Two years ago, I flounced out of my office in a flurry of frustration and raged my way home and out of the rat race. It was terrifying, wonderful, exhilarating, seriously stupid and the best thing I have ever done.
Everyone wants to be their own boss but no woman is an island; and while I foolishly thought that I would just jump out of the starting blocks and in to inevitable success, that isn’t what happened. So for those of you considering taking the plunge in to freelance, here’s what I’ve learned.
Day one. Now I am a writer, with dreams of novel success (geddit) but I wasn’t just going to get a book deal on day one. Besides, that wasn’t my only dastardly plan… I had other avenues to explore. My dream was to write about what interests me (mainly cats, coffee and women – I’m Gay, for those of you trying to do the maths there) so the first phase of my master plan was to become a contributor for major LGBT magazines and build a portfolio of articles.
This, sadly, didn’t happen either, so here’s what I did… I sold out to get in. You wouldn’t believe how many illiterate people are out there, frowning over their keyboards trying to put together web content that I can whack out in an hour, so I got myself on a freelancing website (PeoplePerHour.com) and started bidding for work. Within an hour I was writing eye-achingly boring articles for start ups and coining content for websites all over the world, with an instant income.
My next issue was that there are millions of writers out there and, although we wordsmiths pretentiously consider ourselves ‘writers’ from the day we pick up a pen, this doesn’t fly professionally. Just one look at the sleek websites of my competition was enough to make me hit the bottle, but it wasn’t 1pm yet, so I refrained and sought the advice of a friend in PR. Her answer was to ‘Fake It ‘Till You Make It’… I had the talent, just not the pen-on-paper portfolio. So I pulled together anything I’d written within my roles of past (Job Descriptions, Marketing Material, etc) and even wrote an ‘Example Piece’ where I put together ‘How to Find an Investor’, an article with impressively professional overtones and there you have it… One portfolio. Live online and ready to email out to people who wanted to see my smiling, desperate face and examples of my work.
Keeping momentum and motivation
One of the main reasons people go in to freelancing is so that they can work from home. Say you have kids, multiple businesses or just want to work in your pyjamas like me. But this keeps you open to distractions and can really kill that creativity. So what to do? I tried being the pretentions laptop-in-café breed of freelancer but that not only works out incredibly expensive at one latte an hour (lest the barista frown furiously at you) but also has it’s own distractions. Which is when I found coworking. Near me (just outside London off the M3) is a place called The Workstead, essentially a collaborative workspace and open-arms-office where me and my laptop can go and be deliciously productive. I just show up, choose a desk and plug in, my head already clearing and organising itself as that pseudo-office environment kicks my brain back into gear. They also don’t allow Jeremy Kyle, which helps.
Another big issue for the freelancer is networking. Now there was a time when I’d Skype, dressed from the waist up in a suit jacket with my Sonic pyjamas on underneath, but this had to stop. I don’t have to tell you how important keeping up with those contacts is, so make sure you book space in your calendar to attend those industry conferences. This is where you will meet a lot of your clients after all. Coworking also helps heavily, as the rest of the space is filled with innovative, inspired and inspiring instigators like me, ready to shake hands and start connections which have been the lifeblood of my business. It’s bought me 40% of my income to date.
Nowadays, I pull in a comfortable income, have had hundreds of articles published and write for many established publications. So do it. Quick like a plaster. Get yourself out of the office and in to freelance, using networking platforms and coworking as your weapons of choice, and you’ll never go angry again.