Making a success of your freelance career.
A good freelancer is not only armed with skills and experience that are needed in the marketplace but also business management skills. You are a business and therefore need to know how to market yourself, present yourself, manage your finances and equip yourself appropriately.
Know your marketplace
- Are your skills and experience relevant to freelancing at a local level for local businesses, marketing or creative agencies who work on behalf of brands or client side companies? A good recruitment consultancy specialising in Freelance should be able to advise you on this
- Once you have identified your marketplace, is there enough volume of businesses in the area you are happy to work in, to keep you active on a freelance basis? Think about widening the geographic area you work in. The more flexible you can be the more opportunities you will have
Equip yourself with finances
- Do you have enough money put aside to keep you afloat whilst you build contacts? Try to think about the income you need in the short term and consider it could take some time for money to come in. Most businesses operate on 30 day terms but it can be 60 days, and sometimes even 90 days. Feeling financially in control in the early days will give you the freedom and confidence to accurately market yourself, which is a long term investment
Marketing yourself effectively
- Armed with a winning CV you need to set about finding prospective clients and approaching them in a timely and relevant manner
- Depending on the marketplace you have identified, there are ways to find directory listings of relevant businesses
- For local businesses Yell.com is very effective, as well as keeping an eye in the local press for businesses recruiting
- Google searches often throw up online portals that list local businesses within specific industries too. For marketing and creative agencies, online sites such as Brand Republic, Design Week and Creative Review also carry directory listings
- Avoid the cattle market and stand out from the crowd by doing your homework on the companies you think you should approach
- Do they appear to do the type of work that fits with your experience?
- Who is the right contact to reach? For small local businesses this is likely to be the owner. For large client side companies this is probably an HR function, and for agencies this could be the owner, or head of department (Creative Director, Studio Manager, Client Services Director)
- Set about getting the right name by calling the company and asking. Tell the gatekeeper that you believe the contact will be interested in hearing from you. After all you have done your homework and you really do believe this is true
- What is the benefit to the contact in listening to what you have to say or reading your CV? Make sure your approach communicates your benefits
- When do you think would be the best time of day to reach the contact, for maximum responsiveness?
- Be positive - keep focused and determined, and remember there is always work out there; Nothing ever stays the same
Behaviour on the job
- A successful freelancer will ooze an appropriate level of confidence, thereby putting themselves and their client at ease.
- Be adaptable and confident in picking up new systems and processes quickly
- When chasing payment, do so with professionalism. If payment is late be firm but polite
- If the brief is loose and you need more information, don’t suffer in silence. Be clear and polite in extracting more information. You’ll find most clients know when they’ve provided a less than tight brief
In summary, a successful freelancer…
- Will understand IR35, and other HMRC necessities, and ensure they have multiple clients, amongst the other Inland Revenue requirements
- Is a people person
- Has chosen freelance as a career – they know what they want to achieve from being in business
- Is a natural leader – able to manage themselves and others
- Is self-motivated
- Has thoroughly thought through the financial management needed to go it alone
- Is sensitive to their environment, knowing when to get on with the job and when to step in with helpful advice
- Is always on the lookout to develop their business, leaving business cards with the right people, suggesting ways that they can help in the future; and perhaps in more than one area
- Looks in multiple places for work opportunities, whether direct or through recruitment agencies
- Can adapt to different environments, culture and conditions
- Focuses on the long term ‘commercials’, recognising the value in building long lasting and lucrative relationships