Freelancing 101: What Every Potential Freelancer Should Know
The very first thing I did when deciding to make the switch was to get in touch with every single person I have ever known and told them my decision. I told them the field I was going to be working in and as it became clear, even the date I was planning to leave my awful day job in 30 days time. If I was still studying, and working a job, why did I say I could take on projects? The reason I told my friends and friends of friends, colleagues and ex-colleagues that I was willing to take on projects straight away was for three reasons:. And the earlier you send this email the better.
Do it 30 days before you want to go freelance, or do it six months before. Not only do you want to make your announcement actionable, but clients take time to develop.
The more experience, contacts and references you have when you go freelance, the easier making that final break from your job will be. If I was going to get just one of these things out of the arrangement then there was no way I was turning down that work, money or no money. If in doubt, remember the wise words of freelance expert Jon Norris,.
Here I just want to include a note for those of you who have already started freelancing, as for you guys too I cannot emphasize the importance of this step enough. If you have work to show for your efforts already, your outreach will go much further, a reason why this step should be repeated annually even once you are a successful freelancer! So what does my personal brand have to do with anything? I mean that when you are selling your services, you are actually selling yourself. So how you come across online or off is reflective of your success, your ability, and your professionalism.
Your personality counts. Big time. Asking and answering questions is the easiest way to get people involved and invested in what you do, and while you could meet 15 people during a night out, you could meet online. You want to be understood as an expert and an influencer in your field, and in a world where most industry communication is digital, you better be all over it! As Jon Norris explained:. Get out there, hand out business cards and make friends. For each of those 30 days before I quit my job I had a goal. Sometimes that goal was to email a relevant contact in my field asking for advice.
Advice From Women Writers on How They Built Their Freelance Empires
Sometimes that goal was to expand my network by X number of people, answer a certain number of questions, or attend a meetup. For each of those 30 days I wrote down my trials and tribulations into a short often emotional blog post, charting my ups and downs in that final month before taking the leap. I also carefully drafted and redrafted a personal business plan , including my financial requirements, goals, and how I thought that would actually translate into work. I realized that if I landed the equivalent of 2 short projects a month, I could survive. Nobody chooses this path with the goal of living on a financial knife edge.
I also used this as another excuse to grow my network, reaching out to experts in my industry to ask for advice:. This created an opportunity to learn, improve and perfect the skills I would need in a month while growing a power-network of professionals in the field. Two birds in one stone at its finest! Whether it was hours scanning social media, reading blog posts like this one, offering my services to friends, or just generally building a network however I could, I absorbed as much information as possible.
And there is always competition.
So try this instead:. Share, trade, and exchange what you can from your own knowledge and then keep doing it better, and better, and better, and better, and better, and better. Freelancing can be a bit lonely sometimes as by its definition you often lack those daily colleagues who understand the work you do. A lot of people out there are just like you, and happy to have someone they can relate to about work, and even share a bit of knowledge and experience.
Use a contract for every project
If your job is at all related to what you plan to do, they may themselves be your first client. But I needed something, so I went and found myself a mentor. Aka, I willingly became a slave to an influencer in my industry. It was the smartest decision I ever made because despite totally over-working myself, I sure enough gained Experience, made Contacts, and walked away with one hell of a Reference. Oh, and yes, I did this on top of the study, the job, and the prep.
In the end, I convinced my would-be mentor that I was worth that little bit of time and effort, and sure enough Richard Levy passed me my first client after only a couple weeks. And Bam! I was officially a freelancer, on schedule and making money. So be accommodating, be thankful and be willing to work your ass off for an opportunity to do what you love. As Rik Lomas wrote in his blog post about freelancing on Medium :. Having spent most of my working life as a standup comedy writer, I never imagined I'd be writing articles for the Guardian.
Being freelance really can take you anywhere. After nearly 20 years in the banking sector, John Davis left his post as product and marketing director for Barclays Business and went freelance in January. The work I do isn't much different, just less big-business politics and fewer pointless meetings. All evidence points to a huge increase in freelance work throughout the economy, and the world. He now has 80 people working in three design facilities, thanks to building his reputation as one of our top freelancers. Some criticise freelancer. My rates are competitive but the majority of successful bids don't go to the cheapest bidder.
Employers want a good job done so they do look at the quality of your work. If you're currently working, are you happy to give up the weekly wage packet, pension, company of workmates and paid holiday leave? And it's harder to let go at the end of the day. According to Norris, high-end freelance web designers are in big demand. On the other hand, social media is massively over-subscribed. There's never been a better time, you can literally now do it off the back of a credit card. Call me an old-fashioned out-of-the-loop lefty, but even in the cut-throat world of freelance you could use the kind of security offered by a trade union.
They'll help with advice and contracts, plus it's lonely working on your own, and you can meet fellow strugglers.
9 Things Every Freelancer Should Know
If there's no obvious union for you then join PCG. I'm sounding like a dinosaur now. You can run your entire business on a laptop now. Unfortunately it's the same place where you can read funny articles from The Onion, tell your Facebook mates what you ate for lunch, and become an expert at Texas Hold 'Em. Don't kid yourself that googling your name and looking up your competitors on Wikipedia is research.
Barrie says you can outsource everything you're no good at, but whatever you do you need to understand basic accounts, marketing, publicity and all the other tedious admin that you now have to deal with. With customers, sort out how much you're being paid at the start. Make sure they remember they owe you money. You are your own invoice department as well. Now you're no longer working for Giant Conglomerate International, you are almost certainly competing with Giant Conglomerate International, and many others, for work.
So you have to do whatever it takes to get your name and business out there. Facebook, Twitter and a website are your starting points. This is no time to come over all Hugh Grant. Moose Allain was an architect before becoming a full-time artist and illustrator in He produces a wide range of work which he sells via his website, art fairs, and an increasingly high profile on Twitter.
You're no longer working for The Man, you are now He or She. The Man never liked you taking the day off for that hangover from hell, and now you're Him, a day off is a day's lost pay. Seriously, if absenteeism is an important part of your work life, don't go freelance. Now that you're in charge, every bad day feels much worse. Learn to accept that we all have times like this, and tomorrow is another day, which brings me to Cliches are cliches because they're usually true. Every job is your calling card, every day is a new beginning, you're only as good as your last job.
Never mind work-life balance, first you must get the work-work balance right. You need to make money now, ideally you're spending two to three days a week doing that. But you also need to know where the work is coming from in six months, and a year's time. So you need to be aiming towards getting more work then.