From Staffroom to Mirror-Top Tips for Braving the World of Freelance

Choosing to leave my day job was the easy part. I had just suffered a bereavement, I had a clear mission in mind and after a recent success in a DFE office, I was super-charged.

What I was not prepared for was the eerie silence that followed. I was my own boss. I was accountable to no one, but also nobody really cared if I succeeded or not.

What has followed can only be described as an evolving relationship. A relationship with myself, a relationship with new colleagues and a far deeper relationship with education research, theory and practice than I could have ever imagined.

It is also the BEST decision I have ever made. Thinking about taking the plunge? Here are my top tips for getting started…

Know why…

I knew exactly what I wanted to achieve, I just had to work out how. Having a deep passion and a desire for change driving me really helped maintain momentum.

I draft/re-draft my company vision and values regularly. I use this to test my evolving ideas and contracts. I am extremely strict, no matter how much money is being offered, I won’t ‘sell out’. Sometimes this seems nonsensical but without exception, in hindsight it has always made sense.



The value of ALL of you…

This isn’t a new career but a manifestation of the experience you have had to this point. Don’t allow yourself to take on a ‘novice’ mentality, it will bring you down. Create a CV, use this as a personal reference of your career to-date and regularly remind yourself that this is the qualification for your self-employed venture.

I am now publicly a Mother and Wife. I was poorly advised early in my career to keep professional and personal life separate. Whilst this may have benefits in some professions, I certainly don’t believe this to be true in education. My children massively inform my work and if nothing else I desire to be authentic, therefore I purposefully and proudly allow my worlds to collide.

Treasure your mentors…

Although formal coaches are excellent, it is rare that a self-employed person will have the finances to stretch to this support level. Mentors come in many different guises, look around to see who yours are. My Dad, my husband and my best friend are my ‘go to’ humans who will tell me when to reign it in, ramp it up or take a break.

These days as my network has grown, I am blessed to also benefit from the wisdom of other professionals who ‘have my back’ which is everything you need when you are working alone.



Build professional relationships…

The business term, ‘networking’ does not do justice to the multifunctional value of building real and meaningful connections with other professionals.

Firstly, create your own staffroom. Find those people with whom you can discuss your work and reflect.  This is invaluable. I can meet with someone on a Monday and fly off the intellectual stimulation and energy for the rest of the week!

Secondly, you ‘join the dots’, find opportunities to collaborate, join forces and make magic happen.

Richard Gerver wisely advised me during a darker Lockdown day, ‘never turn down a meeting with anyone’. I have found this to be immensely powerful. It is always the least likely connections which seem to blossom into something special which also leads conveniently into my last and perhaps most important tip…



Never pull the Ladder up…

This was expressed to me many years ago as analogy for the importance of always being ready to help others further behind in their professional journey. This is so important to me. I am eternally grateful to those people who had nothing to gain from meeting me but still made the time. People who gave me a shot, who champion my work and who help me to gain confidence in my ability to make a difference.

So, I commit to keeping to my values, never selling out, building relationships and when my time comes to help others-the ladder is firmly in place!

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