When I started working for myself, it happened so quickly that I didn’t really have much time to spend researching what I was about to jump into.
I’d lost my job and made a snap decision to try and go it alone before I started looking for another full time position.
Having said that, transitioning from a career in digital PR to one where I could use my PR, social media, and writing skills to help small businesses had been in the back of my mind for a long time, so I’d read up a little on what to expect.
I’d even been freelancing on the side of my full time jobs for a while.
This put me in a good position to just get started, but when I began to gain traction I made sure I put a bit of time aside to research freelancing tips, just in case I’d made some huge mistake that everyone else knew about before me.
You know, a bit like when you get dumped and all your friends go “THANK GOD! YOU WERE WAY TOO GOOD FOR HIM ANYWAY.”
We’ve all been there, right?
Anyway, I learned a lot from those articles I read and the people I spoke to, but I’ve also learnt a lot by just getting out there and DOING IT.
You can be open to advice, but you don’t have to follow it. You can ask someone to point you in the right direction, but you don’t have to walk down the same well-beaten path.
It you ask me, it’s often far more interesting to trample through that slightly rocky, weed-ridden bit at the sidelines.
(And it’s much quieter – you can actually hear yourself think).
Sure, I might have totally ignored some of the freelance advice I read about, but that’s because I found alternatives that worked for me.
Here are the freelancing tips I ignored, and what I did instead.
Don’t put ‘freelancer’ in your bio
Yep, I’m starting with a controversial one.
A lot of people say you shouldn’t call yourself a freelancer because companies tend to value freelancers less. And, while that does make sense, I also knew that sticking social media consultant’ in my Twitter and LinkedIn bios and hoping for the best wouldn’t work for me right now.
How would people know I offered these services myself and didn’t just work as a consultant at an agency like I did before?
I decided to run with ‘freelancer’ and so far I haven’t had any problems. If anything, potential clients have been receptive to the term because they know, right off the bat, that it’ll be me personally helping them.
Maybe I’ll change this in the future, but for now I don’t see any problem with using a word that *literally* describes what I am.
Choose a name for your business
Nope. Didn’t go for this one either.
I did toy with the idea, and even put together a plan, including a business name and concept, but ultimately I decided to just stick with my name. Like I said, this whole freelance thing? It kind of happened overnight, and I wanted to get the ball rolling as soon as possible.
I’d bought the domain name to match my *actual* name years ago and hardly used it, which seemed like the best route. Maybe in the future I’ll rebrand, but I don’t regret just going for it with what I had to hand at the time.
Rent a desk
I’m not going to lie, I was definitely tempted by the idea of renting a desk in a cool office.
Working from home has its benefits, but it also has many drawbacks. Sometimes (if you live alone, like me) you don’t see anyone from one day to the next. And having your desk in your flat can blur the lines between work and life.
That said, when I looked at the cost of renting a desk I knew it wasn’t for me right now. Instead, when I feel like I’m getting cabin fever, I take my laptop to a local cafe. And if I can’t do that for some reason (I’ve worked with agencies who often need you to jump on client call or team hangouts) I suck it up in the knowledge that I can go out later.
Charge what you’re worth
When I first started freelancing, I took any work I could get and at any price.
I knew that, in the future, I’d be able to quote more to new clients but, you know, girl’s gotta pay rent so I sucked it up and took on work that probably didn’t pay me as much as I was worth but got the ball rolling.
In fact, I still work for my first ever client at that lower rate because I like the work and they always pay on time, which is a big deal in the freelance world.
I charge what I’m worth now, of course, but I don’t regret taking on the lower-paying work. Everyone has to start somewhere
Get a website live straight away
As I said, I already owned the domain name but the site was, well, pretty much a blank slant. I hired my friend Bobbi to give it a complete overhaul and, while she worked her web dev magic, made do with a page on my blog and had my friend Jo take some photos for the site.
Did it stop me booking freelance work? Nope.
Is it nice now that my freelance site is live to have somewhere to actually direct people who want more information? HELL YES.
SHAMELESS PLUG ALERT: you can look at the new site here.
Make a space in your home where you only do work
In an ideal world, I’d follow this piece of advice to the letter.
I’d have a spare room I could turn into an office, with a massive desk and bookshelves and somewhere to put my printer that isn’t the floor.
But, you know, you’ve got to work with what you’ve have. And what I don’t have is a spare room. I don’t have a spare anything. I live alone in a small one bed in the centre of Leeds.
Sure, I could have moved to a two bed apartment, but I knew this would only increase my overheads at a time when I was trying my best to save money, not spend it.
So, instead, I worked with what I have; a space between the kitchen and the lounge where, ordinarily, you’d have a dining table.
And, sure, it’s not perfect. Sometimes it’s frustrating to have my lounge, kitchen, and office in one room, but it works for me right now,
I’m not saying you should ignore all the freelancing tips you hear or read about, but I do think what works for one person won’t necessarily work for another.
It’s about figuring out what sits best with you and, if needs be, taking your own route to success. Throw away the rule book if you want, I’m not gonna judge you.