This is a strange topic for my blog, however, it seems that so many are wanting to go into the world of freelance in the Dietitian and Nutritionist area and so I thought it would be a good idea to write about the pros and cons of this from my own experience.
I absolutely love my work – it’s so varied and I get to change what I do pretty much every day from writing blogs to running radio days with celebrities to providing quotes for newspapers and appearing on live TV. BUT there are of course sides to freelance work that are tough and I think it’s important that we talk about those too.
Let’s start with the positives:
Flexibility – when you run your own business as a nutritionist, it’s likely that you will have a massive amount of flexibility in your role. There is also a big call in the UK for more flexible working hours, especially for working mothers and freelance certainly gives you that as you are the boss of your own time.
Variability – Similarly the kind of work you do will really vary, depending on the area you want to go into as a freelancer. I think variety really is everything when it comes to our food, lifestyles and even work. No one project I’ve ever done has been the same and even no quote I’ve ever written for media has ever been exactly the same either. The main thing I noticed when I first went freelance was how very variable my work was. Every single day was so different – even if it just meant working from home, it was always on different projects.
Working on projects you love – You have the ability to say “yes” and “no” to projects, although I hugely appreciate that, especially in the beginning, saying no to anything is very hard. But ultimately this allows you to weed out the best of your work and hopefully in the end you’ll end up just doing the projects that you love.
When it comes to the cons, I’m going to try and include solutions too because it’s always best to be helpful ;-). But remember that not everyone is perfect and there isn’t always a suitable answer to the down side of freelancing. One thing I’d recommend is to try to reflect on what you’re doing every now and then so you don’t get stuck in a rut.
Switching off – Flexibility is great, but it’s also hard to know how to switch off. As a freelancer you don’t often officially “leave work” and, if you’re anything like me, you might have a million things that you want to do running around your head 24/7, with only limited time to actually get any of them done.
Solution – have boundaries, make lists and try and be really efficient with your work time (easier said than done!)
Support from colleagues – One big change I found when I first went freelance was that I didn’t have anyone to ask…even if that was just for reassurance, ideas or for a little support. All of a sudden you’re on your own and you don’t have a manager or a team to fall back on.
Solution – There are SO many solutions to this that I feel I could go on and on and it could be a blog post in itself but, mainly get appropriate insurance and remember that you will learn a lot from any mistakes you make as a freelancer – I certainly have! Additionally, join freelance support groups such as SENSE and Nutritionists In Industry and try to get involved with your registered body such as Association for Nutrition or the British Dietetic Association. Also make sure you attend conferences and do lots of networking – I met some incredible people at networking events who I still get support from to this day. Lastly, it really helps if you have a little group of supportive freelancers who you can turn to for advice as well.
Social media – Where do we even start with this one? I’ve been seeing lots of people recently posting about the negative impact of social media on people’s mental health and it can certainly have an impact if you’re a freelancer trying to make it on social media. ‘Comparisonitis’ is a term I’ve heard thrown about recently and it really can be a killer to your work and your motivation to work too.
Social – It’s SO important to limit your time on social media. If you’re like me with your work, SoME is NOT your entire work, it’s just one small aspect of it. Remember WHY you’re there and why you use social (for me it’s to try and spread the evidence-based message about child nutrition) and, importantly, remember that social media is often a show reel of people’s life highlights.
Let me know if you find this helpful and also if you have any pros and cons to add of your own. I’ll update this post another time to make sure that I’m still reflecting on what the pros and cons are for me.
Ultimately it’s really great being a freelancer and it’s all about having a strong supportive networks around you which includes “colleagues”, family and friends and also learning from each and every experience you do which helps to build the confidence you need to excel – I’m still very much learning too!