Becoming a freelancer doesn't have to be a daunting prospect
10th October 2017
Becoming a freelancer can be a daunting prospect for many, yet for others, it’s a breeze. After all, you only need a computer and an internet connection, right?
When writing this, I considered what it was that I thought I needed to be a freelancer and how to make the transition as painless as possible (little did I know at the time that it would be the best move of my life). My thoughts led me to the first time I decided I wanted to go it alone and what put me off doing it. I worried that I didn’t have a big network of contacts and connections, multiple projects lined up ready to go, an office space, work colleagues and all the other ‘stuff’ that comes with working for a company. I was, however, in a fortunate position where I had a full-time job and could carry on working while I was prepping everything in the background. Then, it actually dawned on me; I didn’t need all of this.
So, here it is. My advice to you as a freelancer in the making.
1. Don’t tire yourself out trying to get everything ready immediately
This is the hardest part about going freelance. You have a feeling that you should have everything ready and in place before you actually go out and start working. Not so. I started freelancing with a miniature WordPress portfolio website that gave me SOME sort of digital presence when I met people and used the close-knit network I had to generate new business. This approach is absolutely fine until you have a more established footing. You can then invest more time building on what you’ve already created or you can start again from scratch.
2. It’s all about the identity
Regardless of the structure, size or status of a company, everyone should have a brand. This is what makes you, you! Think about the values that reflect you and your personality, and will engage with the types of clients you want. Don’t rush it. Take your time. Get professional help if you can afford it or don’t have the time and skills. This will help you build something that can be used not only in the short term but for the long haul. It took me several months to develop and be happy with my own brand, and I’m a brand designer!
3. In the beginning, there is always ‘YES’
Some may scoff at this and think ‘how could you possibly?!’ but in my experience, the best thing to do when a client approached me was to always say yes. If they came to me with a small budget, I’d say yes and help them where I could. If they came to me with a problem that ‘couldn’t be solved’ I said yes and challenged myself to work collaboratively with them. If I was presented with some projects that I wasn’t an expert in, I would say yes, accept them and team up with a specialist. Never say no! (Unless, in my opinion, you are being asked to work for free because ‘it would look great in your portfolio and you’d get great exposure!’ There are some limits!
4. Build up your network of suppliers and contacts
Many of us greatly dislike networking. As a creative, I include myself in this group, but unfortunately, it just has to be done to get yourself out there. I have always been in a fortunate position of being ballsy and brash, able to walk into a room full of people and start chatting away. But, when it comes to networking, what do you ask? How do you do it? Who should you speak to? What should you listen and look out for? My advice is to start small and DON’T start off with networking events full of people who do the same thing as you. Try corporate events, tech meetings, co-working spaces and look out for the after-work parties!
5. Don’t panic
One of the most common things to do when you’re making a life change like this is to panic when something goes wrong. Yes, it can be daunting and scary when you lose that hard drive, send an email to the wrong client or completely underestimate on a project. The best thing to do in these circumstances is to sail through and learn from your mistakes.
Getting work in, getting it done and getting paid for it is a basic process. Following the process and having financial stability is something else, and this is what some freelancer’s doubt in their abilities to do so. Building a sustainable income of work and finances is something that will happen as long as you keep working at it and use the networks and contacts you have. But, remember to make sure the projects you take on are costed correctly. If in doubt, ask your contacts how much they charge or pose as a client and make an enquiry with another company or freelancer doing the same as you to gauge the market rate.
Hindsight can be a freelancer’s best AND worst enemy, but when you find yourself in a difficult situation, sit back and take a methodical approach to dealing with the matter in hand. Once it’s all over, analyse what went wrong and implement measures so you don’t fall into that situation again. You can then take on the next project with a clear method and focus.
Above all, look after yourself and make sure you’re happy and focused. Everything else will follow.
Four words I live by: If in doubt, ask!