The truth about freelancing

10 things they don’t tell you about working for yourself

Most Virtual Assistants will tell you that working for yourself is wonderful and will bring you unbelievable satisfaction and freedom. But what they often won’t tell you is that it’s also often confusing, scary, frustrating and stressful. Existing VAs will hopefully read this article, laugh and nod their heads with recognition – and new ones will get an insight into what’s coming!

The truth about working for yourself 

1) You’ll sometimes fall out of love with it

When this first happens you’ll panic, think “oh God, I’ve made a terrible mistake, my life is over, I’m going to have to get a job, I’m such a failure, I’m going to throw myself off a bridge”.

But don’t worry or throw yourself from a height because the feeling will go away again.

The truth is that, at some point all freelancers fall out of love with what they do. It turns out it’s completely natural and usually means that you just need a holiday. I discovered that freelancing has a kind of shape to it and sometimes you’ll feel a bit meh about what you do.

It passes in a couple of weeks and you’re back to normal. It will happen again, and when it does just remind yourself that it happened before and everything was fine.

2) You’ll hear a billion comments about working in your pyjamas all day

You’ll hear this tired old line again and again until you want to punch someone in the face.

I usually wind people up by telling people that I work from my bed all day whilst eating chocolate Hobnobs and drinking prosecco with one eye on Cash in the Attic.

Then I gleefully tell them about all the hours I don’t spend commuting with my face rammed into a stranger’s armpit or stuck in traffic not working all the hours God sends while being taken for granted and being bossed around by some jobs-worth moron.

Only half of it is true but the sadist in me just loves seeing the look on their face.

3) The ‘Feast and Famine’ cycle may not apply to you

Sometimes you’ll have months when you don’t earn much and other months when you do. December is often quiet as your clients might be winding down for Christmas, and August can also be slow as everyone is on holiday.

Although these months can be slow, try not to follow the herd and think it’s the way it has to be for you too. I work on a big event in August so am busy as hell and, because one of my main clients is a (very good) Marketer, she gives me a lot of research work in December so she can get her own business ahead for the coming year.

Look at your industry, plan ahead, review the income of year one in your second year to anticipate trends, market your business in an innovative way and use any quiet time wisely.

4) Some days you won’t be arsed

Unlike falling out of love with freelancing, occasionally you’ll wake up and decide you’d rather be in the park, on the beach, in the cinema, shopping, in the pub or watching Netflix with your face in a box of Quality Street.

Unless there’s anything urgent on your plate, then just take the day off. 

However, don’t make a habit of it (or you won’t have a business), work harder another day, don’t beat yourself up and be thankful that you have the choice.

5) It’s scary at first

Until you get a grasp on what you’re doing and get into a routine, it’s going to be a bit scary. You’ll worry that you won’t have enough clients, that you won’t be good enough, that you’ll fail and look like an idiot, that you’ll starve in the workhouse and a billion other things.

It’s completely normal and you soon get used to it.

6) It takes a while before you realise you can do what the hell you want

When you first start out, you’ll probably work the same kind of hours you did at your old job, you’ll take orders from clients like you did from your boss and you’ll feel bad if you’re not making the most of every minute.

This is because you’ve been institutionalised for years.

Remember you went freelancing so you could work the hours you wanted and from a location of your choice. You’re now the boss and you’re in control of who you work with, what tasks you take on and how you work.

It might take a while before it sinks in that you’re now the boss, but the day it does is the BEST DAY EVER.

7) It won’t be like you planned 

Before I went freelance, I had this amazing idea that I’d rise early, go for a jog along the seafront, have a healthy breakfast, work all day on interesting tasks dealing with charming clients who knew what they wanted and were willing to pay me well to help them, then finish work at a reasonable time.

Your day may go like this, but the chances are it will look entirely different.

8) You will get sucked into cat videos on the Internet

The Internet is a wonderful thing – you type things into a box and it tells you stuff. It’s also home to a lot of utter nonsense, more funny cat videos than you could believe possible and it will be calling your name every single day.

You’ll try not to spend whole mornings browsing shopping sites and faffing around on Facebook… and some days you will succeed.

9) Clients can be dicks

Don’t get me wrong, some clients are amazing. I now have fantastic clients who appreciate what I do, pay me well and on time, are easy to communicate with and have very realistic expectations (i.e. they don’t expect the moon on a stick for £8 an hour). But I’ve also dealt with some right numpties.

There are clients who want everything immediately, some who have no idea what they want to use you for, some who won’t pay you on time, rude ones, cheap ones, stupid ones, insensitive ones… and then there are just the plain old dickheads.

Using my method to choose your own clients definitely reduces the chance of getting a nightmare client because you get to qualify them but, because there are a lot of nightmare people on the planet, statistically you’re going to get one as a client. It’s just a fact of life.

10) It’s still amazing

Despite freelancing being all the above and more, it’s also utterly brilliant and you’d be doing yourself a disservice if you didn’t at least try to see what you are capable of.


Like most things, freelancing has its good and bad points and you’ll need to navigate the waters and feel your way – just like you did with every other new thing you’ve experienced throughout your life.

So research and prepare as much as you can, decide that life’s too short not to follow your dreams, take a big brave deep breath and jump right in.

The water’s fine.

Still want to become a Virtual Assistant?

If that hasn’t put you off and you still really want to set up your own VA business then check out my flagship DIY VA course.

I guide you through the entire process and am always on hand to support you.




You provide inspiration and motivation! You really do keep encouraging me that I’m making the right decision ??

Stephanie Vinton

Thanks Jo
Humorous article with good and valid points for me. I’m at the point of figuring out how to market and get clients
Found several words I’d never heard before (UK vs US English). ? Got the gist though of what you meant.


Absolutely bang on! And today was a ‘can’t be arsed’ day for me, hence now starting work at 7pm!

Emma Peradon-Jones

Hi Jo, I have recently taken the leap, after being employed for over 20 years as a PA for an array of businesses, to start my own biz as a VA. I’m immensely relieved and excited to find your website, which is a mine of helpful information. I have just ordered you ‘how to get clients’ publication :). do you have any advice on whether it’s a good idea or not to work for larger VA companies that outsource tasks to individual freelance VAs? thanks.

Joanne Munro

Hi Emma, I’m delighted that you’ve taken the leap into freelance – it’s hard work but extremely rewarding. I’m not sure about working for bigger VA companies actually; I don’t have any experience with them myself but you will definitely be able to get some answers on the wonderful VA groups on LinkedIn. Everyone is very happy to provide free info and advice so don’t worry about asking. Thank you for buying my guide too; you need to follow all the steps to make it work but I’ve had some wonderful feedback from it. x

Sarah Banks

Such a great post and so true. I fall out of love at least twice a month! But my husband reminds why I did it and all is happy again!!

Jo Peirson

Hi Jo

Great, honest and down to earth article, as always. I’m so excited to start my VA business and it’s always good to have a reminder to keep my feet on the floor. Thanks.

Claire Jury

Fabulous! And timely. I fell out of love around the time I was up until 1am completing my tax return, fending off stupid questions from the Tax Credits people and wondering how I was going to pay my daughter’s school clubs for the next three months. SO over it now; all normalised after reading your amusing and spot-on advice and information!

Jan St. Germain

Right on Jo! Yer a gal after me own heart…! Great article, straight on, to the point, and tellin it like it is. Thanks for offering this.


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