How To Plan Going Freelance

When You Don’t Know What The Unknown Holds For You

Learn Through Stories
Learn Through Stories

Noelle was employed as a Market Research Analyst. While she enjoyed the work, for a long time, she had been considering going freelance. The reason was that she had other interests she wanted to make time for. Being employed this wasn’t always possible because her work, quite often at the last minute, required her to travel, taking her away from home for days at a time, which made it challenging for her to commit to her other interests.

This changed during the Covid-19 pandemic, when she was required to work from home and when travel was not allowed.

This, of course, also meant that she couldn’t become involved in the other interests she wanted to make time for – well, not in the traditional sense of connecting with people in-person, that is.

However, now that Noelle knew how her workday would pan out – i.e. she could work regular 9 am – 5 pm hours, with the confidence she wouldn’t be required to make any late changes to her daily work schedule because of needing to be somewhere else.


Noelle had always wanted to help less privileged children in the way she herself had been helped. She had had a difficult upbringing. When her parents had been unable to provide the care that she and her younger brother, Nick, needed, Social Services had intervened, resulting in them being separated and placed in one foster home after another. Life was difficult, and the way Noelle had coped was by burying her head in her schoolbooks. This helped to keep her mind occupied with learning and off the distress of her situation.

Noelle had had a plan of sorts. That was to do as well as she could at school, then get a job as soon as she could so that she could earn enough money to rent a place for her and Nick to live together, until he, too, finished school. Nick was five years younger than Noelle, so it could be said Noelle had a five-year long-term plan and, year on year, a one-year short-term plan to work towards doing well in her final school exams and then get the best job she could.

This changed, when during her final year at school, her teacher, Devon, recognising her capability, knowing her back-story and the future story she was writing for herself, intervened. He spoke to Noelle about applying for a university scholarship. He believed it would help her to achieve what she deserved as a hardworking student with great potential. At first, Noelle resisted because this wouldn’t allow her to fulfil what was most important to her, to make a home for her and Nick. Once again, Devon intervened. Together with his wife, Amy, they became Foster Parents to Noelle and Nick. For the first time in Noelle’s life, she finally had the family home life she had for so long yearned. 

Fast forward five years, when having completed her Undergraduate Degree, followed by her Master’s Degree, she got her first job as a Market Research Analyst at the Market Research Agency she’s with today. This required a move from her home town in the north of England to London. Noelle moved into her first flat-share with her new colleague, Mandy. She felt good about this because Nick was about to start university and was moving into Halls of Residence for his first year. She knew they would be spending the holidays with Devon and Amy, they were, after all, a strong family unit, and their home would always be a home from home for Noelle and Nick.

And so, Noelle had always wanted to help less privileged children in the way she herself had been helped. She had been unable to commit because of work demands. But, now that her time was more her own than it had ever been in her WorkLife, she was determined to put this to good use. Needing to work around the restrictions of in-person activities, Noelle thought through what she could begin to do that would have an immediate as possible positive impact on the lives of the children she wanted to help. And so, she set about putting her research skills to good use to figure out what that could be.


It was November, and with Christmas fast approaching, the writing on the wall was that because of the latest outbreak of a faster spreading and potentially more dangerous new variant of Covid-19, that the seasonal festivities may not take place this year. At worst, Christmas was in danger of being cancelled. At best, it was going to be somewhere between small to remote gatherings. 

Noelle knew as hard as it would be for her family if they couldn’t spend Christmas together, it would be much harder for children from less privileged backgrounds. Not only would they find themselves living in difficult circumstances, but most likely, they wouldn’t receive gifts that would help lighten those dark days a little.

Noelle knew they had to find a way to raise money to buy Christmas presents for those children that needed them the most. Thinking it through brought her back to her childhood. When other children in her school were writing letters to Santa, she never did. She believed because she never knew where she would be at Christmas – which foster home, that Santa wouldn’t be able to find her, and so she never wrote to him. Deep down, she also believed that if she were to ask for something, she wouldn’t get it anyway – so she didn’t see the point of creating even more disappointment on what would most likely be a miserable Christmas morning. Noelle knew that there was many children like her who believed the same.

Thinking about the letters led Noelle to an idea – what if she wrote letters from Santa to children to help keep the wonder alive during the magical time of year that this year was under threat. To make the letters special, she knew she needed to personalise them for each child. Once again, her good research skills came into play, as Noelle set out to learn key things about a child from a list of questions she created. 

Next, she needed to get the word out about her service – good thing she was working at a Market Research Agency! Because as Head Elf, she had the help of a network of elves to help her first spread the word, and then when the orders started rolling in, to help her write the letters and get them to the North Pole postal service to be dispatched via their magical delivery service.

The outcome was magical too. Every day, more and more money started coming through from parents who loved the idea. Within a few weeks, Noelle had the money she needed to buy presents for the children. She joined forces with charitable organisations that supported children in need, both in the UK and throughout the world – which of course, she had researched. Together they worked on ‘Project Save Christmas’, sourcing and delivering the best Christmas Presents to the best-behaved Children – Noelle’s research led her to discover that there were no children on the ‘Naughty’ list that year. 

When Christmas morning arrived, although Noelle was a little sad not to be spending the day with her family (the pandemic restrictions didn’t allow it – although they were planning to sit down to a remote Christmas dinner together), her heart was filled with joy and warmth, in the knowledge that children throughout the world had been visited overnight by Santa, and this would lighten their day for sure. Also, she was happy to have the day to relax, rest and recuperate – WorkLife as Head Elf was exhausting!


Fast forward into the new year and the months that followed. As Noelle’s WorkLife began to get back to how it was before the pandemic had hit, she was feeling restless. She couldn’t shake off her desire to go freelance. She wanted to continue her work as a Market Research Analyst, but she also really wanted to take the time to continue to help less privileged children. She knew she couldn’t achieve this if she remained employed. She knew the only way she could achieve it was to go freelance.

Did she have a plan?

Well, yes, sort of.

She had a plan that had formed out of a desire to do good—a desire to make a positive impact to the lives of less privileged children.

Noelle’s plan was to work freelance for nine months of the year as a Market Research Analyst – from January – September. She knew she could deliver the same high standard of work as a freelancer as she did as an employee. She was respected for her work within her company and her industry, and she had built good relationships throughout her WorkLife. This meant she had a network to tap into for freelance work – including the company she had been with and with whom she secured regular work, alongside other pieces of work from her network.

Then for the remaining three months – October – December, her plan was to resume her duties as Head Elf, leading her team of elves writing Letters From Santa to all the good children, and then working alongside the charities she had formed relationships with to commence Project Make It A Great Christmas, sourcing and delivering presents to all the girls and boys on Santa’s ‘Nice’ list – Noelle’s research led her to discover, for the second year in a row, there were no children on the ‘Naughty’ list.


For the moment, Noelle is focussing on her short-term plan – her 12 – 18 months plan.

She doesn’t have the clarity, yet, to focus on her long-term plan – her five-year plan. She’s OK with that because the pandemic taught her how things in an ever-changing world can sometimes be challenging to plan for, and, also, WorkLife doesn’t always go according to plan anyway. 

Somehow, Noelle had figured out how to plan to go freelance when she didn’t know what the unknown held for her. To help you do the same, she shares these:

Words Of Wisdom

“I often get asked by people what the greatest thing about freelancing is. That’s easy for me to respond to. Freelancing has allowed me to follow my passion for researching in the work I do as a Market Research Analyst. Freelancing has also given me extra purpose – I love focusing my extra time and energy on something I built from the ground up. I love when what I do makes others happy and brings a little light into their life. It’s fulfilling to know that I’ve created a WorkLife that I have complete ownership of and that what I do means something to people.”

Three Questions To Help You Plan To Go Freelance When You Don’t Know What The Unknown Holds For You Assignment.

Think about the work you do, 

1. Can you deliver your work as well, or perhaps even better as a freelancer versus being employed full-time at a company?

i.e. Noelle could – can you?

2. Why do you want to become a freelancer?

i.e. Noelle wanted to do the work she loved and also do other things that she was interested in.

3. How can you plan to go freelance based on this information?

i.e. Noelle planned to work freelance as a Market Research Analyst nine months of the year and as a ‘Head Elf’, making a positive impact to the lives of less privileged children for the remaining three months.

If you found this post helpful, you may also like to take a look at The School Of WorkLife books, which are designed to help you fine-tune your learning, development and growth in the areas that are most important to you.


Published by Carmel O' Reilly

Carmel O’ Reilly: WorkLife Learning Practitioner & Writer Author of WorkLife Book Club, Your WorkLife Your Way and The School of WorkLife book series. Created to help you manage your WorkLife Learning. Blogger & Podcaster: Telling people’s powerful stories about WorkLife challenges & successes Founder of My guiding statement is to help people pursue their WorkLives with greater clarity, passion, purpose and pride by creating continuous WorkLife learning programmes that are accessible to everyone.