5 freelancing rules you should break

Sally took the idea of 'fake commuting' to the extreme - pretending to be stuck in traffic.

Sally took the idea of ‘fake commuting’ to the extreme – pretending to be stuck in traffic.


Working in your pyjamas,  napping in the afternoon, throwing in your day job on a whim…these are the things that make many freelancers recoil in horror. Yet these are some of the joys of freelancing!

While there are many freelancing rules we should obey to keep our businesses chugging along, I reckon there are a few we can ignore. Or at least figure out if they work for us before we follow them.

Here are 5 freelancing rules I’ve broken:


1 Dress up for work

The corporates can keep their itchy suits and toe-pinching heels. I love being able to sit at my desk to write without worrying about how I look. I tie my hair up in a messy bun, throw on a tracksuit or ‘house dress’ (a super comfy item that shows a little too much skin to be worn outside) and don a pair of uggs.

I get why some sheelancers prefer to dress for the job: they feel more professional in a smart outfit and say they do their best work when they look ‘the part’. But for me, my best work is done when I can crack on with it without worrying about my attire or having to wash a pile of ‘office’ clothes.

See what works for you: spend a week in work wear and a week in your worn wear. Does it affect your productivity or dealings with clients? Just go with what works.


2 ‘Drive’ to the ‘office’

This one fascinated me when starting out. Many freelancers hop in their car (briefcase in hand), drive around the block, re-park in the driveway and go back inside the house.

It’s quirky but I can see where they’re coming from. When you work from home, it can be hard to switch off from ‘house mode’ and switch on to ‘work mode’. By leaving the house and re-entering it as though it’s an office, some freelancers find they’re more productive, produce quality work and can ignore those pesky household chores that threaten to interrupt the day.

There are 2 reasons why I’ve shunned this rule:

1. I drive a scooter (moped), so piling on my protective gear, stuffing my egghead into a helmet, whizzing around the block and re-parking seems like a waste of time and effort.

2. Every morning I walk up to my local cafe for a chat with the barista and to get my hands on a steaming cup of strong coffee. When I get back to my bedroom (office), I’m jacked up on caffeine, have had a good dose of fresh air and am ready to work. This works wonders for getting me into work mode, without the need to waste fuel or get helmet hair.


3 Don’t quit your day job

It’s conservative advice – build your business up to a full-time load before you quit your day job. From a financial perspective, it’s also wise advice. When you start freelancing, the last thing you want to worry about is whether you can pay the bills.

So while I understand why many freelancers wait until they have enough clients to work full-time in their business, there are other options.

I started freelancing on weekends while still at my full-time job. I sacrificed my social life, but it was well worth it. But I didn’t wait ’til I was tearing my hair out and falling asleep at my desk before I jumped ship.

Instead, I ensured I had enough savings behind me (I saved every penny from my freelancing and only spent my salary) to sustain the inevitable drop in income. Then I looked ahead and figured that if I was able to find freelance work when I only had a few hours to spare each week, I’d surely be able to quickly build my business once I could devote more time to it.

Sure enough, I did. My employer took me on as a freelancer and became my first regular client (and still is) and I sub-contracted to other freelance writers who had too much work on their plates. Of course, I had weeks where the work was light and I didn’t make much. But that was often followed by a jam-packed week making more than enough dough to spend and save.  And I did it without a spouse to support me.

Go with your gut. If you feel ready to jump ship and have savings (or a spouse) to support you, just do it. I have no regrets.


4 Eat, breathe & sleep freelancing

When you start out, it can be tempting to make freelancing your life. Late nights, cancelled plans, no extracurricular activities – all so you can build your business and get more work.

But a rich life is a balanced life and the most successful freelancers are those who don’t let their work take over. They also happen to be disciplined and keep to a fairly strict schedule – adhering to normal office hours and ignoring personal calls during the day. But this structure ensures they work well, play well and spend quality time with loved ones.

I like to think I work harder on my business than I ever did for an employer. My business is my baby and I’m always thinking about how to improve it. But a few nights a week I give myself a break. I take acting classes, have dinner with friends, see a show or get a massage.

I love my business, but it’s just one slice of the juicy pie that is my life.


5 Have a separate office

My partner jokes that I’d live in bed if I could. I love that I can just roll out of bed and start working with minimal fuss or effort.

That being said, sometimes I pine for a place in the city to work – a real office filled with staff and surrounded by other businesses. And one day I’ll have it. But while I’m still growing my business, the corner of my bedroom works well. And it’s great for naps. Speaking of which, I’m going back to bed. :)


Which freelancing rules have you broken? Which ones do you live by?

Kat Tate Kat Tate (22 Posts)

Kat is the founder of Sheelance.com and chief word nerd at Kat Tate Copywriting. She is happiest when crafting clear, compelling content for business websites, or writing about health and travel for magazines. Before jumping into freelancing full-time, Kat enjoyed a colourful career as a journalist, PR consultant, online editor and professional organiser.

Kat Tate

Kat Tate

Kat is the founder of Sheelance.com and chief word nerd at Kat Tate Copywriting. She is happiest when crafting clear, compelling content for business websites, or writing about health and travel for magazines. Before jumping into freelancing full-time, Kat enjoyed a colourful career as a journalist, PR consultant, online editor and professional organiser.

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  • Caylie

    Oh, all of them! Mainly that I can’t seem to stop writing now that I have started! I still have a house to paint, children to raise, a husband to feed and numerous other things on my plate. They are all suffering because I have rekindled my love of penmanship (keyboarding?!)! I am now going to paint…I promise…I’ll just check my messages…!

    • sheelance

      That’s the challenge, Caylie – getting everything done that needs to get done. Do you keep a schedule? I use Google Calendars and have events/appointments categorised by colour. Pink is networking, blue is personal/family, purple is business and green is Sheelance. I find that by scheduling everything (even cooking, cleaning etc) into my day, and ensuring I have a mix, keeps me on track and ensures the important stuff takes priority. – Kat

      • Caylie

        Oh thank you so much Kat! Great advice- I have a calendar but it doesn’t have spots for hourly planning which is where i am at now.

  • http://twitter.com/DonnaWebeck Donna Webeck

    Love these rules and love this perspective!!

    • sheelance

      Thanks Donna, love that you love it! Have you broken any freelancing rules? – Kat

  • http://twitter.com/ebrenner Erin Brenner

    The only rule here I wouldn’t break is #5. Whether you have an office downtown or just a corner of your living space, having a space devoted to work makes it easier to balance work with life. Walking away from your work space will help you mentally break from your work, too.

    • sheelance

      Great perspective, Erin. I’m looking forward to my upcoming move so I can set up a proper ‘office’….in the corner of the living room! – Kat

  • http://twitter.com/kaitpro Kemal Arafeh

    Love it!
    I think you’re gonna be my new favorite freelancer! ;)

    • sheelance

      Naww, thanks Kemal! – Kat