Empowering the Freelance Economy

Freelancers, we rode the Hot Mess Express in 2023. Now it’s time to hop on the Second Chance Special

Photo by Felix Büsselmann
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Before you dive headfirst into 2024 with sour grapes, here’s how to carry out a freelancer “year in “review”. Something careers Tedx Talk guru Helen Tupper suggests could do us all a world of good

From squeezing every pound in the rising cost of living crisis to navigating the puzzling IR35 landscape, it’s been a year of resilience and adaptation. Others may call it like it is: “2023 was shite.”

However, amidst the challenges, as a freelancer would have had some victories, triumphs, and moments of personal growth. You just have to get off the roller coaster and reflect on those. If you don’t, you’ll be holding yourself back.

You want to start 2024 focusing on not what could go wrong but what could go right.

This year in review is a personal exercise, not a competition.

Set time aside for reflection. This could mean talking to a friend or fellow freelancer about what you would like to achieve or how to get over a challenge. You can also record your goals and achievements into a voice memo on your mobile phone. Then listen to it every morning.

Here’s a guide to help you navigate a year-in-review freelancer style.

Take a breather

Before diving into details, step back. Take a well-deserved cuppa or something stronger at your local bar or pub, enjoy a brisk walk in the park, or indulge in a binge-watch of your favourite boxset or Britcom. A clear head is essential for a productive review.

During a walk, visualise three things you would like to achieve and the exact things you have to do to actually carry those out. Choose one for health, one for wealth and another for happiness. Then record those three things it into a voice note. Replay that recording every morning.

Rewind and reflect

Now, let’s rewind. Freelancers are achieving great things every day. They just are on deadline that they don’t have time to tally them all up. However, at this time if year you should think back and answer the questions:

  • What are your biggest wins this year?
  • Did you land that dream project?
  • Juggle deadlines and bring in that extra cash?
  • Master a new skill that boosted your income?
  • Secure a supportive network of fellow freelancers?

Write down or make a recorded voice memo about these victories, big and small. If you want to achieve something also record it.

You want to start 2024 focusing on not what could go wrong but what could go right.

Acknowledge the challenges

Let’s be honest, 2023 wasn’t all sunshine and roses. The rising cost of living likely ate into your earnings, IR35 concerns might have caused sleepless nights, and finding new clients in a tighter market could have been a struggle. Don’t shy away from acknowledging these hurdles; understanding them is crucial for moving forward.

Celebrate your strengths

What are the skills and qualities that saw you through this year? Is it your unwavering work ethic, your adaptability, your creativity, or your ability to build strong client relationships? Get over an illness and still stay in business?

Identifying your strengths will not only boost your confidence but also guide your future decisions.

Don’t dwell on the missteps; use them as learning opportunities.

Learn from mistakes

We all make them, and 2023 was no different. Did you underestimate a project’s scope? Miss a crucial deadline? Overlook a tax implication? Don’t dwell on the missteps; use them as learning opportunities. Analyse what went wrong, and use that knowledge to avoid similar situations in the future.

Fast-forward to the future

With a clear understanding of your year, it’s time to set your sights on 2024. What are your goals? Do you want to diversify your income stream? Expand your network? Take on bigger projects? Set SMART goals, specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, and time-bound, to guide your future actions. Write them down. Record them. Review them weekly.

It’s not a competition

Remember, your freelancer journey is unique. This year in review is a personal exercise, not a competition. Embrace the ups and downs, celebrate your achievements, and learn from your experiences. As you move forward, remember the strength, adaptability, and resourcefulness that define freelancers.

So, raise a glass to surviving in 2023. Here’s to new beginnings, exciting opportunities, and continued personal growth in 2024.

Still a bit stuck?

If you get a bit stuck when carrying out this exercise then it wouldn’t hurt to connect with fellow freelancers through online communities and networking events. Sharing experiences and challenges can be incredibly valuable, especially when carrying out a year in review. You should also start researching what skills would make you more confident or would help your earning potential. Invest in your professional development. Take courses, attend workshops and network with industry experts.

Case study: Amy Kelly reflects on why she went freelance

Amy Kelly, a B2B Growth Marketing Consultant, part of the Board of Directors at Creative Edinburgh and Head of Marketing at StartUp Grind Scotland first shared her personal experience of going freelance on the freelancer jobs platform Gigged.AI.

Read an excerpt of her experience below. It might spark some further reflection on why you want to go freelance or why you want to remain freelance.

In 2019 I moved back up to Scotland from London to kick-start the EMEA Marketing program for UserTesting, the leading human insight platform. Working as the Director of EMEA Marketing, I was busy running European wide campaigns while collaborating with my San Francisco based team. It was an exciting and extremely fast paced role, but after a few years, I was completely burnt out.

Perhaps the universe was looking out for me, as not long after that, I was made redundant in June of 2022. As much as I was devastated and scared to lose a job I loved, I took this as a sign. I decided to take a break for a few months and think about what I really wanted to do. I enjoyed a few travel adventures, including a solo campervan trip with my dog around the Scottish Islands. But after a few months of fun, I knew it was time to get back to work.

The thought of going back to full time was not exciting to me, so I decided to network in Edinburgh and see if there was anyone in need of some marketing support. I soon met Nick Murray, Director of Startup Grind Scotland, and within a month of our meeting, I was running a marketing workshop for startups based in Scotland. That was the change catalyst I needed. Soon after, I joined as Head of Marketing at Startup Grind Scotland, alongside building my own client base for my consulting business.

It’s hard to fully explain the difference of how it feels going from full-time to becoming a freelance consultant, but I can confidently say it’s the happiest I’ve ever been in my career. It all comes down to the feeling of being free. Free to manage my own time, free to work with whoever I choose, free to set my own day rate and free to work wherever I want.

Need a career pep talk?

Check out Helen Tupper the co-founder and CEO of Amazing and a believer in the career year-in-review process She along with her business partner Sarah Ellis co-wrote The Sunday Times number-one bestseller The Squiggly CareerYou Coach You, and host of the Squiggly Careers podcast.

See their TEDx talk, “The best career path isn’t always a straight line”:

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