Don’t get me wrong, freelancing is the best decision I have made in my career in a very long time (potentially since deciding to start my apprenticeship), but there are some aspects nobody warned me about among the congratulatory messages that came flooding in once I announced my career move to my peers. If you are making the move to becoming a freelancer, firstly, congratulations, but also be aware that there is a lot more you’re getting into than you realise.
Some of the best friendships I have even forged have come out of a working environment (if you guys are reading, you know who you are), but it’s very difficult to build any sort of relationship with you the people in the office around you when you’re not there all the time. I’m currently in an office one day a week, and whilst it’s amazing to be around people who aren’t my family or neighbours, it also sort of feels like you’re always that person who’s trying to laugh along to an inside joke you’re not fully sure on. This may just be my awkwardness and yes, the people I work with are brilliant and have been so welcoming when I am in their office, but I always feel sort of disjointed. The best bit about not having any real connections is avoiding any office politics and gossip that goes around, it’s pretty refreshing, but it definitely does feel lonely.
When you’re in a full time job, it’s a given that you’re paid on a set day every month, and it’s a set amount determined by your employer that you should hopefully be aware of. When freelancing, you set all your own rates etc, and it can be difficult for people to see why you are charging so much more than they would pay a full time employee, on paper anyway. For example, I work for £35 an hour at the moment. My friends and peers in my network feel I am worth a lot more, but I have a lot of agencies and brands who have told me I am way too expensive, and some who have even suggested I work for free on a trial period, or work for a finders fee when working with influencers. It’s really hard to find that balance between not charging too much and to have enough to live off once tax and my bills are paid. It is also very awkward when you have to chase payments. Luckily I have been fortune enough to work with some great people who pay by deadline dates, but I know down the line there will be someone I need to chase and I am absolutely dreading it.
This one comes as a given when you are a freelancer, however, you never really realise quite how unstable the work can be until you are living it. When I did some freelance work some years ago (before I decided it was a full time thing for me), I was living the dream. Easy work for a decent wage every day and I was constantly asked back to do some more work. That was until the week before my birthday and I was told there was no more work for me; it had all been completed. I had been spending my money like there was no tomorrow and stupid 19 year old Emily didn’t realise I could be cut off that easily. I have learned my lesson since and don’t tend to spend large sums of money if I know I don’t have it, or if I know a client isn’t a guaranteed retainer.
When you’re a freelancer, the work never stops. You could be on your deathbed but with no sick pay to save you, you’ll need to earn that money. Whilst I’m still setting up, I am also working tirelessly to network and communicate with the relevant people who can give me work, or at least point me in the right direction towards someone who needs some help. I feel like all I talk about to new people is work, and it’s come to the point where I have started pitching people who work in marketing or own their own company on Tinder (which is actually proving to be an okay networking tool, a lot less formal than LinkedIn). I head into Manchester regularly just for one 10 minute meeting, then make the hour journey home again, just so people know I am serious about what I do. I never thought I would have to dedicate so much of my life just to make sure people know who I am, but it is definitely paying off. Luckily I love the work I do and talking about it comes so naturally to me, but only go into freelancing if you 1. know what you’re talking about, and 2. love talking about it
Please do not let this post put you off freelancing; if anything this was just something I needed to get off my chest. I fully reiterate that I am loving every minute of working for myself and I am so excited about what 2019 holds for me and my connections.