When you start in a new role, whether freelance or full-time, you have a lot to assimilate in a short time to get to the point where you are clear enough to thrive and perform as expected.
During this time, you may feel anxious, fidgety or too mellow to show your personality and ability. Don’t worry about this. It’s tough to be in new situations but you will settle eventually.
It is best to concentrate on the tasks ahead of you not on how you feel.
Keep your mind on gaining understanding of the culture in the new workplace or team, and the systems that run them so you can start to connect dots and get comfortable.
Below we share some of our top advice for starting a new role, whether freelance or full-time, remote or in-office.
We hope these seven tips help you to adapt to new work settings faster and with more grace.
1. Ask questions
Instead of spinning your wheels and trying to figure out everything on your own, ask the right people the right questions.
As a freelancer starting on the first day, you want to know what is expected of you and when it is due so you know how best to structure your day. You want to know what the priority deliverable is and if there are any peculiarities about the company.
When you have this information and others that you need, you will find that you feel more capable and even excited to begin producing results.
If you’re working in an office and the challenge you are facing is something as trivial as figuring out how the coffee machine or printer works, simply ask someone around you.
There is nothing humiliating about asking a question.
But breaking the coffee machine on your first day is an avoidable incident your colleagues and hirers may never forget.
2. Write everything down
When you get answers to your questions or when you are being briefed on anything, write it down. You can use a pen and paper or your smartphone to take these notes but it is imperative that you do.
Even when you think there is no way you could possibly forget what you’re told, write it down. As long as it is important information relevant to your work, form the habit of taking notes.
When you write things down as you are being told, it cements the information in your memory and provides a backup in case you do forget, which you are likely to. When you review your notes, different parts of your brain work together to bring to mind little details you would not ordinarily remember which can help you connect dots and make progress faster.
3. Talk to people who have held the job before you
Where possible, always seize the opportunity to talk to someone who has done your job before. These people can give you inside knowledge about what your day-to-day life, work and deliverables would look like.
Ask specific questions so that they can give you the answers you need, and not broad generalizations.
Ask them about the best ways to succeed in the new role, how best to engage with your new team, then set realistic expectations for yourself.
4. Be careful with early demands
When you move into a new space, play the role of an observer first before you begin to ask for any sort of demands or special preference.
Remember that you were hired for a reason and work towards providing tangible value right off the bat, rather than focusing on making sure your demands are met.
Resume prepared to help and solve problems.
We are not suggesting that you play doormat or do not protect your interests as a freelancer or individual, but that you observe, strategize and consider the needs of the team or employer before your own.
5. Don’t mistake work colleagues for friends
Be friendly and helpful and present. Always bring positive energy along with you to every room and assignment.
If you are communicating online with your team or hirer, make effort to sound amiable and enthusiastic, not bored, uninterested or stand-offish. You never want to come off as if you are only there for the money.
The priority in the relationship between you, your colleagues and hirers should always be the business.
However, keep in mind that your colleagues or hirers are not your friends. They are people who have welcomed you into their space and deserve your attention, kindness and excellence in work, but please keep your personal business to yourself. Come into work prepared to work.
6. Bring your A-game
Resuming as a freelancer is different from resuming as a full-time employee.
When you resume as a full-time employee, you can almost certainly expect that the first few days or weeks will be spent on-boarding you, getting your documents right, introducing you to the team and company culture, and other orientation activities. Expectations are usually low as you get up to speed during these first months with a new company.
When you resume as a freelancer however, you are expected to hit the ground running, quickly grasp what is expected of you, and get out of the way and straight to producing results.
As a freelancer, even on your first day, you must be smart, quick, professional and proactive.
Deliver your work on time. Ask for feedback and take corrections or criticism well.
If mindfulness, selflessness and taking responsibility are not your strengths, take a rational approach instead and remind yourself that you were hired for a reason.
Your hirers and colleagues expect you to perform at a high level, but even more important is, they really need you in the role – or they wouldn’t have gone through the trouble of posting the job and hiring you.
Don’t be proud or haughty or non-responsive. The easiest way to fall out of favor with your team is to take an “I don’t need you as much as you need me” approach to the work.
7. Be organized
Whether freelance or full-time, if you have to go in to the office, find time to get prepared the night or some hours before.
Organize your thoughts. Write down a loose plan for the day. Prioritize the most important tasks. Note any questions you need to ask to do your job better.
Start your tasks on time so you have enough time to do a good job and finish early. Communicate politely and clearly. Use templates to work faster. And stay observant always.
This is not an exhaustive list of “first day at work” advice. Obviously.
But it does cover the basics to set you off to a great start with your hirers and new colleagues. The underlying tenet of all the tips shared above is simply this:
Go in prepared to work and give your best. Don’t grudgingly show up regardless of what is going on in your life. Be present. Be competent. Be confident. And grow through each new role and assignment.
Have any more advice or tips for tackling the first day at work as a freelancer or full-time employee? Feel free to drop them in the comments below!