Freelancing has changed my life. Yes, it sounds quite dramatic. But it’s the truth. Don’t get me wrong, setting up as a freelancer hasn’t been all rose gardens.
It’s a lot of nervous tummy, sick feeling in the stomach, working at random times of the weekend. But freelancing has changed my life. For the better. I’ll explain to you why.
My experience as a freelancer
My path to the freelance world happened by accident you may say. I left my job. I left with no job to go to. Madness, yes, but I had every intention of at some point, getting back into an employed job.
That never happened.
According to the Office of National Statistics 61.4% of mums who class themselves as self- employed work part time compared to their employed mums.
Yes, the desire to work flexibly was partly a reason that I never went back to an employed role. But I was more interested in the type of organisation that I wanted to work with.
The pandemic has made many people reassess their priorities in life. For many, having job security is their number one priority. Being freelance brings with it the worry of where your next project is going to come from. This has been especially true if you work with small businesses. I’ve both seen and heard of my people losing clients because their clients haven’t the money to pay them.
But I’ve also seen many freelancers win work during the past year. I am fortunate to have been in that camp. But it’s taken hard work, graft, and a good deal of feeling the fear but doing it anyway.
So, if you are sitting on the fence, about to jump into freelance life, or just doing your research, here are my freelancing tips for beginners.
Setting up as a freelancer
You don’t need to have everything branded before you start your life as a freelancer.
Yes, a website, a logo, brand colours, and font types are all great but, you don’t need these to make a start. All you need is to know what services you want to provide and to whom.
Eleven freelancing tips for beginners
1. Setting up as a freelancer means marketing yourself
A large part of freelancing life is marketing yourself. You quickly come to realise that you unless you tell people about your service offerings no one will know. The term ‘marketing’ yourself takes on a whole new meaning. Social media becomes your best friend and you feel the fear of putting yourself out there on a daily basis
2. Having a good webcam is a must
Zoom meetings are here to stay. We’ve all seen the adverts on TV advertising the benefits of reliable broadband. As a freelancer Make the most of your broadband by having a good webcam. When meeting a new client this will mean you show up (virtually) as a conducting your business in a professional way
3. Get your business admin organised
Set yourself up as a sole trader or Ltd company. See if you need to register with the Information Commissioners Office (ICO) from a data protection perspective.
Sort out your business insurance whether that be professional indemnity insurance, public liability, cyber insurance. This is probably one of my top freelancing tips for beginners. Having your business admin in place means that you can rest easy knowing that you are covered insurance wise. It also means that if you do want to sub contract your services you can go for opportunities knowing you have all business admin in place.
4. Don’t get caught up with shiny new object syndrome
That course that you have seen would be brilliant for you so you sign up. Everyone else is jumping on the bandwagon of doing something so you do.
Truth is, you don’t have the time or the headspace to give that course your all. Or, you don’t need to be on that bandwagon just yet.
Don’t waste your money or put pressure on yourself. Focus on getting your business up and running and your services known.
5. Setting up as a freelancer also means networking
Another one of my top freelancing tips for when you are beginning your freelance journey. Join Facebook groups, take part in conversations on LinkedIn. Share your knowledge and expertise. People will then get to know you and what services you provide. Virtual networking isn’t as scary as it sounds. It’s a great way to connect with others in the freelance world and boost your self-esteem. Freelancing life can be a lonely place, so having a virtual network to vent to can be a lifesaver. It’s also a great way to find out about freelancing opportunities, projects, and longer-term contracts. Some networking groups that I have found to be welcoming are Flexible Working Scotland and Doing it for the Kids.
6. Don’t limit yourself to seeking clients in your local area
The world is a big place. Technology now means that we can find clients throughout the UK and beyond. I started my freelancing life thinking my clients needed to be local. But, my experience as a freelancer has taught me to think broader. Having the mindset of seeking clients throughout the UK (or beyond) will give you the push you need to get out there and network virtually. Only 15% of my clients are based in my local area. The rest are spread out across the UK. Make use of social media platforms to find out about projects and opportunities that interest you.
7. Keep track of your finances!
A simple excel spreadsheet is a good start especially if you are a sole trader. It also makes it a lot easier when it comes to doing your tax return.
8. Feel the fear and be ok with it
This is the thread that runs through life as a freelancer. It’s also why freelancing has changed my life. I’ve put myself out there. I’ve put myself forward for opportunities that have been advertised in the social media groups I hang out in. I’ve said yes to projects that push me outside of my comfort zone and give me that initial sicky feeling in my stomach. Freelancing life is all about learning and growing and networking! If you need a bit of a confidence boost then I’d recommend reading ‘Feel the Fear and Do It Anyway‘ by Susan Jeffers. It’s a great book for getting you to think positively. Which let’s face is, is a must have mindset in freelancing life.
9. You can say ‘no’ to work
Controversial, I know. Ok, this maybe isn’t what you want to do when you are starting out. But when you get into your stride and are a bit more secure, it is ok to say no to projects.
Provide a reason for why though. I’ve said no to work because I was at capacity. I could have worked extra hours at the weekend, but my family comes first. Most clients then ask me when I can fit them in as they are happy to wait.
I’ve said no to work as it wasn’t the sort of work that I wanted to focus my business on.
10. Track your time
If you know roughly how long each of your services takes you can then set your overall pricing accordingly. Some people charge by the hour, some people by retainer, some people by project. Having an idea of how long it takes you to complete a piece of work will also help you to work more efficiently
11. Ask for a testimonial when you’ve finished a project
Once you’ve completed a project ask your client if they would be happy to provide you with a few ‘kind words’ that you can use when pitching or creating a new project proposal. You can use this on your website (as and when you have one). Or, create a portfolio that you can share with potential new clients. In my experience as a freelancer, I am always asked to share my previous work or testimonials.
After all, recommendations are the most powerful form of marketing. Freelancer life is no different.
Everyone’s experience as a freelancer is different. It’s important to choose your path and to be ok with deviating from your original path if that is the direction your business takes you. As a content writer, my path and the direction I wanted my business to go in, changed over time. It’s through taking on new projects that you figure out the sort of work you enjoy doing (and don’t as much!).
That is the joy of freelancing and it’s often why freelancing will change your life.