Whether you’ve only just decided to go it alone or you need a little boost, here are 6 tips to help you survive as a creative freelancer!
Freelancing, being your own boss, running your own business. It all sounds incredibly exciting – editing videos in a green, sunny idyll, or sending emails from your bed. Ditching the daily commute and chucking your uncomfy corporate uniform in the bin is tremendously liberating.
But, painting this as the full freelancing picture wouldn’t be realistic or fair. It’s easy to romanticise freelancing, and people may view it as easy. If you’re a creative freelancer, you probably scoffed at that sentence. Sure, you can pick your own holidays or extend your lunches, but the slack needs to be picked up somewhere, or you simply won’t get paid.
As with anything, there will be ups and downs to being a creative freelancer. But, in order to solidify that you made the right choice chasing your dreams and going your own way, here are some handy tips to keep you going.
Find Your Niche
I recently heard a saying that made me chuckle but also resinated quite strongly: If you were everyone’s cup of tea, you’d be a mug.
Concise, thought-provoking, beautifully British.
As a creative freelancer, it can be tempting to try and be all things to all people. If you’re a filmmaker, you might think it advantageous to say yes to every single project that comes along. You really love making mumblecore indie films, and you’re flipping good at it, so maybe don’t bother trying to get work in the sci-fi scene.
Being adaptable is highly important, and it can help to be able to pick up the odd job here and there that isn’t your mainstay. However, finding your niche will mean you will be able to market yourself in a far more targeted way. The idiom, “Jack of all trades, master of none” springs to mind.
Freelancing sites like Fiverr have their own algorithms, and it pays to get specific about what you do. If people know exactly what they want, you should make sure they’re able to find you.
Embrace Imposter Syndrome
When you work in a team, if it’s a supportive one, you tend to encourage one another. This helps to keep that nagging, negative self-talk in check. In the world of freelancing, there’s often not many people around to help with this on a day-to-day basis.
Imposter syndrome can be crippling and powerful. It can leave you feeling like you’ve made a mistake, you don’t have what it takes to succeed, and that you’re out of your depth. But, instead of getting down about experiencing imposter syndrome, try embracing it.
This might sound a bit strange – surely you want to squash imposter syndrome? The truth is, you can’t. Its prevalence will fluctuate, but it’s unlikely you will get rid of it forever, unless you get a Gallagher brother level ego boost. Remind yourself that everyone feels a little clueless, even high-flying CEOs. By accepting imposter syndrome and forgiving yourself for the days you feel a bit flustered, you’ll find yourself feeling less and less weighed down by it.
“No” Isn’t a Dirty Word
When you take the step into creative freelancing, you may feel like you need to accept any work thrown your way. Gathering a portfolio and getting your name out there will be a top priority, but you should still be strategic about it.
I mentioned being a Jack of all trades previously, and actually saying yes to everything can look a bit suspicious. It can suggest you don’t know yourself, or have your specialist skills figured out. Turning down work that isn’t quite right for you can actually solidify your business acumen, and will help you figure out what works for you.
Equally important: knowing when you have no time to fully commit to work and saying “no” as a result. If you’re snowed under, but an ideal job offer comes along, you aren’t obliged to accept it. This may be frustrating, but you’re far better off declining this time than accepting, doing a sub-par job, and damaging your reputation.
And perhaps most important of all, saying “no” will stop the dreaded burn-out. Hard work and dedication are part and parcel of freelance life, but you’re no good to anyone if your brain is fried. Taking time out means you’re going to perform better in the long run, and freelancing is all about playing the long game.
Love What You Do
I could reel off a bunch of inspirational quotes, but it could start to get mushy real quick. It’s a simple premise, but doing what you love will make you happier and will feel less like work.
If you’re a writer, you probably manage to adapt your tone depending on the work you’re doing. But, if you’re writing about something you care about and love, it will translate. From the energy in your writing to the actual vocabulary, it’s noticeable when someone is enjoying what they’re writing about. This goes for any creative endeavour too.
Loving what you do makes doing your job an awful lot easier. Freelancing isn’t without those days that feel like a bit of a slog, but you should make the most of being able to pick your work. I bet one of the reasons freelancing appealed to you is wanting to truly love your work – so keep that in mind!
Network The Loneliness Away
One thing about being a creative that freelancing can hinder, is avoiding loneliness. Bouncing ideas off others and getting inspiration from fellow creatives can be a challenge when you work solo at home. In order to stave off loneliness and avoid talking to the wall, make time for networking.
Utilising social media to join groups of like-minded people in similar positions can help you feel part of a community. You could also set up fun virtual conferences with creatives in order to pick each other’s brains. Make a conscious effort to stay connected with the outside world, and freelancing doesn’t have to be a lonely place.
Take A Step Back
Climbing a mountain (I know, sorry, horribly overused metaphor) wouldn’t be worth it if you didn’t stop to look at the view. You trek all the way to the top staring solely at your feet, turn around without looking up and head back down. Yes, you’ll have killer glutes but, where are the memories, the awe-inspiring experience?
As a creative freelancer, it’s important to pause and take a step back. Look at just how far you’ve come. Think back to day one – gathering contacts, figuring out your services, waiting for something to land in your inbox.
Even if you aren’t making enough money to comfortably live off yet, you’re still doing it! That’s a big achievement, and you made that happen. You know more than you think you do, so taking a minute to simply reflect on the past month or two is a quick way to give yourself a much-needed boost.