Different advice on starting in freelancing

freelancing adviceWhen I started in freelancing, I stumbled into most things. Usually with two left feet and more than enough mistakes to take down a buffalo.

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:
* Blogging
* Social media
* 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.

Facebook has really worked for me in group format especially via the Freelance Jungle. My Unashamedly Creative page has it’s moments as well and certainly has raised the profile on side projects.

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.

Go to things. Hang out at Hub, join Meetup, do a shimmy past your local business scenes and council websites to see where you can drop in.

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. Comment below.



4 Comments. Leave new

  • Shauna Maguire
    August 29, 2013 8:44 am

    Thanks Belinda,

    That was an amazing post and delivered in a week where I’ve locked myself out of a website I needed to post a blog on (one I’m really excited about getting to do because it’s about something I love doing and one that I chased after so it’s doubly important to me) and I’ve started to wonder if this thing is ever really going to get off the ground and make me enough money to eat things that don’t come out of tins. Great practical advice so thank you. Re Twitter – how do you get a following? And if you’re like me and multi skilling job wise (I teach pilates and xtend barre as well as writing) does it make sense to combine those on twitter and talk about two seemingly disparate subjects? I don’t want to confuse people but I don’t only want to talk about copywriting either because I’m certainly not an expert and therefore don’t have a huge amount to get out there while I”m learning…..

  • Shauna Maguire
    August 29, 2013 8:54 am

    So sorry Bek, as in my Google+ comment, it’s been a bad week. If you’re ever considering a pseudonym perhaps Belinda should go on the list. I’m going to get under a rock now.

  • I love the direct approach! With fantastic online marketing to back you up when they Google you later, there’s nothing that comes close to picking up the phone or meeting people face-to-face. I love the short list idea. I’ve got one banging around in some drawer somewhere.

    And yes, we all need freelancers as friends because God knows your other mates with regular salaries don’t understand why you love it and hate it all at the same time.

  • Wow, thanks Rebekah. I’m in limbo using every possible excuse not to give it my all. I feel much more relieved knowing I can find those alike instead of feeling I have to sacrifice my style. Great tips.


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