What I Have Learnt From Being a Freelancer
I have been freelancing now for about 8 years on and off part time alongside other roles, recently I have become a full time freelancer which appeared terrifying - until I actually realised, I have been doing this for 8 YEARS! I know what i'm doing and I can make it work. So on reflection I've decided to share some of my learnings - to remind myself of what I have learnt and to share with any new freelance-ians that are starting out in the game!
- Always Use a Contract
My first lesson learnt - the hard way.
When I naively began freelancing, one of my projects was to head up all social communications for a specialist lingerie brand, although we had an agreement I never asked the client to sign a formal contract based on the terms that we had agreed (silly me - I know - I was young and stupid). As we got further into the work it began apparent to me that the fees my client had said that he had paid to me, had never actually been received on my side. We went back and forth for months and in the end I was never paid for my work - Since then I have ALWAYS used a contract, no matter how trustworthy the client has seemed, also if they are worth working with they will understand this protects them as much as it does you - I have never had the same problem since. ('touch wood')
2. It's not easy
Being a freelancer can be hard work. At the beginning I started working as an intern, writing for free but I soon progressed within a couple of months to a paid freelancer writing fashion news for an up and coming online menswear magazine. It takes time to build up a reputation, contacts and resource but If you put the work in - like anything, it will pay off.
3. Blog. Write. Rant - Speak out loud.
A lesson I have just found myself learning again
My 'brand' took momentum once myself and my wonderful student placement - digital comms assistant began writing via the blog on my site - here! The importance of marketing yourself as a freelancer is huge, being a small business of 1 employee means you don't always have the multi-million pound marketing budgets with prime time ads. So writing about your experiences, your work, your life - literally anything that is of relevance - this will help your website remain up to date and interesting to employers and probably most importantly - to google. If you're really keen you could use a free SEO tool to make sure your writing is optimised and ensure your voice is actually getting heard!
4. Do not forget about Mr.Taxman
Probably should have been numero uno.
Self assessment and all that comes with it blows my mind - and I'd rather invest my time into the things I'm good at so I finally took the decision to get myself a top accountant. This was literally one of the best business decisions I made not only for my own time but also financially. Do you research - find someone you are comfortable with and ask all the questions you need to.
5. You're not an employee - you are a business.
Get business savy
In order to receive and retain work you must think like a business. Professionalism goes a long way and if you market yourself as a business, use the correct protocols and really structure the way you brand yourself as much as the way you work you'll find it pays off. Someone who wants to work for themselves isn't necessarily 'business-minded' which - again -seems scary and like you could well be a little fish well out of water. Stop and don't panic, take the time to learn - you are the expert of your field - the business bit is really the easy bit once you know how :)