I became a freelance fundraiser in October 2016 following 8 years of employment at a large, national charity. It was an incredible job and I knew when I was first appointed at the tender age of 25 that fundraising jobs in sunny Cornwall probably weren’t going to get any better than this.

So when the opportunity came to take redundancy, I knew that I needed a drastic rethink towards my expectations, dreams and the realities of the options available to me.

Self-employment felt compellingly attractive; more variety, increased flexibility, less bureaucracy / requirement to engage in corporate activities, less travel....

In preparing for potentially taking this big step, I talked to loads of people. Mainly freelancers I had made brief contact with, people I admired from afar and contacts recommended by friends and family in the business. I was blown away by the number of awesome people willing to let me take them for coffee. I was offered sage advice, kindness and encouragement.

One of those people was Beth Upton from Money Tree Fundraising, who alongside giving me some extremely helpful advice on accounting (based on some painful personal experience with HMRC) shared with me a blog post she had written on becoming a freelancer. Entitled ‘the first 100 days’, the piece served as a useful checklist and I am so grateful to her for her wisdom.

http://moneytreefundraising.co.uk/100-days-as-a-freelance-fundraiser/

In the spirit of paying it forward, I wanted to describe some of my own observations on life as a new freelancer to build on the fundamentals Beth set out in her piece.

I intend this to be a series as my original post was waaaay too long. Here therefore is the first piece of wisdom I intend to share:

1. Don’t scrimp on objective setting

Whilst the annual appraisal process can be a slightly painful box ticking exercise in most organisations, I personally used to quite enjoy the process (especially the financial objectives – every fundraisers’ motivation right?).

Despite being no longer employed and therefore freed from the shackles of rating myself (cringe!) as somewhere between ‘poor and exceptional’, I still craved structure and targets for my new, self-created role.

To help me with this, I joined a network for self-employed female business owners at a local enterprise hub, (the fantastic http://www.tavistockenterprisehub.co.uk/) following a chance meeting at a party with the inspirational Rhiannon who set up the network. Each month, we meet and provide support, action learning and accountability against self-defined objectives.

The process for objective setting which Rhiannon encouraged us to use was a total revelation. It could not have been more different to my employed life where the focus was becoming a better fundraiser with a limited budget.

Using a template set out in a book called ‘Your Best Year Yet’ by American author Jinny Ditzler, we each took time to define the different roles in our lives, not just our professional persona.

your best year yet poster

In my case, the list looks something like this:

  • consultant
  • slave to small and demanding yet adorable six-year-old
  • life partner, lover and expert shoulder massager to the bearded man
  • fitness instructor
  • school governor and general community contributor
  • family member (daughter, granddaughter, sister, godmother, friend)
  • mermaid (sea swimmer, surfer, yogi, experimental baker, consumer of glossy mags, podcasts and inspiring management tomes)

We then decided how important each of those roles was for the coming year and set objectives for each area. The most important of these objectives were then extracted and added to a master list.

It had never before occurred to me to look at the roles I play alongside my professional persona. Given how rewarding it’s been and how productive I have found myself to be as a result, it astounds me that businesses don’t encourage their employees to look at their work in the context of what else is happening in their lives (maybe some already do?).

If, for example, you’re struggling as a parent and you focus on improving your patience and empathy in dealing with yet another fraught bedtime, chances are those skills will transfer to the office.

And if you’re making just a few minutes for a daily yoga practice, you’ll probably sleep better and be able to concentrate for longer periods when writing a complex bid. Actively prioritising your health and fitness may prevent you from getting ill (an impossible concept for a single mum and self-employed person) and therefore worth doing.

aerobics

To conclude, find a framework for objective setting which works for you. Consider all aspects of your life and how your career supports and complements the person you are. Find a network of like-minded awesomeness to share the journey with.
I wish all new freelancers the very best in their new careers.