FAQ: Life as a freelancer
Happy August! I promised back in February that I was going to blog more regularly, then life turned upside down - in a good way. I started working at Dear Green Coffee Roasters as their part time marketing, so juggling that transition was intense!
I still work as a freelance digital marketer and I've learned a lot these past 18 months! I recently did an instagram stories AMA about being a freelancer, so wanted to share some longer answers and info here. I hope you find this post useful – please let me know if you do!
Do you need to be earning before becoming a freelancer?
I wasn't. I started freelancing after being made redundant, and had about 6 months of savings. I set myself a goal/plan in January 2017 - I'd try freelancing for 6 months, and then decided if I wanted to stick with it or try to find a job. I wasn't even sure I'd get even one piece of work, let alone more than that!
I'm not much of a risk taker, so I'd personally advise having all your finances in order before venturing into freelancing. Make a plan, set a goal.
Head over heart, or heart over head?
I'm neither of these – I rely on my gut instinct. (Probably because I'm totally food obsessed!) I really do rely on my intuition, it's yet to steer me wrong. There's been loads of projects I've been offered but walked away from, and when I look back I'm really glad I did.
I've also got a little "rule book" for myself where write down a learning if something does go wrong. For example, if I ignored my intuition or red flags, and later regretted it, I'd write down how I would approach things differently next time.
An example of one of these rules is: always talk about monetary expectations at the first meeting. It is so much easier setting expectations about money in the first meeting rather than after a month (or more!) of hard work and then sending an invoice. I take responsibility for having the challenging conversations about money, due dates for payment, timeframes for completion of work, communication expectations and everything else. It really does make a huge difference to the relationships I have with my clients in the long run.
Any tips/hacks for just starting out as a freelancer?
Freelancing isn't for everyone. Here's some of the things I think you need:
1. You need to believe in yourself. Freelancing is lonely. It's hard. It's challenging. If you don't believe in yourself, neither will your clients.
2. You need a support network. For those days you don't believe in yourself! Friends who are freelancers will be a huge help, as will your "jobby" friends. Talk to everyone about what you do, especially when you're just starting – they'll help you get started and could even be one of your first clients! (My personal rule for friends/family as clients is the same as regular clients. Especially concerning communication, contracts, money. I'll do extra work for friends and family as opposed to working for free).
3. A finish line / goal. I personally found having a 6 month goal a huge comfort. Obviously I didn't stop there – I kept doing it. But knowing that I wasn't "stuck" freelancing forever if I hated it made if easier for me to enjoy it.
4. Motivation. Ok, I don't even think motivation is a real thing (more on that below) but if you're not a self-motivated person, then I think you'd struggle freelancing. I know myself from my studies/work history that I don't need to physically be in an office to work, and I don't need a boss looking over my shoulder. I did my law degree as a distance student and had to keep myself motivated for 6 long years while working full time. Freelancing suits my personality but I know that not everyone would embrace the freedom and autonomy.
How do you promote yourself as a freelancer?
When I started out I spent a lot of time promoting myself. Now I think I'm quite lax! (Thankfully it's because I'm too busy working but I know I need to do more of it!)
I'm in quite a few networking and community groups - on Facebook and in person. Meeting like-minded business owners can really help you find work.
My website. I don't update it as often as I should, but I've had a lot of enquiries because of it. If you're a freelancer, you need a website. How will people know what you do otherwise?!
How do you motivate yourself as a freelancer?
Ok, this might end up being a mini-essay in itself, but stick with me!
Firstly, I don't think motivation is a thing. Relying on this idea of some kind of magical motivation mojo is just a cop out for doing nothing. I believe in habits, routine and getting shit done.
And trust me, I used to be a HUGE procrastinator. I was even assessed as being a "cliffhanger" type personality when I worked in conveyancing – which was the worst personality for working in a job with deadlines (and whopping financial penalties for missing deadlines!).
So I changed. I'm now a reformed procrastinator thanks to Derren Brown (the magician). I read one of his books a few years ago when I was a university lecturer and his advice about procrastinating genuinely changed my life.
Derren says that procrastinating is something your brain learns and subconsciously gets a kick/reward from when you're at the 11th hour, rushing to get something done which you should've done weeks ago.
So next time there's something you've been putting off for ages (like phoning the bank) focus your brain energy instead on how good you'll feel when that task is done. Then just do it. And make sure afterwards, you spend a while saying to yourself "thanks Briony* for doing that task. That was great how you just got on and did it. Now I can cross it off my list, I feel loads better, and I can actually relax."
* [It'll probably be more effective to insert your own name, instead of thanking me. You can thank me another time.]
It will become more effective the more you practice it. I promise! Eventually you'll get to the point where your brain is actively willing you to answer all your emails, cross all your life admin and take out the recycling.
I still fall into bad habits from time to time, and sometimes I need to trick myself by saying "just send this one email." But it really does work - give it a try and let me know what you think!
Ok, that post ended up being a whopper! Got any questions? Tweet me or comment below!