Freedom. Going it alone. Breaking free of the red tape and boring company rules and reg’s. Freelancing and working for yourself is a growing industry – and I’m part of it! I love being part of a more creative, organic, flexible and relaxed way of working and have been freelancing in the marketing world for about 10 years (ever since my eldest child started school and the demands of trying to juggle full-time working, a school-starter, a toddlers and a baby seemed like way too much of a struggle …).
For me, the main joy of freelancing is that I have become the boss. I decide the hours I work. I decide the pay. I decide when to work and when not to. I work from home (or a cafe – one of the best perks obviously!). I choose to take school holiday’s off to spend with the kids. I am in control. And because of all of this, I actually think I work harder and am far more efficient in the hours that I work: my distractions are fewer – I have no one to gossip with or loiter with by the coffee machine – though of course, I can find 101 reasons why not to crack on with something – maybe the dishwasher needs emptying, or the dog needs walking, or Facebook needs checking … Procrastination can still be a thing.
Anyway, if you fancy this way of working, these are my top Going Freelance tips:
Rather than jack in your current job, consider taking on some freelance work alongside your main job – at least initially. This will help you gain confidence and build clients without losing important income. Think about existing responsibilities and commitments, and more importantly consider possible financial implications. Be realistic about how much work you can take on.
What are your skills and strengths?
Really think about what your offering is and who your market is. Do some market research. How will you reach them and tell them about you? See what other freelancers in the same or similar field to you are doing – what can you learn from them?
Choose a company name that reflects what you do or that would work well in your industry sector. Get a logo. Create your image.
Setting yourself up with social media accounts is a brilliant tool for sharing ideas, telling your market about what you can do for the, engaging with prospective clients etc. Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn and Google+ all have their place but get really strong in one of these platforms first. Share and post on all of them but see which seems to work best for you in your industry. Then put your efforts in to growing this social media stream. Consider crating a website to showcase your work and make sure to link to all your social media platforms. On top of this, keep up to date with social media trends in your industry and for your clients – the world of tech is always changing – keep up with it (this is also a note to self!).
Networking and support
Join local networking groups. Meet other freelancers. Get yourself on LinkedIn and create a strong profile. Work from cafe’s. Talk to people (it still amazes and quite frankly, delights me, how many marketing projects I’ve picked up purely from chatting to other parents in the school playground, mingling at parties or conversations in the local pub!). Make the most of all connections and introductions. Equally, the support of family and friends is so important – I would struggle without it. The downside of freelancing is that the work is not consistent – there will be lean times – so having possible projects or meetings lined up is always a good thing!
Of course we all love the idea of working form home – but the reality is that it can be lonely and actually quite hard. Yes, you don’t have the usual distractions but equally you rarely have someone there that you can bounce ideas off, ask questions, discuss things with … (that’s where I’ve fund creating WhatsApp groups with like-minded freealancers is brilliant!). You do need to be focused. For me, the self-motivation comes in part from loving the industry I work in, and in part the fact that actually, no one else is going to do the work (that I enjoy) for me. I’ve found that mixing it up a bit in terms of where I work, works for me – so sometimes, I work from home but a couple of times a week relocate to, and set up ‘camp’, at a local cafe* and work from there.
How much will you charge?
Don’t undersell yourself but do be realistic. What do other freelancers of similar experience charge? You may have different rates dependent on the project. Work out your hourly rate but also a charge for a project-based piece of work.
How often will you work?
The reasons for the amount of hours you want to work each week will no doubt be personal. For me, I have a baseline in terms of the maximum hours per week I want to work, and what that means financially. I also try to work mostly term time only so that I can have as much time off as possible with the children, during school holidays. I’m happy to take the financial hit. But whatever works for you – just make a plan. And be prepared for those dreaded lean times (there are times when you think work is coming your way, then for whatever reason, it doesn’t. This can be hard but keeping a close eye on your finances can help).
Working on different projects for different clients can be a minefield in terms of keeping track of everything you’re doing so, whilst it’s not very sexy, keeping a time sheet of daily tasks and activities per client can be a really effective way of ensuring no work (or money!) is missed. You want to invoice for everything you do after all! I also have an ‘old fashioned’ hard copy diary and a big notepad with dividers – so one section per client – for all my to-do lists, notes, scribbles, ideas etc.
Consider joining a local business network that offers free advice and support on all things financial – will you remain self-employed? Or set yourself up as a sole trader or limited company? Get a business banking account (most high street banks offer them). Consider meeting with an accountant (I have a fab one who helps me so much and although I have to pay for it, she sorts my self-assessment/tax issues every year – brilliant – she really is worth her weight in gold!). Finances is one area not to bury your head in the sand about! Also be hot on the case when it comes to invoicing. Ensure your clients know what your terms of payment are – I’m a stickler for both invoicing immediately at the end of each month and for chasing payment!
For more tips and advice on going solo, have a flick through this GOV.UK advice 🙂