Freelancing can be the ultimate goal for many people who want to quit their 9-5 day jobs or a lucrative “side hustle” to supplement income.
For the past 15 years, I have freelanced in some capacity almost without interruption. I have been a full-time freelancer. I have been a part-time freelancer while I worked a day job. I’ve taken on short-term contract roles “in-house” and I’ve worked from my home office.
Freelancing has given me the flexibility to work in a way that suits my family when I’ve needed it to.
At times when I’ve gravitated back to the regular workforce, I’ve kept up freelancing partly out of obligation to long-term clients, but partly because I know that if I ever need to ramp it up again, for whatever reason, it is there for me. It’s my “safety net”.
If you’re looking at getting started as a freelancer, these are some of the things I’ve learned along the way:
Don’t put all your eggs in one basket
When you are a freelancer you don’t have the same stability a permanent employee has. You are relying on a business to give you work.
While you may enjoy years working for a client, all it takes is for the magazine to go out of business or your contact within a creative agency to move on and suddenly you’re without a substantial chunk of your regular income.
Having a range of clients gives you a buffer, just in case.
Don’t underestimate the power of word of mouth
Most of the work I do these days comes to me via previous clients or professional contacts who have passed my name on to someone else. Sometimes I am so busy I have to turn people away and I refer the work to other writers that I know.
Don’t be afraid to diversify
I started out freelancing by writing feature articles for magazines – but over the years I’ve written, news stories, opinion pieces, media releases, website content, blog posts, marketing material, fundraising letters, social media posts and newsletters.
Many organisations need good writing and are happy to outsource it!
I have written material for government clients, IT companies, recruitment firms, real estate companies, the health and fitness industry, not-for-profits, manufacturing and construction companies, fashion retailers, a television show’s official website and a slew of publications.
Don’t deal with people who want to exploit you
At times it seems as though there is an epidemic of publications or businesses who want people to work for free, for a pittance or for “exposure”.
It still happens to me, even after 15 years of freelancing and 20 plus years as a writer. Exposure doesn’t pay my bills.
I also won’t take on low=paid “trial work” at this stage of my career because my writing portfolio speaks for itself. You wouldn’t ask a doctor or dentist or lawyer to work for exposure or for a reduced rate so you can see what their work is like. Creative professionals are no different.
By Caroline Hamilton, experienced corporate communications professional and writer with more than two decades of experience. She has worked in a range of communications roles, predominantly in the government sector – including ACT Community Care, the Australian Taxation Office and the Australian Bureau of Statistics.
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