I’ve never wanted to be a freelancer. But after I was made redundant and faced an uninspiring job market, I thought I’d give it a whirl.
Five months in, I’ve surprised myself with just how much I love it. It’s hard and scary, like I thought it would be, but it’s also exciting, challenging and confidence-boosting. Standing on my own two feet, hearing good feedback and being asked to come back again and again.
I’ll never claim to be an expert in all things freelance, I’m just figuring things out as I go. But if you’re thinking about taking the plunge, here are five things I’ve found that might help you along the way.
1. Everyone’s a connection
I spent my first (slightly panicked) week of funemployment emailing, calling, texting, Facebooking and LinkedIn messaging almost everyone I’d ever worked with.
Most of those people didn’t need any writing doing. But they knew someone who did. By week two, I was in house with a client. Week three, fully booked. Week four, meetings set up with more projects pencilled in. From there, the work came in a steady stream (and at times a terrifying torrent). So get talking – you never know who your connections will know.
2. Your reputation precedes you
Portfolios are tricky to build when you’ve spent most of your writing career in an agency or writing under NDA. I’ve found that most of my work has actually come from word of mouth.
So be up-front and ask for recommendations on LinkedIn. And if someone gives you great feedback over email, see if you can put a quote on your profile or website.
3. Figure out your finances
Ring HMRC. They can tell you everything you need to know about tax, national insurance and expenses. Then make yourself a spreadsheet, open a separate bank account just for tax, and start putting money away.
Think about how you want to manage your money. You could pay for an accountant or to work under an umbrella company. Or you could go it alone.
Whatever you do, keep on top of your receipts and send out your invoices pronto. A lot of companies will have 15, 30 or even 45-day payment terms. And when you’ve got money on paper but not in the bank, every day you don’t send an invoice starts to feel very, very long.
4. Make freelancer friends
In my experience, freelancing is all about learning as you go. So make friends with someone who’s been going for a little longer than you and see what words of wisdom they can pass on.
There’s no right or wrong way of doing this, but those tips might help you figure out what could work for you.
5. Say yes
You’ll be faced with new kinds of projects and ways of working you’ve never embarked on before. So take a deep breath, think about how you could tackle the job, talk it through with your freelancer friend. And give it a go. Next time, it won’t be so scary.
Like I said, I’m new to this freelancing lark. If you’ve got any pearls of wisdom you’d like to share with me, or if you think I could help you with a wordy problem, get in touch. You can find me on LinkedIn. (Next on my freelance to-do list? Build a website…)