But I did find certain things that worked for me that were a little different to the average freelancer pathways.
So I thought I’d share my experience, and hopefully other freelancers would add their own so any newbie freelancers or ones having a bit of a hard trot can gain some more advice and encouragement.
Let’s do this thing!
My biggest freelancing assets have been:
* Direct approach
* Finding my niche and annoying people in it til they employed me
* Doing stuff that was weird
* Being a friend to other freelancers
Blogging helped give me credibility (so yes, you do need a website) plus also showcase my work to the right businesses. It also stopped me from going mental when customers didn’t pay, work was slow or I simply needed to get out some of my opinions and ideas to see if others liked them.
Twitter helped me establish a position of authority. I can’t recommend having a regular timetable of both and scheduling them highly enough. You also make connections with people who may give you work directly or indirectly. The broadcast reach is amazing, and the followers I have are always helpful.
Direct approach for me was super simple. I wrote down everywhere I would like to work with and pitched myself to them as “here’s the problem, this is how I am the solution”. It got me jobs at agencies, a regular newsletter client, small business interest, and talked about. I also made connections from it even if I didn’t get the work, and it helped me stay focussed on my core message.
My niche is mainly startup and creative stuff. It happened over time. But I kept putting myself out there, going to events, commenting on things and asking for introductions. It worked. It also worked because I saw the scene taking off and not many people paying it too much attention due to the whole attitude that only big boys have money. I realised that kind of thinking is complete bollocks. Once I found that niche, a lot of people tried to inform me otherwise. I’d done my research and the hard yards, so their negative attitudes didn’t shake me.
Weird stuff is really creative marketing, but without the fear. I set up a thing called “swap creative” so I could swap marketing and copy advice for access to a product or company. At the time, I was just hungry and missing beer because a client owed me thousands but wasn’t paying. I desperately needed to reduce my costs for basic things.
I scored a running bar and food tab at a pub, free olive oil, theatre tickets and all kinds of stuff. I swapped marketing advice for furniture. I ended up working with two clients that became paid ones at a later date.
AND it got me on the radar of the Mayor’s office, talked about by small businesses as an innovator and all the lovely warm stuff a freelancer with no marketing budget really needs.
Friendship is super important in freelancing. Being able to be a friend to your fellow freelancer is a great way to get leads, work and advice.
That’s why after doing the Freelance Survey, I set up the Freelance Jungle – a place where we share jobs or advice, or pain, or just booze on a monthly basis.
Also, practical stuff to help you start off as a freelancer include:
Setting up a profile on The Loop. I get calls when I care about it. I should care more about it, but right now I am fairly happy.
Join PlanBig – it’s a great place to find other people starting off on their dreams. Also, I did get work from there from small businesses and startups needing help.
The (almost) final word about freelancing:
Don’t do this because you’re passionate about writing, taking photos, creating websites or tee shirts. It’s a lovely little romantic notion to be creative for a living, until you start to do it.
You need something more than “I love <pursuit>” to hang your hat on when clients are being obnoxious, other freelancers are trying to pull feathers off you, bills are piling up and you have the flu but can’t afford to take a sick day. You have to be emotionally strong enough to take a lot of stuff you won’t encounter working for someone else, so…
Find other stuff to justify your reason for being a freelancer.
I do it because I want to use my writing to do good for people and their businesses. Plus I’m on a mission to prove a point about creativity and truth in marketing. And I adore reading about marketing, writing and playing around in the business world.
Some people do it for the extra money; others so they can see the kids, travel, work from home, dreams of minor celebrity, to not have to deal with pin heads or whatever.
It’ll be those reasons that gets you through the days you wish you were a yak herder, trust me.
Freelancing needs honesty
Now I’m hoping some other old salty freelancers will jump in and add to this. Or that those of you considering the leap will ask your questions.
Don’t be shy.