Wouldn’t it be great if you could work freelance?
No more 9 to 5, no demanding boss, no more commuting, no more pointless meetings…
But hang on, freelancing means no more regular pay cheques, no paid holiday or sick leave… what about my pension? Where’s my security gone?
On the face of it being a freelancer appears to be the first step to the utopian lifestyle you’ve always dreamt of. But once the rose tint has worn off your glasses, you’ll begin to see that it’s not as cushy as you first thought.
That’s not to say you shouldn’t dive in and give it a go (it’s worked very well for me for the past 9 years), but if you do, make sure you have realistic expectations.
The life of a freelancer
Starting out on your own can be a scary business. There are lots of things to consider and if I covered them all this would turn into a novel rather than a blog post. So for now I’m just going to look at two aspects – finding clients and growing a thick skin.
Err clients, where are you?
To be a freelancer you need clients, so where are you going to look for them?
In your previous life it was never an issue. The marketing department took care of the ‘finding customers’ malarkey leaving you to get on with your work. But now the responsibility is all yours – you lucky thing.
A website, Facebook page, Twitter account and blog are not going to bring the constant stream of clients you need, at least not without your input. Marketing yourself online is only one piece of the puzzle; the other is getting out there and meeting people.
If that fills you with dread, don’t worry you’re not alone. Networking isn’t for everyone, I should know. It has to be one of the worst aspects of the job for me. Walking into a room full of strangers makes my blood run cold. But it is a necessary evil if you are to get your name known.
Another way of finding new clients is to actively build relationships with local design agencies – web designers are always on the look out for good copywriters to work with.
To widen your net further and target your dream clients, why not try a mail shot?
Create a list of companies you would like to work with. Then find the name of the person you need to contact (usually the Marketing Manager/Director depending on the size of the company) and create the best sales letter you’ve ever written. Send them a little freebie to make your letter stand out and follow up with a phone call – you never know what doors that might open.
Once you have your clients and work starts to trickle in, another challenge arises.
On the whole there are 3 types of client:
- Those who hire you because they need your expertise and trust your judgement
- Those who hire you, tell you what they want and then change their minds after you’ve written it
- Those who brief you and then re-write everything because they believe they are far superior writers
The first type is a gift and usually a joy to work with.
The second can be annoying, but a well-written proposal stipulating exactly what your fee covers and the hourly rate that will be charged for any extra work not originally briefed, usually solves any issues.
But the third will make your life hell.
Despite the fact your client has actively sought your professional writing services, they will believe they know better than you.
So what do you do when your first draft comes back with a scathing email?
- Take a deep breath
- Go outside and scream at a tree
- Return to your desk and think about your response rationally
Sitting down with them is the best way to sort this out. You can then calmly discuss the original brief and show how you fulfilled it and ask them what it is they don’t like and work with them to resolve it.
This ‘working together’ approach is usually best as it makes them feel more involved in the process and makes them feel valued.
Should you give it a go?
What have you got to lose?
Despite the ups and downs (let’s face it, every type of work as plenty of those), freelancing is a rewarding and enjoyable way to earn a living.
The freedom and potential financial rewards it offers far outweigh any of the downsides. If you’re prepared to work at it and never give up you will succeed.
What are you waiting for?