Today I’m in a reflective mood as it’s my two-year anniversary as a freelancer.
I can’t believe it’s been two years since I stepped onto the self-employed ladder. Two years ago, my career was flipped on its head. I was happily set in a routine of working part-time and earning a regular income and then with one day’s notice I was made redundant. I have no hard feelings about it. I understand why the company did it, but the news that I no longer had a job came as a total shock.
Freelancing full-time seemed like a natural step as I was already trying it out on the side. I remember my first job as a full-time freelancer – it was writing articles for a bra company! This was a world away from what I did before which was writing about tax.
At this stage, you may be thinking that I’ll say I haven’t looked back since becoming a freelancer. No! There’s been many times when I’ve wanted to jack it all in. This happened just a couple of days ago when two clients said they were changing plans and won’t need my services anymore. It’s not personal, its business. But, no matter how many times this has happened it’s still hard to get over.
So, if you’re thinking of becoming a freelancer or have just started out here are my tips on how to survive your first couple of years:
Never work for free!
Being asked to work for free is a big problem for freelancers. Some companies try to package it as being part of their recruitment process but it’s a sneaky way for them to get something for free.
If you’re starting out and are trying to create a portfolio of work, it can be tempting to do work for free, so you have something to show potential clients. Don’t do it! There are other ways of building a portfolio and a good one is swapping skills with another freelancer – you do work for them and they do some work for you and you can both show it off on your portfolios.
Get a hobby
Many people have this image of freelancers sitting on a tropical beach working on their laptops. While this may be true for a select few, the reality is building a freelance business is bloody hard work and it can be 24/7, particularly in the first couple of years.
This isn’t great for your personal life or mental wellbeing, so my advice is, if you haven’t already got a hobby, find one.
In the middle of last year I started going back to the gym and while this isn’t really a hobby (more of a necessity to combat the effects of my love of chocolate) it gives me a chance to zone out from work and think about something else. You don’t have to go the gym your hobby can be anything you want it to be – reading, sketching, watching Netflix!
Have a CV
CV’s sound really old school and something you associate with to getting a job, but some people particularly recruitment agencies and creative agencies still ask for them. I’ve created my CV in a pdf format, but I’ve also got a word version as some recruitment software can’t read information that is contained in a pdf format.
If you’re stuck for ideas on how to format your freelance CV, there are some good templates online. I used one from Canva.
I’ve found it important to have a social media presence as it’s not only helped me to find work, but it’s helped me to connect with other freelancers.
When I first started freelancing two years ago, I was all over Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and Instagram. Boy was it exhausting trying to keep them all updated with interesting content. Facebook and Instagram won’t working for me, so I ditched them and now I focus on growing engagement on LinkedIn and Twitter.
Create your own workspace
Being a freelancer is not all about working on exciting client projects, you’re also a business owner, which means you’ll need somewhere to run your business empire from.
I’m not lucky enough to have my own home office (my husband has that privilege). I work from the dining table and when I’m finished, I store my things in a draw. It’s not ideal but I make it work and it makes me keep everything organised.
If you don’t have the space for an office, see if you can turn a corner of a room into your office space with a small desk and chair.
Working from home as most freelancers do, can get lonely. I’ve found working from a local co-working space once a week helps relieve the ‘cabin fever’.
Find a support network
When I started freelancing, I didn’t know any other freelancers (and I personally don’t know many now) but I have found a great support network online in Facebook groups. These include the Freelance Heroes and The Freelance Lifestylers.
I often turn to these groups for advice and support as I know somebody in there will have been through a similar thing and can offer some wise words of support. Which they always do.
If you’re not comfortable connecting with people online, there are lots of freelancing meetups throughout the UK. Even if the thought of meeting new people fills you with dread, we freelancers aren’t scary and sometimes only another freelancer can understand what you’re going through.
Marketing your business or yourself if you’re building a personal brand is vital as a freelancer and it’s what you’ve got to do to make money. I still find it uncomfortable talking about myself and showing others how amazing my skills are but over time it’s becoming easier.
Some things I do to market myself are writing blogs, posting on social media, contributing articles to other sites, posting testimonials online, pitching my services to local businesses and design agencies and attending networking events.
Leave a comment below as I’d love to hear your experience of freelancing. Or if you’ve got a question for me, I’ll try my best to answer it.
If you like what you’ve read, you can find other things I’ve got to say on my LinkedIn profile.