I’ve spent over ten years of my career working for PR and marketing agencies, a couple of months ago I decided to go it alone as a freelancer. My U.S. work visa expired and instead of searching for another agency job back in London, I decided it was the perfect time to freelance. I felt I finally have the confidence, experience and network to go it alone – although that’s not to say doubts didn’t creep in.
Here are four of my observations about being a freelancer:
- You’ll work harder than ever before
My freelance work involves me managing social media channels and sometimes PR campaigns for businesses, including lifestyle clients such as restaurants, beauty and travel brands. I had to set up most of my client base from scratch and I’m treating it like owning my own small business. It has been one of the most rewarding things I’ve done in my life but, it has taken a lot of hard work. Early mornings, late nights and weekend work are a regularity, whereas I was lucky enough to usually avoid that in my agency jobs. However, what’s refreshing is that I genuinely want to put the work in. I used to enjoy sleeping in but, now I’m motivated to rise earlier (coffee is my best friend, of course).
- But have more flexibility
Yes, I might be working longer hours but I love that I can now choose the hours I work. Increased flexibility is often cited as something employees want more than a pay rise. I had a taste of flexibility in my last job, where we would work two days a week from home. Now I have experienced this new way of working, I would find it tough going back. That’s another reason I wanted to embrace the freelance route. Now I can take a break during the day to go to an off-peak yoga class (yoga during peak hours at my local studio in busy London = downward dog poses in your face) and put in extra time towards the end of the day instead.
- You’re in charge of your financial destiny
I read recently that freelancers find it hard to say ‘no’ to work because they’re in control of their own finances. In the beginning, it can be tempting to take on as much work as possible. I’m gradually learning the importance of finding some balance and being more selective about which businesses I’m approaching to offer my services. Some freelancers might under-sell themselves in the beginning too but once you have some bigger clients under your belt, your confidence will flourish and you’ll no longer want or need to under-sell your services. At first I found it a bit daunting being in control of my salary but now it’s one of the most rewarding aspects of being a freelancer – I feel such a buzz whenever I sign a new client.
- Networking is key
I’ve been touched by how much my network (former colleagues, clients, family and friends) have helped to spread the word about my work. Some of these people have gone out of their way to recommend me, with no expectation of anything in return. This network has developed over time and I know if I’d tried to go freelance earlier in my career, it wouldn’t have been as strong. They say it’s all about ‘who you know’ to succeed in this world and I disagree – some of my biggest leads have come from contacting people I’ve never met before – but it’s nice to be able to turn to your peers for support, too.