Ten tips for freelancers

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A guest post this week from Anna-Clare O’Neill who is a freelance PR consultant based in North East England. You can follow Anna on twitter @AnnaClareONeill

As it’s National Freelancers Day this week (21 November 2012), I thought I’d share my freelance story with you…

It’s five years since I first fell into freelancing. That’s right. I didn’t choose to be a freelancer, it just happened. You could say it chose me.


I’d returned home from six months backpacking around the world and needed a job. When a communications contact (@JaneFarrPR) asked me if I knew of any good PR freelancers, I thought about it for a few minutes then decided to recommend myself!

A few days work quickly turned into two long-term client contracts (with the North East Assembly and Gateshead Council), which kept me very busy for the first seven months of my freelance career.

Since then I’ve picked up work for a wide variety of clients. This has included interim marketing positions, copywriting jobs, strategic communications projects and PR advice and consultancy work.

The majority of my clients have come via word of mouth, which shows just how important it is to keep up with your contacts.

I’m not a big fan of formal networking. I prefer the softer approach, staying in touch with previous employers and clients, attending co-working days, supporting my regional CIPR group and using social media.

So what are the best bits about freelancing? Well I love being my own boss. It’s refreshing to work for yourself, setting your own agenda and timescales. I also enjoy the variety of work – no two clients are ever the same. And I can’t deny it’s great to be able to work in your pyjamas once in a while!

The downside is the well-known ‘feast or famine.’ I do feel like I should constantly be on the look out for work. It can also be pretty isolating sometimes, although I have found a great co-working space in Newcastle now thanks to Space on Tap (@spaceontap).

I won’t pretend it’s easy and I can admit I’ve made a few mistakes along the way. However for me, freelancing is a rewarding experience and a fantastic alternative to the usual 9am to 5pm lifestyle.

To be honest it’s only really this year that I’ve accepted that I’m a viable business in my own right. I think that’s because I wasn’t in the driving seat to start with. Five years on and I’m exactly where I want to be.

If you’re thinking of starting out as a freelancer read my top ten tips…

Top ten tips for new freelancers

1. Set out your stall
What exactly are you going to provide? Can you tell your mum about your business in two minutes? Be clear about the service you’re offering.

2. Know your worth
Do your homework and research the going rate for freelancers of your level and expertise and use this as a benchmark. Useful resources are:
http://www.xchangeteam.com/freelance-example-rates
http://www.londonfreelance.org/feesguide

3. Value yourself
Remember your daily rate may be higher than a usual wage but it needs to cover you for holidays, sick days and any periods when you might not be working.

3. Use your contacts
Make a list of your current contacts and identify those to approach for freelance work. A quick introductory email with a copy of your CV could open doors.

4. Network your own way
Whether it’s a formal business networking group, industry expo, or an informal approach on social media, get yourself out and about.

5. Be savvy
In the current economy marketing and PR budgets are often the first to be cut but the work still needs to be done, providing opportunities for freelancers.

6. Don’t become complacent
Working on a long-term contract for one client can be great, but make sure you look for future work so you still have something to tide you over when your contract ends.

7. Get endorsed
Ask your clients for a recommendation. You can use this on your website or LinkedIn profile and as a reference for new clients.

8. Develop your business
Set time aside to grow your business. It’s easy to spend all your time on your client’s work but vital you do your own PR and marketing too.

9. Get your accounts in order
If you’re going to freelance you need to declare yourself self-employed with the taxman. It’s also a good idea to get an accountant to help you with your finances.

10. Roll with it
It may have ups and downs but life as a freelancer is never dull! Whatever you do make it work for you and enjoy it. Good luck!

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7 thoughts on “Ten tips for freelancers

  1. Thanks Anna-Claire for these very useful tips. I’ve been freelancing for yearly a year now and all 10 still hold true. If I may expand on tip 3 – use your contacts. It can be helpful to put them into 3 categories to prioritise who to contact first. A – contacts you think could give you work directly. B – contacts who have no work to give you but could pass you on to someone who has. C – those who have no work to give you, don’t know at the time people who do, but have something else to offer (information, expertise, a cup of coffee when you feel on your own, etc.)

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  2. I would also say ‘collaborate with others’. My business has expanded because clients who trust me often ask if I recommend someone with a skill I dont have. Do make sure you know them well and have seen their work. It’s your reputation too! Carry on writing, it’s interesting! Have to go, latest edition of Myslexia arrived!

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