Freelancing advice no one's had the balls to give you: pt. 2

freelance advice no ones had the balls to give you part 2

Toying with the idea of plunging yourself into freelance life? There's a lot of idealistic bullsh*t out there, splattered across motivational entrepreneurial blogs or on your freelancer mate's social media (I know very few people who actually work on beaches in Hawaii, guys—soz).

After my first freelance post on the subject, I realised I had a lot more to share, so I kept a notebook handy and tossed down a few more home truths for those of you brave enough to make that freelance leap of faith. It's definitely worth it, but you have to know what you're signing up for, and some of it may surprise you.

So, without further ado, here comes part two (with added 'no bullshit').

If you don't ask, you don't get

Here's a closely guarded secret of the freelancing world: the best jobs aren't awarded by experience or skill. They're often awarded to the writer with enough guts to pitch for it. Doesn't matter if you think a client is way out of your league or a job is slightly beyond your skillset, if you want it, pitch for it.

I reach out to my dream clients with a cold pitch introductory email every quarter. I let them know that I dig them, I give them my rates and I leave the ball in their court. It feels cheeky but by god does it work!


Never put all your eggs in one basket

You've landed your first big client and you're feeling pretty suave about it. They pay enough to free you from business development worry each month. You don't have to fret about the next paycheck. You can just hang loose and enjoy.


I've known other freelancers that got too comfortable relying on one big client, and when that relationship fell through, they were left with a gaping hole in their revenue and absolutely no new business leads. Never let yourself get into a position where you feel comfortable, even if the client is promising you a long and happy marriage. Always stay sharp on your business development and always be looking to foster new relationships—you never know!


Sometimes you need to ask for a deposit

I once had a client asking for a huge bulk of my time. They booked it really far in advance, which pleased me no end because I love organisation. I also hate pressure, so the long lead time gave me the opportunity to turn other clients away and keep the space free.

Boy, was that a big mistake.

Fast forward to day one of the project—I receive an email informing me that things have been pushed back several weeks. I'd turned down three new clients in an effort to keep the allotted time free. Jump ahead to the new start date, and I'm delayed again. By this point, I'm several grand down on my monthly revenue target and have ruined relationships with clients that had the potential to be long term. What a kicker.

I learned that sometimes you need to ask for a deposit and a signed contract before you agree to a project. It may feel overly cautious and almost offensive to the client, but you are a business and you need to protect yourself.


It helps to talk about rates like they're no big deal

This is a tip I learned from author and copywriter, Andy Maslen. I was a student of his, way back in the day. After I went freelance, he asked me about my rates and damn near lost his mind when he heard me talk about them. I wasn't charging enough. I was hesitant to discuss payment. I kept offering to negotiate, even when the client had a much larger budget than my paltry fee. The trick is, Andy said, learning to talk about payment as though it ain't no thang.

Don't tiptoe around how much you charge. Don't offer negotiation right off the bat and don't under-price yourself to stay competitive. If they want you, they'll pay what you think is fair. Andy told me to practice saying my day rate in the mirror. Over time, you lose all money shame and start talking like a business person. Go get you some cheddar!


Large social followings don't mean squat

I'm still guilty of this sometimes, even though I know better. I sit on Twitter or LinkedIn, sulkily lusting after the large social followings some of my contemporaries have. Because in our current climate, large social followings mean wealth, success and validation.

The same isn't always true in freelance life. I don't have a huge following, but I've worked for Virgin Trains, Eastpak and one of the top three biggest smartphone manufacturers in the world*. I earn a very respectable wage and love the clients I work with. In my eyes, that is what success looks like. Pure and simple.


Working in your pyjamas is a terrible idea

The idea of working from the bed/the couch in pyjamas is an attractive one to newbie freelancers. You don't have to shower or shave. You can basically sit in your own filth all day long, totally judgement-free. Truth is, this approach to freelancing should be avoided at all costs.

Working to a structured day does wonders for your mental wellbeing. Sure—the pyjamas thing is wicked for the first two weeks, but then you start to feel disconnected from the world or like a lesser version of yourself. There's something inherently human and civilised about having to shower and dress yourself every day. Makes you feel more like part of society and less like this...

I still get up at 5 am every day and take the time to do household chores in the morning (because my flat is my office and I refuse to work in a sh*thole). I still put on makeup, do my hair and wear my normal clothes,  even though I'm spending 90% of the day by myself. I do it for myself, so I can feel more like me.


Emma Cownley