Q&A | Freelancing
On Thursday this week I was asked to join my friend Olivia on her new series of live interviews/Q&As on her Instagram. It was my first live!! We asked you guys to send in some questions you wanted us to answer, all about being freelance! You sent a whole bunch, so thank you so much! It was slightly terrifying, but once we got chatting it felt so natural and so much fun.
It made me want to do more! I've been dreaming up doing some "live cooking" sessions with you guys. How fun would that be?! It's such a different way to connect with you all, which feels really personal and real.
So the live was up for 24hrs but is now gone. Luckily Olivia has recorded the audio and is posting it on her podcast on the 15th of August, so look out for that if you want to hear us answering your questions live.
But as many of you missed it, I thought I'd write it all down into a blog post as well, so you can come back to it, but also because some people prefer a blog post format! So here we go.. let's jump straight in!
Did you work part-time at first? Or straight in the deep end?
I had a full-time job until last April (2017), then jumped into a part-time job for a few months to try and focus more on my business, but it turned out to be more full time so I decided to take the leap into freelancing. I was at a crossroad at that point where I either had to go find a new full-time job or take a risk and jump in the deep end! After some thinking and some sleepless nights I decided to give it a go. The one reason I was able to do that was because I had the support of my family and my boyfriend, where if all went wrong, they would help me out financially. It also helped to ask myself the questions of : "What's the worst that can happen?" and the best answer I could come up with was "well... I'll just go and find a new full time job" - that was my worst case scenario..! I was lucky enough to be in that position and I just couldn't take it for granted and use that as an excuse to not follow my dreams.
When people ask me how can I go freelance? The first thing I always say is : don’t quit your day job! Don’t quit until you’ve got a plan. Even if it’s a 6 months plan.. you don’t have to have it all figured out, not at all! because if you wait until you do you will be waiting a very long time.. but all I'm saying is think things through, do you have a client list, some contacts, a marketing strategy, do you know how to pitch yourself, what's your plan B? There’s never the perfect time to jump in, that goes for anything in life in my opinion (a big move, new job, having kids, moving across the world..) but to save yourself a few stressful sleepless nights, try and come up with a plan. Prepare, practice and then jump!
Any tips for finding new clients ?
Hustle! Constantly. That’s what I spend at least 50% of my time doing. It involves a lot of emails, networking, being active on social media, updating my website, meeting local businesses, writing pitches... I rely a lot of word of mouth, whether in person or on social media, and cold emailing. I know, it sounds as bad as cold calling, but trust me it works! Over the past year it has started out so many relationships with brands and clients that would have never existed if it wasn't for that first email I decided to finally send!
I would also say that my number one tip especially if you’re starting out is to reach out to local businesses / local potential client - whatever your field is. There will be people locally who needs your services. Go out and meet them! Ask to sit down for coffee and have a chat, get to know them, build a relationship, and chat business, eventually. Don’t go hard on the business chat straight up, we’re all humans, we crave connection. So connect and be a nice person!
But yes it takes a lot of emails.. out of 10 you’re lucky if you get one response, let alone a positive one - but keep going! I track everyone I’d like to get in touch with / have gotten in touch with, in a spreadsheet on Google Sheets so it's accessible from anywhere. That way I can keep up with who I’ve emailed, who I’ve chased, who responded etc... (yes, you can chase! I think one chase is good and often necessary)
Does being freelance actually pay the bills?!
SOMETIMES haha - all jokes aside YES it does! Some months more than others, but this is the future. Freelancing and being able to work from wherever you are in the world as long as you have a phone/laptop and an internet connection, it's the dream! I am personally now starting to make more money than I did when I was working a full-time job. Which is very exciting..! But I’m also conscious that for the first 6 months if it wasn’t for my boyfriend / family I wouldn’t have been able to pay my rent and bills (hence why I always say, don't quit your day job, until you at least make a decent base income from your dream gig) but that's mainly because I had no plans and it took a few months to kick off.
What is the best and worst thing about working for yourself?
I would say the BEST thing is the freedom that comes hand in hand with being freelance. I'm the boss. I can decide when I'm working, how, on what, and where. It's so amazing not to be tied into a bigger company with so many rules. I work best early in the morning and late at night, so that's what I do. I am able to work from right here in London, or down in the South of France at my parent's house, or the other side of the world if I needed to.
The WORST thing is probably the loneliness of it. That's what a lot of people told me at the beginning and it's true, it can get pretty lonely. I have no team (yet!) no after work drinks, no work socials, no colleagues. I have myself to talk to all day haha but also luckily, my best friend Freya is also a photographer and lives two streets away from me so we work together most days which has helped a lot! Especially in the winter months when we're all cooped inside.
Another downside which can also be a plus is that I wear all the hats when it comes to all aspects of my business. I am the marketing manager, the customer service department, the accountant, the writer, the web designer, the CEO and everything in between. Which is so empowering but can at times feel overwhelming. It has definitely meant that I have learned a lot in the past year. If I don't know how to do something, I have no one to ask but myself, so I google/youtube and teach myself..! Like I've always done. It's not a negative, but some days I've love to rely on other people to do the jobs that I'm not the best at or don't even know how to do haha
Do you have a consistent monthly income, or does it go up and down?
So here’s the deal I have a handful of monthly regular clients who are on retainer which means that I am guaranteed a certain amount to come in every month (One service I provide is a monthly social media package, where clients get 15 to 30 images on a monthly basis! you can see more about what I offer over here) Which was totally necessary for my sanity when I started. That’s one of the hardest things about being freelance, and one of the things I struggled the most with when I first started. I am quite an anxious person so the idea of not knowing AT ALL what was coming in the next month was absolutely terrifying.
So I have some monthly clients and then one off projects sprinkles here and there that come in. Some months I’ll make triple what I usually make but I have no guarantee that it will be the same next month. That's just the way it is! Apart from that base income coming from my regular clients, it's very hard to plan what jobs could come in.
That’s one way to do it which works really well for me, I also love being able to build a relationship with my clients over a long period of time. It’s the best kind of work because you know what they like/what they need/ and you get them and you get the brand. It makes everyone's job and time worth it!
How do you maintain work/life balance? Office hours?
HA, I’m still working on that trust me! but generally speaking I make a to-do list (I use a bullet journal, I swear by it!) for the day and once that’s done I sign off. Sometimes that takes me 3 hours, sometimes it takes me 12.. but generally speaking I try and sign off once Michael comes home from work so we can spend time together, cook dinner together and have some quality time. I try and remember that there's always going to be MORE I can do, always.. even if I work myself into a puddle, there will be more I can do. So I try my best and value my health, wellbeing and mental health above everything because without them my work will take a toll.
As much as possible weekends are work-free - ish.. because I still Instagram / Story etc which is part of my job but because it brings me so much joy I don’t mind it! And if it doesn’t bring me joy then I just don’t post. It's not the end of the world if I miss a few days.
We also have phone free evenings, every night without a fail - after dinner phones are on their ‘charging station’ in the kitchen and stay there until the next morning (we use our fitbits to wake us up - although I'm often up naturally before the alarm)
I also make sure to take breaks, whether it's a full weekend phone/technology free, or a week holiday where work is banned.. it's necessary for my own well being, the well being of my couple and my friendships etc..
When do you know if its time to increase your rates?
That's a difficult question to answer because it's so different for everyone. I think as a general rule once a year, I will do an increase, because I’m one year more experienced with a full year’s worth of shoots and more clients under my belt but throughout the year I might feel like I'm undercharging for a particular job, because it's asking more of me than a regular job so I will increase the rate for that particular occasion. You know what I mean? It's difficult to give one clear answer about it.
It really depends on a case by case basis, for example, I shot my first wedding in June which I did for a discounted rate because I had no wedding in my portfolio - but now that I do I can increase my rate. So in some instances.. it can happen throughout the year!
How much experience do you think you need to go freelance?
Depends what you mean by experience.. if you mean years and years of practice then no. You don’t. You need bucket loads of passion, determination, and good work ethic. You need to put in the hours, you need to work hard. But don’t ever feel like you’re not good enough because you’re a newbie... everyone has to start somewhere!
Now I’m not saying you should go freelance straight away, as soon as you've found your passion! If you want to be a photographer, build your portfolio, shoot for yourself! Do you want to be a food photographer? Create a beautiful setup, cook something or even better get in touch with a food stylist in your area who's also starting out and needs some content for their portfolio. Collaborate! Do some shoots for free if it brings something to you and your business, do some for fun. PRACTICE PRACTICE PRACTICE. Every single day.
Beleive in yourself. Get clear on what you want. Write it down in details, what would your dream job/dream life look like? Write it down, believe it's yours and go out in the world, work hard, be nice to people and your time will come!