Notice anything different around here? Just over 3 months ago I started my new life as an official PR & Events Freelancer. After myself and my BFF – emotionally – decided to put our business baby to rest, we both knew it was for the right reasons. Working with friends has its perks. but when you are a control freak with high anxiety and an almost OCD work drive, it can really take it’s toll and create problems which weren’t put on the agenda. Solution? Figure out a way to become my own boss with a one way ticket to freelancville. The hustle has always been real, but now the hustle is a constant in life — and I wouldn’t have it any other way.
Contrary to popular belief, the freelance life isn’t all holidays and days spent sending emails from the comfort of your own bed – although that is definitely apart of it! Going self-employed takes work. A lot of work, especially in the beginning. With the rise of outsourcing and new jobs in social media, it really is the best time to kick it on your own. What’s more, the world of freelancing offers a heady mix of pleasures denied to the average 9-to-5er from all day PJ’s to afternoon naps, but whether you choose to take said perks is another matter! Along with the pluses there are always some minuses: struggling to maintain a work-life balance, a hermit-like existence, taxes… to name a few. So, before you hand in that notice, here’s a few lessons I’ve learned on my journey so far.
What’s the plan?
Working for yourself can be a real tough adjustment if you’re used to getting advice and support from managers and coworkers. I spent most of my career managing people and working mostly by myself, only reporting back to seniors weekly. I feel this ‘flung in the deep end’ approach really prepared me for freelance life, letting me work my initiative juices. At the end of the day, whether you sink or swim as a freelancer is entirely up to you. There’s no safety net unless YOU put one in place. Having a plan of exactly what you are offering and what you have incoming for the next 3 months will show you where (and when) you gotta hustle for more work. So, before you head out on your own, sit down with a clear understanding of your finances of what you need each month and then draft a projection plan, setting out steady targets monthly. Also ask yourself other questions like what will your working week look like and where will you be based from will help you see your freelance life more clearly. And keep you on track if things go outwith the lines you set for yourself. If I can do it, trust me, you can too.
Save it, sista
Look, even if you are leaving a profitable job to freelance – which I didnt – save all that cash dollah for a rainy day – or an unexpected tax bill! After 2 years on less than desireable wage, I finally got the hang of budgeting. Sure, when starting up a business there will be a few costs that come to mind, but really think about where you are spending and where you are saving. Basically, apart from general living, your upfront expenses should be allocated toward getting clients, not satisfying a superficial checklist of what you think a freelancer should have: i.e. business cards, yes, that bottle of fizz at that ‘business meeting’? no. Soz.
Contacts are now your currency. No matter where you work or what line of job – work and contacts wont always come to you|. The more people you know, the better your chances are of coming across potential business opportunities. I think the key is to start as early as you can. When I first got my degree, like many I couldn’t find my PR job of dreams promoting things I love, so found another route – retail. I honestly believe nothing prepares you for work – no matter what the industry – better than retail. It helps with your confidence, targeting, sales, pitching, visual presentation, really the list goes on. It was there that I got to work on my little black book, then continuing the networking over on social media by starting my blog when I noticed my writing skills had gone kaput. Now, it’s about looking at each event as an opportunity. What do you want to get from it? (apart from the free shit) Did you introduce yourself and speak to everyone? Freelance means never knowing where a job may be so networking is basically leaving no stone un turned.
Is that the time already?!
The saying “time is money” has never been so true as it is for a freelancer. Once you become your own boss, it can be difficult to create a healthy routine, one that I particularly struggled with. One of the main perks of freelance is the flexibility, but when it becomes obsessive and unhealthy – which is easy when working alone – you need to regain perspective and give yourself a reality check. For so long I was making myself ill, feeling an overwhelming sense of guilt and anxiety when leaving my computer to make lunch or even to the bathroom. It was those nasty voices of “are you skiving?”, “what if something happens?” that I let dominate my head, rather than the even more important ones of “it’s 4pm, please feed me” or ones of a more positive nature like “YAS, result!” A lot of this is spurred from my own issues of anxiety, but after talking with a bunch of incredibly inspiring women – namely #GirlBoss and author Emma Gannon of Cntrl Alt Delete – I found that ‘time anxiety’ basically comes with the territory. You need to find what works for you, and what I’ve found is scheduling my days clearly and setting achievable ‘life’ targets has helped no end. Well, that and getting a puppy to force it in to habit!
I say who, I say when, I say how much
Once you have started working and building your reputation, there’s nothing more amazing than getting an incoming enquiry. Yes of course, this is super exciting and feel free to happy dance in your chair but please, don’t say YES to everything – no matter what ‘the secret’ tells you. Take on work which you love and works for you. Sometimes, golden carrots are dangled infront of work that you know isn’t right for you. Take your time and think about it; can you complete on time and with client satisfaction? Will it bring additional work? Not every client is going to be a perfect match right away, but that doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t follow up in the future. Seeds can be planted, but taking on work that only brings stress sounds like something the old you used to do. The balls in your court, remember?
Hey, I’m Sheri from Forever Yours, Betty, what’s yours?
Who would have thought that a part time vintage shop would lead to my full time career? When I decided to fly solo, I thought about how I would be referenced and whether or not to create a new site and brand etc. I could keep my blog and my work separate with a natural divide or figure out a way to merge the two, which to me made more sense to me. Afterall, everyone already knew me as Betty, so why change that? It’s about maximising opportunity and Betty gives me just that, getting me infront of brands to pitch my hustle. So merge is exactly what I did. Well, not me, the oh so talented Jen Thomson did! She managed to bring together this shiny new website perfectly, just when I was about to give up all hope. Which leads me to my last and final point (for now).
Know your strengths
Freelancers are exactly like small business owners. On top of our bread and butter we try to do it all: SEO, coding, accounts, photography, graphic design and then some! Thinking you can do it all is just unrealistic. So rather than get all stressed out over what you can’t do, set budget aside to work with other freelancers that can. Jen totally understood my vision and was such a pleasure to work with when building my new site. She listened, she understood, she delivered. Infact, I think we should all tweet her (@lilmisstee) and tell her so! It’s patting others on the back and watching their hustle that helps mine grow too – and that’s goes for the weekly phone check ins from my accountant too!
When you enter the world of freelance, the word ‘lucky’ gets passed around a lot. I would say I have been lucky in life, but luck had nothing to do with getting where I am with my career. I worked damn hard attending openings of envelopes, shaking hands, brass necking and cold calling to get to where I am today and after 3 months of working I finally feel like I am in control and in the swing of it. Being a people person, I never thought I could handle working on my own, but the control freak in me knew I could. Yup, it took me 9 years of full time working and 30 years of existing to get to grips of this adulting thing but I’ve never felt better, or weirdly less stressed. I know I can do this and if I have the ability to get it, then dammit I GOT IT! Only I hold the keys to my own destiny and the thrill of that is something that constantly pushes my hustle, plus not wearing make up or a bra to work is pretty sweet. Are you freelance or thinking of taking the plunge? Tweet me over at @foreverursbetty with your tips or questions, I’d love to hear them.
I’m Betty, a tangerine haired, glasses wearing Scottish Fashion and Lifestyle blogger with a nose for a good sandwich and an eye for style. One half of vlogging duo Colour Pop Girls and Freelance Events & PR consultant based in Glasgow.