Incredibly it has been 1 year since I packed in my agency role and ventured into the unknown realms of life as a Freelance Digital Consultant. I went into this with an open mind hoping I had what it takes to be successful and form a lifestyle business that opens up experiences and opportunities that full time work never could. Luckily I’ve had a good first year, but not without adapting and learning certain things along the way. Below I have listed some of the key lessons, traits and takeaways that anyone thinking about going freelance are likely to require (plus some Lego images). You can now find my 2nd year lessons post HERE.
1. Keep Resilient
When not tied down to an agency or in-house desk, life as a freelancer can deal you periods with lots of work or none at all. It takes a certain type of person to resist packing things in when things are tough and running back to full time work. Part of my client sourcing process involves investigating which brands and agencies are currently looking for roles that encompass my skills. Once found I have the opportunity to contact that business directly and pitch my freelance services as an alternative. The danger of this is I spend a lot of time on recruitment and job sites. Seeing how many high paying roles I could walk into is difficult when business is slow. In these situations you have to remind yourself why you ditched the full time world and that you’ve committed to this path.
2. Get Confident
Life as your own boss involves a ton of phone calls, meetings, networking events, pitches and general engagement. If you weren’t self-confident when you started your business you damn well better get that way. Whether it is gaining new clients, demanding payment of invoices or selling your self, self-confidence matters! Luckily one of the rewards of running your own business can be testimonials, compliments and thanks that builds confidence in your offering and yourself. But dont expect that. Work hard on picking services or products you are confident in as that will make your job a lot easier.
3. You, Motivate You
As a freelancer you can kiss goodbye to a manager pushing you to perform or an impassioned boss who “just wants to see you succeed”. Those motivated by financial rewards, colleague endorsements and flashy benefits, may struggle. Your motivation as a freelancer must come from you, your satisfaction in what you do, your results and the rewards you gained etc.
4. Remit: Self Sacrifice
By taking a leap into the world of self employment you sacrifice a lot to be your own boss, control your career or gain that work life balance. You have to be willing to potentially make lots of money but earn a pittance. Work over the weekend to get that strategy finished or project signed off. Have very little social interaction whilst you work on your own at home or from a rented desk. Success does not come without sacrifices. Just remember that you can be “that guy (or girl)” who has an envious lifestyle business giving you freedom to explore new things.
5. You’re A Lone Ranger, But Not Alone
I realise that this goes without saying but it isn’t something that properly sinks in until you’re sat in front of a mountain of tasks including the marketing, sales & accounting of your business. Having no one to delegate to or rely on can be quite a shock at first. Particularly if you have no experience in any of the areas mentioned above. It is important to understand that yes, the above all fall to you, but you most certainly aren’t alone. There are loads of free resources and support out there to help the fledgling self starter including mentoring programs, websites, growth vouchers and government loans.
6. This Town IS Big Enough For The Both Of Us
It is very easy to get bogged down with the abundance of Goliath agencies offering similar services to yourself. It is important to recognise those traits and advantages you have to offer that they don’t. This might be the extreme flexibility in your contracts or services. It might be the simple nature of the client being able to deal directly with the person doing the work not some sales/accounts team. It might be the fact you can compete on price or quality of support. Find those elements and use them to sell your service. There will always be clients who would rather deal with a consultant or freelancer than venture into a water tight contract with an agency. Find them and give them great service.
7. Make Friends and Alienate No-one
You have plenty of work to begin with but somewhere down the line you are going to require services, work, referrals or feedback from others. Networking is a key part of finding those people. It doesn’t have to be an awkward or masonic cult-like networking group (although I can safely say most are fine). Set yourself targets to meet a new person every week or bi weekly for lunch. Get yourself out there on social media engaging with local people and businesses. Don’t be afraid to talk to people who do exactly what you do or work in a similar business. They may have an overflow of work and seek you out to pass it on. You just never know.
8. Learn to Say ‘Maybe’
When you start a freelancing business you have various firmly set ideas about the types of clients you want to work with. Unless you are very lucky, the chances are there will be points during your first year when you have to set aside those ideas in favour of paying the bills. Be open minded and don’t be afraid to consider those “maybe’s”. The businesses or potential clients that aren’t the most exciting, creative or lucrative projects. You genuinely never know where they might lead. Of course don’t go against your beliefs or ethics for a quick buck (or pound) but remember, this is your first year finding the ropes, gaining experience and learning what you enjoy.
Want To Be A Self Starter?
Take My Quick Quiz!
Your answers to these quick questions may give you some insight into what you want from your career/life. Remember that self employment is not for everyone and there’s nothing wrong with getting paid by someone else to do a job you love.
1. Think about handing your notice in tomorrow. Does that thought fill you with:
a. A sense of happiness?
b. A sense of anger/sadness?
2. You get fired tomorrow with enough severance package to last you 3 months. Do you:
a. Go straight into another job in the same industry?
b. Plan and start your own business?
3. Think about winning £50,000 tomorrow. Do you:
a. Splurge it on holidays and cars?
b. Build something into a business to change your life forever?
4. Think about being given the opportunity to do your dream job but it pays minimum wage. Do you take it?
5. Are you a “Sayer” or a “Do’er”?
a. Sayers sit in their 9-5 job regularly threatening to leave and go it alone under their breath. They are simply venting their frustrations before getting back into the daily grind and will never actually leave.
b. Do’ers are those who may leave but usually need to cut the cord currently supporting them. By walking out your current job you may put your financial situation at risk but it’s the kick up the arse most people need to start something.
Are you a freelancer or thinking about moving into this world? I would love to hear any feedback, questions or comments below.