As I approach my first year freelancer anniversary, I feel enough time has passed for me to share my insights and advice for leaping into the crazy world that is freelancing. I never graduated University with the intention of becoming self-employed, in fact, I had never even considered it an option. At this stage of your career it’s so important to get a plethora of experience under your belt if freelancing is a career you want to pursue later down the line.
I’m often asked ‘how did you get into it’ or ‘where do you find work’ and there isn’t exactly an easy answer for both, but I thought it might be helpful for those in a similar boat that want to quit the 9-5 to read about my personal career journey and how I got to the point of being self employed at 27.
So let’s rewind a few years…(ok, more than a few)
I don’t think a degree is a necessary requirement to becoming your own boss, in fact, many self employed individuals don’t own any formal qualifications in their field because it comes down to experience. I was offered my first full-time job in social media for a London based fashion brand at age 20 with no degree. This was down to the fact I had interned my ass off and proven my worth through experience and determination. Spoiler – I didn’t take the job. Sure, it would have provided me with an easy route into my chosen career but I was one third of the way through my degree and I wanted to secure my BA Hons in Fashion Marketing. My degree didn’t teach me how to practice digital marketing but it did teach me the foundations of marketing and taught me how to manage new levels of stress I didn’t know existed. Education doesn’t stop at University though, especially if you work for yourself, it’s important that you’re always developing your skills and keeping up to date with industry trends. I regularly catch up with relevant blogs, and complete short courses to keep my knowledge topped up and learn new skills.
During my University years I didn’t stop to breathe, by the time I had graduated I had completed 7 internships with 5 different brands; Karen Millen, Oh My Love, Lyle & Scott, Mod Dolly and Dune. I picked up work experienced in press offices, marketing departments, styling teams and social media. I wanted to essentially build up my knowledge and experience to put me in the best position for employment post-University. I would always say work experience is key, but it can be so tough with many companies offering these on an expenses only basis. I won’t deny my privilege here, that I was able to work for free thanks to a rent-free living situation at home. Thankfully, I am seeing an increase in paid internships, and also remote work which could also be an option if commuting to the city is out of the question.
My first full-time paid position after graduating was with a local digital marketing agency, this is where I learnt everything about SEO, PPC and the world of digital. Working in an agency gives you great experience in spinning many plates and understanding multiple industries. It was this role that enabled me to improve my skillset and develop my professional career. I worked at this agency for around four years, but there came a point where I was trying to juggle one too many responsibilities. I was turning down blog work due to a lack of free time and found myself feeling ready for the next step in my career journey. I had become intrigued with the idea of freelancing for around a year, but it felt almost unattainable, where do you even start? I decided to make a spreadsheet to document the earnings from my blog and social channels, this enabled me to have an understanding of roughly how much I could expect to bring in. It must be said though, blogging income can fluctuate from month-to-month and I was always very aware of this. Expanding your offering and diversifying your income is key…
After a particularly`stressful summer with a house renovation, full-time job, increasingly busy blog and freelance writing gigs, I decided to take the plunge. It was a stressful few months as I worried and questioned whether I was jumping too soon but I fully believe there is never a right time to make such a big change. You will always find an excuse, and while I’m not suggesting you should act recklessly, sometimes you do need to take a leap of faith. That’s exactly what I did, and it has certainly paid off. I absolutely love freelancing and while it does have ups and downs, overall, it’s a lifestyle much more suited to me. I don’t enjoy the routine of a 9-5, but I do enjoy being in control of my own schedule and having a flexible lifestyle that ultimately gives me more freedom. If you’re thinking about going for it, my top tips are
- Have enough savings to pay 2-3 months of bills in case you need an emergency buffer
- Have at least two streams of income lined up
- Build your contacts and begin networking as soon as possible
Making it work
Securing work is the biggest challenge a freelancer can face, because sure, you have all the skills but finding a client who will put their faith in you can be tough for new starters. This is where you need to use your existing contacts and network, ugh, who really likes networking? I can’t say I’m hugely keen but it IS important to grow your business as face-to-face communications will always beat emails. Work on building your online presence, and use LinkedIn to reach out to potential clients, or just to make yourself known locally. The majority of work I receive has been through word of mouth and recommendation which will definitely take you far. A potential client is much more likely to take you on if they’ve received a personal recommendation, but that’s not to say you shouldn’t be reaching out to prospects either. I currently work on a range of projects, and I’m a big believer in having multiple revenue streams, the idea of having all my eggs in one basket is scary. I earn money a number of different ways…
- Social media management
- Sponsored blog and social posts
- Writing for travel/lifestyle brands
- Content creation
If you’re concerned about the loneliness aspect that can come with working for yourself, then I would suggest looking into co-working spaces or even teaming up with another freelancer to work on certain projects. When I first made this jump it felt very overwhelming, but I’ve recently teamed up with another freelancer and together we’re offering our services as a package. It’s a great partnership and allows us both to feel as though we have a team even though we’re both self-employed.
Want to read more about working as a freelancer and earning all of your £$ from your laptop? Read my post about how to become a digital nomad.