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My Experience: Freelancing in account management by Carolyn Stebbing

June 24, 2012

Another freelancer has dropped by to share her experiences- welcome Carolyn Stebbing and her experience of freelancing in account management! Take it away Carolyn.


Carolyn Stebbling freelancing in account management

My Experience: Freelancing in account management by Carolyn Stebbing 

Earlier this year I dipped my toes into the freelancing pond. I was keen to adjust my work-life balance and freelancing offered the change of pace I’d been craving. I figured that in between contracts I’d finally have time to plant my balcony garden, exercise religiously and get along to those raw food classes at the local community food collective I’d always been interested in.

Freelancing also offered the opportunity to try out a few different agency environments without any long term commitment straight away. This was appealing as I wanted to be sure I’d make the right choice before settling into a permanent role again.

Being a diligent suit by nature, I embarked on some upfront research. I already held the title of Account Director but had decided I was prepared to freelance as a Senior Account Manager if necessary and was told by recruiters this would work to my advantage. Having the requisite experience as well as flexibility to freelance at various levels would open up more contract opportunities for me.

I uncovered a few downsides too. Chatting to several recruiters I was told that freelancing long-term in agency account management can carry a stigma with it. As a ‘suit’ your relationships with your clients count for everything, so longevity in a role is valued. Naturally, freelancers spend short bursts in contracts, so can be pigeon-holed as ‘doers’ and perceived by agencies to be less capable of building the necessary bonds with clients over time that are required to successfully lead an account. I was also warned that freelance suits tend to be given the dregs when it comes to work – not a surprise really given that the point of hiring a freelancer is to plug a resource gap.

Armed with all of this information, I remained convinced that freelancing was the right thing for me. I’d also crunched the numbers and resolved that my savings buffer would be enough to see me through periods of non-work. I registered my CV with a variety of recruiters, put the word out amongst my contacts and embarked on my freelance journey.

Things were a little quiet to start with so I used the opportunity to extend my impending holiday back home to Auckland (yep, making the most of my new-found flexibility). During these first few weeks off work I learned how to take a deep breath, curb my spending and roll with the punches. I was reassured by my mum – a freelancer herself – that the work would come and eventually it did. My first contract gig was frenetic and fun, filling in for the partner of a small start-up agency while he travelled overseas for business. I loved the pace, the autonomy and getting my hands dirty on fast-turnaround campaigns for a variety of clients.

What else did freelancing teach me? I certainly learned how to budget. I became aware of every single cent that left my wallet, and started to question spending money on things I’d never thought about before. At the same time it made me value the treats I still allowed myself to have to keep me sane – like weekly eggs on toast at my local.

I made the choice to return to the permanent workforce after a wonderfully unique opportunity presented itself (freelancing didn’t affect my employment prospects as I’d perhaps feared). Being a freelancer for a short while allowed me to reassess my goals and replenish my energy levels at a time when I needed it – an invaluable career experience for me.




Carolyn Stebbing is an award-winning advertising Account Director with more than 6 years’ experience planning and implementing multi-channel campaigns for clients such as Unilever, Johnson & Johnson, Aussie Home Loans and Telecom New Zealand. She currently heads up the Sydney arm of Optimo, a creative and design agency with its roots in Melbourne.




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