It’s a new year (how are we three weeks in already?!), and many people decide now is the time to try something new, professionally. It was at this time of year in 2015 I registered as self-employed, and I’ve been reflecting on how I started my business a lot lately, so thought I’d put together some tips for anyone thinking of going down the freelance route:
- Treat everyone as your network: friends, family, existing and old colleagues, everyone! Tell people your plans, and specifically
what you’ll be freelancing in. Once they all know, they can pass your name on to any number of potential clients who might need your services one day. You never know who knows who.
- Start a blog. If you don’t have one already, and write some of your posts about where you live. I’ve gained a couple of local clients this way, as once people realise you’re on the doorstep, you’ll be more attractive to work with, plus blogging lets people feel like they know a bit about you.
- Cold call emailing. It’s a dull task, but it can get a good return, particularly when all you ask for is the chance to meet in person to discuss how you might be able to help a potential client. Most of the time companies are willing to give up twenty minutes to get to know you.
- Go for short-term jobs. Most of my jobs in my first year were day jobs or work charged by the hour, and no long-term stuff at all. It helps you build up a good catalogue of stuff you’ve done and secure more testimonials for the future.
- Don’t be too corporate on social media. It’s tempting to switch your Twitter and Instagram to private once you’re a business to avoid giving off the wrong image, but as long as your content isn’t full of drunken nights out and things that would put people off, I say leave it on display. You’re a person after all, and people like working with people, so have a personality. It is a good idea to avoid overly-political content or strong opinions on controversial topics though. But ‘gramming your avo on toast? Go for it.
- Start to collect testimonials as soon as you can. If you haven’t had your first client yet, see if your last employer will provide one, as long as it’s the same line of work.
- Likewise, start to make a portfolio as soon as you have examples of your work. When I started off I included things I’d done at uni and on work placements to have something to talk about at meetings. It’s not necessarily about how impressive the scale of the work is, but about showing off your ideas and what you’re capable of.
- Consult others. Even if you feel pretty confident in how to get started, it’s worth asking for others’ advice. I had a business consultation with Cori Javid before Christmas, unsure what I’d get out of it because I assumed I’d have most of the same ideas. Wrong! Cori gave me some great tips that I’m putting into practice this year.
- Focus your speciality. It might feel like you’re closing yourself off to a lot of potential work by specialising in a particular industry, but it makes you a more attractive business to work with if you have a track record in that area. Plus, you should still be able to offer work to mixed-client agencies as back-up without too much trouble.
- Likewise, know the type of work you want to apply for. Some freelance gigs require applications as though you’re applying for a job, and if you start going down this route you can end up committing a lot of unpaid hours to pitching for work, especially as some are incredibly detailed. If you do want to go down this route, don’t apply in panic. You’ll waste time that could be better spent. Ask yourself if you really suit the role and if you’ll be happy doing it.
Have any tips you want to add? I’d love to hear them, please comment below!
Laura is a freelance project manager for the arts and culture sector, public relations manager and copywriter.
Get in touch at firstname.lastname@example.org or 07817321793.