How Do You Make Freelancing Work For You?

How do you make a lifestyle of freelancing work for you? Does it actually make you "free" do you what you love when you want and get paid for the privilege? In the last post my guest and freelancer, Natasha Perry, described pivoting from a full-time research role.  After children, she retrained and re-invented as a consultant; offering a mix of research and social media services. Now freelancing, Natasha delivers services to a small portfolio of new clients in fascinating new areas.  This allows her to work flexibly. She offers this advice for the short to medium term for freelancers:

The "black magic" is finding the clients:

It's about reconciling yourself with doing a mix of work that pays the bills and work that brings your creative side into flow. Try not to put all of your effort into one category. 

Be strategic with your passion vs. survival.

Give yourself time: 

Double the timeframe you think it will to have a sustainable business. Bill Gates "We overestimate what we will do in a week but underestimate what we will do in a year". Try and take pressure off to produce better quality relationships and work with a realistic timeline for turning profit. And DO NOT believe people's Instagram feeds! Hardly anybody is "killing it" without a serious amount of sacrifice.

Work your own personal network. 

Personal connections and recommendations springboard your career like no other avenue can.  Just keep talking to everyone about what you want to do. “And don’t be afraid to ask for the opportunity if you think it is available.“


Social media is your buddy. 

Don’t be scared of it. Don't launch in a dark wardrobe! Linkedin can be a very powerful tool for connecting with old contacts and making new ones.  Natasha advises to "keep posts interesting, useful and not overtly salesy.  Start a blog, start a social media campaign, engage with people on Twitter.  You’ll see things starting to happen". Rebecca Newenham, my latest podcast guest, told me how few small business owners get that they need to put themselves out there in this way. 

Keep learning. 

Whilst you are waiting to land your first client – brush up on skills you know you might need.  There’s lots of free online tutorials in everything from graphic design to copywriting. think about what areas complement what you already offer and develop those: accounting, negotiation, management, strategy, writing, public speaking?

Don’t be scared of numbers.

Thinking you can save by not having financial advice is a false economy. This brilliant Woman’s Hour podcast touches on the savings that an accountant can make for you and the joy of cloud-based accounting apps, that can even chase money for you (usually a cringe-making activity in our minds).

Take advantage of flexible job agencies and online platforms. 

Job descriptions  are probably wish lists anyway (believe me I know!)– apply knowing you can do 50% of what’s required!  The application process itself is a learning curve and helps to really nail your strengths, weaknesses and work out "Do I really want this enough?". Peopleperhour offers the technology for you to offer increasingly niche services at short notice to a global platform. At least for the first assignment however, you are not able to build much rapport and trust with your client. Much like Ebay, you're at the mercy of a bidding process. 

Are there any downsides to flexible working?

Natasha encourages us to go in cogniscent of the the downsides.  For instance, if you work from home there is less demarcation between your (paid) work and the rest of life.

Have mental and physical boundaries

It can also be very tiring if you are  freelancing to balance with being  a parent. Have  mental boundaries. If it’s your scheduled work time, try not to put away the shopping.  “When you are working you think about work – and when you are at home – it’s a refuge” advises Natasha. My latest podcast with Rebecca Newenham talks about how to navigate self-care and keeping boundaries when you work at home or are self-employed.

Protect your downtime…

Many  freelancers drop off their children, work, pick up their children then work again once their children are in bed. When does any downtime happen? It can be easy to fall into that trap and exhaustion and burnout are no good for anyone.

Protect your value..

Freelancers regularly struggling to be treated fairly in the market. Like all of us, we need to be clear of our worth. Freelancers in particularly don't get paid holidays or sick leave.  You are a supporting tool for a client and often pivotal to the success of their operation. Charge accordingly. This podcast is one of the best I have heard on believing in your rate. 

Honour all parts of yourself, not just the professional.

Being your own boss means friends and family may think you have lots of free time to meet up, run errands, etc.  Actually – you are trying to juggle several clients, different projects, whilst maintaining book keeping and invoicing, be firm. This  gives sensible tips on keeping the balance.

Trust that honouring your self-care will actually is good for your career.

Peopleperhour predict one in two people in the UK and US will be freelancing by 2020. In the UK, The Association of Independent and Self-Employed Professional (IPSE)'s research highlights a similar trend. It is possible to make the career pivot and find flexible work, but be realistic, complement skills you already have in order that you have a strong foundation and expertise to sell. 

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