If you’ve often wondered how other people structure their freelancing lives and what on earth got them into running their own business in the first place, you’re in the right place for a good old snoop around.
This Friday, Joss Anderson of Carpe Diem Coaching and fellow member of the Cambourne Network gives us her insight into the world of freelancing, offering her experience of how to turn around a redundancy to make it work and how to balance self-employment with being a parent to boot, please read on and get to know this weeks’ Freelancer Friday interviewee!
So, first of all, give us a mini bio and tell us something we won¹t know about you!
I’m Joss Anderson, founder of Carpe Diem Coaching. I’m based in Cambridgeshire and work with people to help them be the best they can possibly be, professionally and personally. I’m fascinated by people and I love those “lightbulb moments” when a client starts to looks at a situation from a completely new perspective, or suddenly realises something about themselves that they didn’t know before.Something you won’t know about me…let’s see – I have a not-so-secret desire to write a novel….I’ve been developing a storyline in my head for a couple of years, but so far, nothing on paper!
How long have you been running your business and what got you started?
In 2009 I was made redundant, and it was at that point that I decided to work for myself full time. I had thought about it before, but not had the courage to give up a steady job with regular income. Redundancy forced my hand somewhat and gave me the impetus I needed to get started; looking back, it was one of the best career decisions I’ve ever made.
Did you launch straight into your business idea or did you spend time planning, training or even worrying before you got kicking?
When I first set up my business I didn’t really give it a lot of thought: I knew the HR industry well and I could see that while businesses were cutting back, they still needed HR and training services and were relying increasingly on more contractors and interims to deliver them. It was actually a good time to be an HR consultant and there was no shortage of work. But the aspect of my work that I enjoyed most – and where I made the biggest impact – was through coaching and helping people to develop and perform better at work. The more coaching I did, the more I realised that this is what I wanted my core business to be. So last year, I decided to set up a coaching practice, which I launched in January this year. I’ve never worried about it, but I did spend a lot of time planning and thinking about what kind of coaching I wanted to do and who I wanted to work with. I made the decision to go back to university as well to study part time for an MA in Coaching to make sure I’m completely up to date with the latest thinking and research.
Tell us about your typical working day – Are you an early bird or do you tend to work throughout the night?
I’m definitely an early bird. I like to get an hour or so of work done before anyone else in my family gets up – this is the quietest time of my day and I use it to do routine business admin, checking emails and Twitter. Once this is out of the way, I find I’m more focussed for the rest of the day. If I’m coaching clients that day, I’ll read through notes and prepare for their sessions; if not, then I’ll normally spend time researching or writing articles or assignments, which I fit around networking and meeting new clients. I have a 12 year old son so I manage my working hours around the times he’s at school. That works really well as I know I have to get things finished by pick-up time; having a deadline really helps to focus me! I’ll check my emails once in the evening just to make sure there’s nothing urgent that needs dealing with, but other than that I try to keep my evenings work-free.
What¹s your biggest challenge as a freelancer?
My biggest challenge is having to be an expert in every aspect of the business, from marketing to accounting, and then making sure I set aside time to do all the essentials that keep the business going as well as actually delivering coaching. It’s easy sometimes to put off all those little jobs, but I learnt early on that it saves a lot of time and stress if you just get on with them.
And what¹s the best element of being your own boss?
For me, by far the best part of working for myself is the freedom and flexibility that goes with running your own business. I can choose when I want to work, who I work with and how to manage my business. I can run the business to fit in with my family, rather than the other way around. As many working parents will know, it can be really stressful when you have to get children to school and try to be on time for a 9 o’clock meeting at the other side of town. Of course, there are times when that still happens, but it’s much less of a problem when you’re the boss!
How do you manage a good work/life balance (or do you struggle with this at all)?
I think it’s incredibly important to switch off from work and spend time doing other things. In Britain we have the longest working hours in Europe and a lot of people I know and work with feel a huge amount of pressure to be available for work at all times of the day. So even when we’re not at work, we’re still expected to be at work. One great piece of advice I was given when I first went into business for myself was to decide when you don’t want to work and plan your business activity around that. So each year, I block out days (or even weeks!) in my diary when I know I want to book a holiday, have a day off etc, then plan my work around those times. This way, I feel that I’m running the business, not letting it run me.
Where do you work from and do you co-work at all?
I work from home and do a lot of coaching over the phone or via Skype, but I also coach clients at their offices or at business centres if the work environment would get in the way of effective coaching. I’m moving next year though and am looking forward to having a dedicated coaching space to work with clients face to face. I haven’t co-worked yet, but that’s not to say I won’t in the future.
Do you allow yourself a regular break for coffee, exercise or lunch?
Umm…I’m not always great about taking breaks. Sometimes I get so absorbed in what I’m doing that I just forget! I do a lot of research and writing, both for studies and my business. I really need to get more disciplined with myself about taking proper breaks. I do drink a lot of tea and coffee though. We have a dog that needs a lot of exercise, so I take him for a walk every day, even if it’s just around the village where we live.
Are there any apps/tools/gadgets/people that you just couldn¹t work without?
I’d be lost without my car – living in the countryside is great, but not if you have to rely on public transport. I’m somewhat attached to my iPad too – I love the fact that I can access my calendar from any device. I use Dropbox for document storage too so that whether I’m working from my laptop or iPad, I’ve always got access to the latest versions of things I’m working on.
We would love to hear your thoughts on “networking” – do you go to any regular events or meet ups to meet other freelancers?
In my business I feel it’s really important to get out and meet people. Coaching is all about building relationships and that means people getting to know you, like and trust you. While websites and social media are great for helping Coaches establish their presence in the market, they’re no substitute for getting to know someone in person. I do a lot of networking and although I do have some regular haunts, I try to mix it up by going to networking events where I’ll meet different groups of people. I use sites like Cambridge Network and Meetup to find out what’s going on locally. I also try to combine networking with attending conferences and workshops – this is a great use of time as you’re killing two birds with one stone, and there’s always something to talk about with other delegates.
What essential advice would you give to anyone thinking of becoming a freelancer?
As a coach, I wouldn’t give my advice, but I would encourage anyone thinking about it to spend time considering what kind of business they want to have, and set some clear goals for themselves. Then work out what they need to do in order to make those goals happen; where they might find the support they need, and how they would overcome any obstacles they might be able to anticipate.
How can we find you online (and off!)?
Carpe Diem Coaching
For a limited time, I’m offering new clients a free Myers Briggs (MBTI) personality profile when they sign up for six sessions. Offer closes at on 17th October. Please contact me for more details.
Thanks so much Joss for taking part in our Freelancer Friday series, if you would like to put yourself (or somebody else worthy of being featured) forward, let’s talk!