Going Full-Time: Four Things You’ll Miss From the Day Job

officeFor many of us, it’s that moment we’ve been longing for. It’s what we’ve worked towards for months or years. It’s the reason we’ve been coming home from a busy day and freelancing in the evenings, or at the weekends.

Quitting the day job. Going full-time. Striking out on our own. You’re not going to miss the office for a moment … right?

Chances are, you’ll find yourself looking back wistfully on certain occasions. Here are a few things you might be missing, and how you could replace them as a freelancer:

What Happened to the Office Chatter?

One of the first things you’ll notice as a full-time freelancer is the blissful peace and quiet. Unless you’re a real introvert, though, you’ll find that there’s time when you’d like a bit of company (other than the cat). Being cooped up in a home office (or, more likely, at a teeny desk in the spare bedroom) can make you feel stir-crazy after a while. Even if you have a partner or family, you’re likely to have times when you’d quite like to talk to someone else.

How to replace the office chatter:

One easy replacement for the office watercooler is Twitter; it’s a great way to casually connect with people in the same field as you (and people in completely different ones!) and it provides a nice stream of “background chatter” to your day. It can’t replace face-to-face contact, though. How about signing up for a class at your local college? I’m taking a part time MA in creative writing, and finding it a great way to meet interesting people and to build up my skills at the same time.

When Is Home Time?

If you were freelancing round a day job, chances are that you got pretty good at switching off at 5pm and going home – and forgetting about the office until 9am the following morning. Life as a freelancer is pretty different, as you may well have found. When you love your work and when you’ve got a lot invested in your business, it’s difficult to down tools and switch off. You find yourself checking email “just in case” at 9pm, then finding something “urgent” that you decide to reply to there and then.

How to replace home time:

If your freelancing requires a computer, set a “shut down” time – and make it at least an hour before you want to go to bed. Better yet (I’m not this disciplined yet, I must confess), try switching off before dinner. Find something relaxing to do at the end of the day – perhaps escaping into a novel, taking a long bath, or having a proper conversation with a family member for the first time in a while…

Where Are My Subordinates?

Unless you were just getting started in your former life as an employee, chances are that you had someone to delegate tasks to. Now that you’re a freelancer, there’s just you. Unless you can bribe your kids/partner to help out, you’ll be the one fixing the printer when it has a paper jam, coaxing the wireless network out of its hissy fit, and doing all the tedious but rather useful things like invoicing clients. Sometimes, it’ll feel like you’re spending more time on trivia than on actual work.

How to replace your subordinates:

Where possible, get things running smoothly – even if it requires some money. If you have constant hardware/software “Issues” that eat up time and energy each day, get them sorted out. With low-level tasks, look into employing an assistant. That could be something as simple as paying your partner to sort the books, or giving your kids some extra pocket money in return for a hand with the filing. You could also look into outsourcing to a virtual assistant, if most of your work is done online.

Who Will Tell Me What To Do?

Most of us, when leaving the day job, aren’t exactly devastated to be leaving our boss behind. Indeed, for some people, the main attraction of freelancing is the free part – being able to do what we want, when we want. Unfortunately, this can often lead to:

  • Getting distracted and procrastinating (and feeling guilty as a result)
  • Or… Overworking. Demanding an unhealthy level of productivity and perfectionism

Some freelancers even manage to see-saw crazily between these two extremes. No wonder there’s the occasional moment when you wish someone else was sorting it all out, when you just want to be told what to do…

How to replace the boss:

Take a look at your typical day, imagining that you are your own boss. Are you expecting your employee (i.e. yourself) to work ridiculously hard, from waking up till bedtime? Or are you turning a blind eye while your employee spend the bulk of the day playing World of Warcraft? Figure out some realistic guidelines for how much you need to be working. And take the “boss’s eye” view of the longer term: set priorities, don’t just rush to deal with things as they become urgent.

What Did You Miss When You Went Full-Time?

The one thing I miss most from the day job that just can’t be adequately replaced: free tea and coffee (and someone else bringing the milk). If anyone’s got a good tip on replacing this one then let me know…

What do you miss most from your day job? How have you replaced it in your freelance life?