Back in September 2015, fresh from getting married and returning from our honeymoon in Ibiza, I jumped straight into freelancing and haven’t looked back. After spending 5 years in online marketing and social media, both in-house and agency-side focused on B2B clients, I had the burning desire to jump ship and turn my passion into my job.
I have been running this blog for since 2013 and over that time, it has given me some pretty awesome opportunities that I have documented amongst the recipes; from hosting my own healthy supper club filmed for All4, to talking about all things blogging and food on BBC 1Xtra. And this has played a massive role in helping me to establish myself as a ‘freelancer’ and be in this position in the first place.
What I want to explore in this post is some of the bloody brilliant parts, but also some honest and not-so-exciting elements of being a freelancer. Let’s go.
HAVE A SOLID STARTING POINT
Before you even seriously consider jacking in your full-time job, have a concrete plan and a foundation that can act as a springboard. Thanks to my blog, over the years I have built up many contacts and relationships in the health food industry which when it comes to paid work and opportunities, has helped massively. In the beginning I had one main client secured, with hours and costs all agreed on. This was ready to go as soon as I handed my notice in – then the rest has snowballed from there.
ESTABLISH YOUR SERVICES
The term ‘freelancer’ can cover so many varied industries, skills and work – and it can sometimes be hard to define yourself. Social media, content/blog writing and recipe development have been my three key offerings and over time, it has naturally seen the latter become the main focus of my work. Brands want recipes so that’s what I’m doing a lot of the time! In a sense, this is more niche than just being someone who does online marketing but it’s definitely helped me to keep in the health food industry.
Always keep in mind WHY you wanted to go freelance in the first place, the type of work you want to do and the type of companies you want to work with. When I started, I was approached by a couple of brands that weren’t from my chosen industry – and although it might sound mad turning work away, I stuck to my guns in terms of specialising as this is the reason I did it. Since then, the gaps of hours have more than been filled by those who are exactly who I want to be doing work for. Be patient.
HMRC – YOUR NEW BEST FRIEND
Ahhhh, the not-so-glamorous part of being self employed: setting yourself up as a sole trader and learning ALL about tax, expenses, income and outgoings, and basically being organised as f*ck on top of all your other work. This is where you really have to be SUPER organised and I mean, totally anal about everything so you don’t miss something important. When I first got going I watched quite a few webinars hosted by the HMRC which I’d recommend doing. Then it’s all about setting spreadsheets up, getting an invoice template ready and keeping a folder ready for your receipts, statements, etc. JOY.
At the beginning you may also want to set up a business bank account – I went with Santander. This is a subject I don’t have much other experience with and it totally depends on your work, preference, etc.
MANAGE YOUR TIME
This is something I learnt a lot about when working agency-side: TIME MANAGEMENT and being meticulous about the hours in the day/week/month and spreading your work out. At this moment in time, I work with 10-12 brands on a regular basis, mainly creating recipes for them while also doing some social media and written work. And I need to be absolutely on form in terms of researching, experimenting, planning, photographing, editing, writing up, thinking ahead to next month’s themes and topics… What I’m saying here is you HAVE to be organised for freelancing to work!
HAVE A PLAN – BUT EXPECT SURPRISES TOO
People ask me if I go on the hunt for work or if things drop on my lap – and to be honest, it’s a bit of both. The amount of times a tweet, a DM or Instagram message has led onto a paid work opportunity has astounded me, plus it’s been nice to work with brands who have been referred on from others. I also have a ‘wish list’ of brands in the industry who I WANT to work with, and will try and make that happen – whether through social media, a PR agency or directly by email. Either way though, it’s good to have a balance of your goals and also be open and ready for opportunities.
ENJOY BEING FLEXIBLE
One of the joys of being a freelancer is WORKING WHEN I WANT. Which sometimes means never stopping or switching off, which I’m guilty of but making more of an effort to be strict with myself and not letting it take over. On the other side though, I can meet up with a friend for coffee or lunch during the week, or pop over to one of Manchester’s many coffee shops to work in a different space. I can travel where work may take me, see family, take a holiday – so long as I manage my work around that and don’t let anything slide. I bloody love being my own boss.
STILL STICK TO A ROUTINE
With the normal 9-5 rut out the window, this doesn’t mean I roll out of bed at 11am and stay in my PJs working all day. Call me mad, but I still set my alarm for 6am, do an hour workout first thing and get ready so I’m ready for ‘work’ mode. I’ll most likely work for a few hours then ALWAYS go out on a daily powerwalk for at least an hour, for fresh air and outdoor cardio. Then I’ll have lunch and crack on until the early evening. This is just a typical day, sometimes I may be out for events, meetings, seeing a friend – and it’s so nice to have that variety.
DON’T BECOME A HERMIT
The sound of working from home may be music to your ears; a fantasy that many wish for. I really enjoy it – but it can get lonely, even if you do go out at some point every day. This is why it’s important to make more of an effort to do things ‘outside of work’ and spend time with friends, family and go to events – and also take your work somewhere social like a cafe, to be around others at least! I blast out music or have the radio on a lot when I’m at home, it would be boring in silence.
I guess one thing I miss is having work mates, having daily natters and discussions…However I am fortunate that James’ work lot are so lovely, they treat me as a ‘half colleague’ (maybe because I send him in with a batch of healthy goodies I’ve been making for client recipes on pretty much a daily basis and keep them well fed!) and I go out a lot with them, which is really nice to have.
IF THINGS GO TITS UP – DON’T GIVE IN
I’ve been very lucky over the past 9 months in that my workload has grown to a point where I am just about fitting everything in and doing well financially. A couple of things that haven’t gone to plan hasn’t meant the end of the world – instead, it’s been about being proactive and always keeping an eye out for new potential contacts or work and putting yourself out there, whether through social media or having a presence at business/networking events. If your heart is 200% in it, you will MAKE it work.
I’m going to end this post here saying that freelancing might not be for everyone – it’s not necessarily secure (but let’s be honest, whose job is??) and some months can be harder than others, but am I happier doing what I love every day? ABSOLUTELY.