know the temptation to procrastinate and making a complicated snack is a favourite.

Do things you’re passionate about, even if there’s not that much money in it

Learn to deal with envy, and rejection: freelancing is competitive so they go with the territory. Sometimes others get the work but other times you’ll be the one riding high

Increase your fee by 10%, then offer clients a 10% discount if they pay within seven days: a super cute way of improving your cashflow that I very much like the sound of as I send yet another email chasing up the appearance fee a Turkish TV company owe me from six months ago.

That adds up to some good advice. But it was in the question and answer session after his talk that Kay went to the heart of the freelance life and why it’s so attractive to parents.

Yes it’s a leap to leave behind the safety and security of a salaried job. But asked if he was happier working for himself it was a straight ‘Yes’.

Flexibility and confidence

That theme came through all the sessions at National Freelance Day, which was organised by the Association of Independent Professionals and Self-Employed (Ipse). No-one there regretted making the switch, all spoke about the joy of not having a boss.

Flexibility and confidence were two words that kept repeating.

Freelancing gives people the flexibility to make work fit with family life. And when it works it increases your confidence in your own ability. Instead of a boss umming and ahhing about your annual salary settlement you tell clients what you’re worth and they tend to agree.

Dads who are happier, more confident and able to flex their schedule so that can be around for their family are inevitably going to make better fathers. And that sets up a virtuous circle because hanging out with the people you love will also make you happier and more confident and you can bring that into your work.

It’s not for everyone, and I’m certainly not suggesting that you have to work for yourself to be a good dad! But for anyone who finds paid employment isn’t allowing the work-life balance they want freelance life is worth considering. At the very least you’re eligible to attend National Freelance Day and hear an ex-doctor tell you about the odd places people some people put their Christmas fairy lights…

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