Building your best freelance life
Updated: Sep 5, 2018
You’d be forgiven for thinking that going freelance at the age of 30 wasn’t that much of a big step, but it was. At least for me.
All the usual things held me back – self-doubt, questioning my experience levels, fears over lack of stability and so on. To say I was anxious would be an understatement. I was petrified, but I also felt ready - ready for a new challenge, and to work for myself.
I’m over six months into this new venture, and it felt like the perfect milestone moment to share some of the lessons I’ve learned from starting out in freelancing.
Don’t be afraid to ask for help
One of the hardest things in the beginning was figuring out how to actually get work. My first tip – find a creative recruitment company that will be able to guide you through those first steps. I’ve been lucky that I’ve had a fantastic recruiter at my side who was happy to take time and get to know me over a coffee (not to mention, she was so kind and understanding when I was late and couldn’t find the building!) A good recruiter will never make you feel like any question is too daft or they haven’t got time for you.
Be kind and be competent
I’m mostly struck by how happy clients are when you do the fundamentals well. There are so many agencies and workers out there who don’t and will rustle up the bare minimum while charging the earth for the privilege. I’ve had praise lapped on me for dating my work, saving it with my initials, emailing to ask for help when I get stuck on a brief. Things I barely consider to be part of the service – it’s common sense, but not to everyone it seems. A good friend and established freelancer herself told me: ‘successful freelancers have to be nice people that others want to work with. It’s absolutely true. Be kind and be competent and you won’t go far wrong.
Trust your gut
Early on, I was offered a freelance place in an established team. They were great people, the location was perfect and there was plenty of work to do. However, something didn’t feel right. Of course, when you’re starting out, the gall of saying no to regular work is unthinkable so I went along with it. It got to a point quite quickly that we weren’t that good of a work match and like a bad Tinder date, it fizzled out. And honestly, I was relieved. I knew I wasn’t passionate about the work but I struggled to have the confidence to say ‘no, this isn’t working for me.’ It definitely taught me to trust my gut, you know what’s right for you. Whilst trying new things is always worthwhile, if something in you is saying it’s not right then go ahead and trust yourself.
Know your worth
Nobody likes to talk about money and there’s always going to be someone trying to drive you down on your price. But, unless you think it’s hugely beneficial for you to cut them a break, find your day rate and stick with it. Do your research, speak to your freelance friends to get an idea of what you could be charging for your services. And bottom line, do not be afraid to charge it. Once you’ve established yourself and proven how great you are at your job, your regular clients will have no concern when you inevitably decide to up your prices. Meanwhile, new clients will see that your wealth of experience warrants your prices. It’s a win-win isn’t it?
Easily the most disheartening part of freelancing is when you start reaching out to agencies, brands and businesses to tout your services. It’s cringe-inducing for the best of us and your emails and phone calls will go largely ignored. However, the important thing is that you do it because you never know when a job offer will crawl out of the woodwork. Your sparkling (and highly personalised!) email may have stuck in their minds but the fact is many people are simply too busy to react until they need you. Try not to be disheartened and keep going.