By Amanda Shaw, freelance senior communications consultant with over 20 years of experience in creative environments. Amanda runs her own consultancy, Red Jasper PR, where she has worked with a variety of clients of all sizes and industries.
Along with everything else in the world, the rate of change in work-life culture is happening at breakneck speed. “Work” can no longer be deﬁned in the old ways. Achieving balance while working and raising families and living life at this fast-pace means that we need more ﬂexibility. Long gone are standard 9-5 days, chained to one desk, in one ofﬁce, in one location. In the gig economy, there are more opportunities than ever for folks to jump off the 9-5 hamster wheel and have a crack at making it on their own.
But as appealing as it sounds, the life of a freelancer is not all rainbows and lollipops. There can be the stress of unstable income, particularly when starting out, the oft hated, but necessary evil of hustling for work and new clients, building a brand and even navigating the responsibilities of running the books and ﬁnances. Ask any honest freelancer and they’ll tell you that sometimes they wonder why they’re doing it. I ask myself that question, almost daily. That said, for me at least, the upside far outweighs the things I don’t like.
Now, I am no expert, I don’t claim to know all there is to being successful as a freelancer, but I can share some of the things I’ve learned to be true on my own journey. And truly, with some careful planning and consideration, the life of a freelancer is usually full of rewards and they all do add up to something pretty special.
With that in mind, here are some things for you to consider, if you are ready and determined to follow your own path:
1. UNDERSTAND YOUR MOTIVES
Before taking the plunge, it’s really important that you understand why you want to go freelance. Is it to have more time with your family, is it that you want to travel and work remotely? Is it because you have a smashing idea and you want to build your very own business empire? Whatever your motive (and there are no right or wrong answers here) it’s important you establish a roadmap to your goals. Because if you don’t know where you’re going, chances are you won’t get there anytime soon.
2. FIND YOUR SUPERPOWER
Potential clients all have one thing in common. They have a problem that needs a solution. Your job is to understand how your particular superpower can help them. I once had a client ask me to help build new website, to house the content they wanted me to create for them. And while I could point them in the right direction, website building is not my superpower. I am a writer and content producer. This is my niche. My superpower. It’s what I’m best at and what I stick to. And while it’s OK stretch outside your limits sometimes, it is much better for your client to understand exactly what your scope is so that you can get on with delivering your magic for them.
3. FIND YOUR TRIBE
OK, so I’ve always felt a bit weird about selling myself and my skills, but really, it is necessary if you want to ensure your rent is paid every month. When I ﬁrst started out, I wanted my work to speak for itself, and often it does. But in order for my work to have a thriving conversation it needs to be put in front of people. You need to promote yourself to the right audience to stay top of mind, and to show that you have the chops for the job. I know, I know. It’s daunting. But start with the people who already know and love you. Lean on your friends and their networks, ask existing and past clients to write testimonials for you, letting someone else’s words do the selling bit for you. Look at where your potential clients hang out online and engage with them there – are there forums, groups or pages you can join? Wherever you ﬁnd them, pitch in to the conversation. Don’t hammer them with sales spam, but listen to their needs, see if you can offer advice. Be kind, be thoughtful and before you know it, you will have positioned yourself as an expert and someone they can potentially work with.
4. WORK HARD, BE NICE
People talk. The more people you work with, the more opportunities for you to create an impression. Make sure yours is a good one, because people who do a good job are talked about. But so are those that don’t and clients have very long memories. Referrals and word-of-mouth is really important for a freelancer. So when you land a client, deliver exceptional work, make your deadlines, communicate openly, over deliver where you can and most of all, play nicely. Trust me, it will all be remembered.
5. TREAT YOUR EXISTING CLIENTS AS GOLD
Clients are your lifeline. You must have a supply of work coming in that allows you enough income to survive. That means delivering on your promises, being good natured and easy to work with, looking for opportunities to add value … see the pattern? Good clients are golden, and keeping them happy means they keep sending you work.
6. NEVER PUT ALL YOUR EGGS INTO ONE BASKET
One of the joys of freelancing is that you can work on a variety of different projects. Not only does it make your work life interesting, it also protects your income. When I ﬁrst began freelancing, I was grateful to land one big client early on, and they gave me consistent work. It was great. They looked looked like a long-term, reliable income generator, but for a number of reasons it didn’t work out like I expected. It was a bummer, but it was possibly my most valuable lesson. You can never have too many clients! Sometimes existing clients will drift away; business gets slow and they cut freelancers. Sometimes you have to cut a troublesome client loose for the good of your business and the peace of your mind. Nothing is forever. So, having multiple clients is a must, and gaining new clients is right there next to it.
Look, I get it. It’s a lot to consider. But don’t let it scare you off. Get ready, be brave, be bold, get your superpowers out there. There is no-one else in the world exactly like you with the exact set of skills you have and this, my friend, opens up all kinds of exciting opportunities. Yes, it will take time to ﬁnd your feet and build your business. Don’t beat yourself up. Trust the process. It’s a marathon, not a sprint.
Remember this: every day holds the promise of fresh opportunity. Say it to yourself often and loudly. You never know, on any given day, who you’ll meet or where you’ll wind up. You just have to set your intentions and go. So stop reading and hop to it. There has never been a better time to start than now!