Forget the usual pros and cons—why do you want to become a freelancer? If there’s one thing we’ve learned from talking to three solopreneurs it’s that becoming a freelancer is a personal decision that everyone makes for their own reasons. Understanding why you want to become a freelancer is key to breaking away from the traditional 9-5 and finding a work-life balance that suits you.
We interviewed 3 freelancers, from different industries and experience levels, and we’re sharing their answers in order to determine their reasons for going freelancers, as well as the highs and lows of their journey. We’re talking to Ben Davies (freelance photographer, 2 years in the business). Charlotte Moore (freelance writer, 1 year in the business), and Peter Marchetti (freelance graphic designer, 10 years in the business). Read on to discover what people like you have learned on their quest to build a successful freelance career.
Why did you become a freelancer?
Charlotte Moore, freelance writer: A very early-onset midlife crisis: I was writing within a sector that I didn’t really love. It sort of dawned on me that if I didn’t go freelance now, I never would. I’ve always wanted to work for myself and I thrive off multiple projects running, so it seemed like a natural step. I made my decision really fast. I just realised that I didn’t love my job and I missed doing something I love. So, I sat down with my partner and we did the planning, two days later—I handed in my notice.
Peter Marchetti, freelance graphic designer: I’d been with the same company for a long time and was finding that I was spending more time doing the things I’d rather not (management and project planning) than actually getting my hands dirty. I also wanted to work with more varied clients and really challenge myself—which happily has been the case. It was daunting at first and leading up to it, I thought “what have I done!” but as soon as I started on my first freelance job it just flowed and I knew I’d made the right decision.
Ben Davies, freelance photographer: It’s a pretty standard thing in my field to work as a freelancer. It allows me to work with a large range of clients, which I wouldn’t be able to do if I worked for just one company.
What freelancing benefits have you grown to appreciate more?
Peter Marchetti, freelance graphic designer: Certainly there is a lot of flexibility which is a huge benefit. Also knowing that the time you put in is the time you choose to put in is a pretty good feeling. Obviously, you are working with your clients’ timescales but in some ways you feel a bit more autonomy than if you’re getting work doled out to you.
I think what I have enjoyed most though is the variety of projects that I’ve had the
pleasure of working on and the wonderful clients that I’ve been working with –
you meet a lot of great people out there!
Charlotte Moore, freelance writer: I love not being tied to an office and planning my own hours. I love meeting new clients and getting to the heart of their brand. I mostly work with SMEs and it means that I can really understand their story and what they can offer.
Ben Davies, freelance photographer: It has enabled me to work with a large number of clients and to also have enough free time to progress in my own work and build my own portfolio.
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What would you do differently if you went back to the start of your freelancing career?
Ben Davies, freelance photographer: I would have tried to save up for better equipment. Equipment is a big part of being a photographer, and it can be incredibly expensive, and I’ve had to learn that as I’ve been working for myself.
Charlotte Moore, freelance writer: I overestimated my capability to do my own accounts—by assuming I had any capability to do them. There’s a stereotype that writers are terrible with numbers, and so far, I’ve seen nothing to disprove this.
Peter Marchetti, freelance graphic designer: I would have been more proactive and started sooner! I spent a lot of time thinking about it, probably a year or two, and while it isn’t a choice to make lightly, I know now that I should have thrown myself into it earlier. It can be daunting but have faith in your abilities. I would have also put myself out there a bit more, gone to more events, spoken to more people – having others around that are doing the same thing can really help guide and support you when you eventually do take the plunge.
Do you have any tips on how to find freelance work and grow the freelance business?
Ben Davies, freelance photographer: A lot of my work at the start came through word of mouth via my friends. My friends were my network at the start. I also reached out to other photographers asking for photography advice and always worked on my craft. Another big thing for me has been to have a platform to share my work through, and so far, this has been Instagram and my website. I usually get offered work through Instagram when I post something, so I try to stay busy on my social media platforms.
Charlotte Moore, freelance writer: The best thing you can do for yourself is to meet other freelancers. There’s a real community feel and, in my experience, every person that I’ve reached out or spoken to has been endlessly helpful. I also think that it helps if you have an area of expertise or a sector that you’re really passionate about. Lastly, take anything and everything, pitch daily and set crystal clear expectations for your client.
Peter Marchetti, freelance graphic designer: There are a lot of people out there who can do what you do so personal recommendations are really important. Because of that, building your network can be invaluable. Being professional, flexible, friendly and able to understand your clients’ needs are absolute musts. It should go without saying that you should be 100 percent reliable – let your clients down and you won’t get any more work, treat them with respect and do what you say you will and you can build great ongoing business relationships.
With all the uncertainty that freelancing can bring, these professionals have shared some invaluable advice on how to successfully build a better future in freelancing. Are you feeling inspired by their journey into the world of freelance? If so, it’s time to consider how you can become a freelancer with this handy guide.
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