Freelance guru Matt Dowling tells us some real home truths about freelancing, and how we can own these realities and use them to help our career.
Are you thinking about moving into a creative career? Perhaps you’re sick of your full time job and would like to pursue a passion or even earn a little extra through part time freelance work. Before you make the leap of faith, you’ll have a number of business steps to take but there’s also the side that very few dare talk about - the truth about freelancing. The day to day realities of freelance life are often very different to the outside perception. To give you a clearer picture of what to expect we’ve compiled our top 5 freelance realities and fixes on how to combat them.
1. You’re the boss.
Say it with me ‘I am a business owner’. The most common misconception is that freelancing consists of doing what you love all day and getting paid. When you start freelancing you'll spend more time looking for work then doing the work so understanding sales and marketing techniques are critical skills to have.
The fix: Many pick up their first few jobs from friends or family so make sure you tell them that you're now for hire via Facebook, an email or word of mouth. Your friends will only last so long so it’s key to ask them to spread the word further afield to friends of friends and beyond.
2. If you're getting rejected, you’re doing a good job.
You'll be turned down for work on a daily basis. During the days that you're not booked in to do a job you should be looking for work, developing your business or sorting out the paperwork. If you're getting rejected that means you're applying for jobs and employers are replying - this is good. Just a make sure that there’s the odd yes amongst the nos. If you're getting rejected or not hearing anything at all it's time to look at why.
The fix: Even when you’re landing regular jobs dedicate time every week for 'new business' - this means sales.
3. Develop a thick skin.
As above rejection is common place in the freelancing world so if you are given a reason why you didn’t get the job take it constructively and make changes. It's not personal, it's business.
The fix: It can be hard to hear your work is not right or not good enough but don’t take it personally. Try to separate yourself from your business in that regard and make a call if it's them or you who is wrong. If you're hearing the same critique a lot, it’s probably you. We’d always suggest asking a professional in the industry you work in to critique your work, your website and your portfolio (if you have one). A professional eye is often the turning point to a better service.
4. You'll probably end up offering more than one service.
Most freelancers branch out over time and introduce a variety of services to expand the business or open more doors. Photographers often slip into graphic design while makeup artists often move from fashion to theatre to private clients on a weekly basis.
The fix: Creative minds often have lots of ideas. Some are productive but more often than not they are early stage concepts that are hard to execute. A project management course is a great tool that every freelancer should have. If you feel that’s unnecessary then get a system or an app that works for you.
5. The grass isn't always greener.
We meet lots of freelancers who throw in the towel before they've even begun. Freelancing is hard. If you want a creative job and freedom to be your own boss it's up to you to make that work for you. The first year is often the hardest while you find your business feet and land a few regular clients, after that it’s a lot easier. Stick with it, it’ll be the best decision you’ve ever made.
The fix: The hardest aspect of freelancing is the lack of regular pay. We’ve spoken to a lot of freelancers who got back to full time work after 6 months of freelancing only to hate it and start again. The transition from full time work into freelancing is a slow process but important to know when to cut loose. Some savings and a couple of regular clients can help ease the transition no end.
For more freelance advice and for your best chance of freelance success, check out The Freelancer Club to promote your service with a freelancer profile for free.