MY FREELANCE JOURNEY is a new bi-monthly blog series where we follow Arts Marketing and Fundraising consultant Beckie Smith on her journey into life as a freelancer
BLOG 8: New Year, New You
Before we look at what the New Year holds, lets reflect on the first six months of my leap into freelance life.
Fortunately, I had heaps of beginner’s luck and contracts came my way quite easily. Life was good for three months – I had the happy (yet chaotic) balance of a family life, and a work life with clients, and my invoices were being paid.
Unfortunately, I fell into the trap of forgetting to market myself during times of ‘feast’ and when my contracts came to a natural end; I plunged into a period of ‘famine’ that I really struggled with. Thankfully, I was never between clients completely, but it is safe to say that I have lived both feast and famine already.
I realised that I needed to make a change. I trawled the jobs sites and applied for every contract going (some of which – dare I admit it – were employed jobs. Even the strongest of us lose our nerve in the middle of a dry spell). ArtsJobs, Twitter, Arts Professional are great stating points for this, but I really turned things around by making an effort to get myself to every meet up, networking event, and social that I possibly could, and made appointments to follow up conversations afterwards.
The week before Christmas, I had the best news. I won two contracts, one of which runs January till March and the other runs from March until the end of the year. I landed an entire year’s work, and found out about each contract within 24 hours of each other. As you can imagine, I was ecstatic – and the news completely changed my Christmas!
What does the New Year look like then?
Well, these two contracts have given me a real spine of stability. Each contract is approximately 2 days per week, and ideally, I would like to work 3.5. This means that I still have capacity to apply for additional, smaller or shorter-term contracts to top me up. If they come to fruition (and one of the did this morning – YAY) then great, I’ll be in real ‘feast’ mode, and if they don’t, I won’t need to worry too much.
Where do I go from here?
At the moment, I’m doing really well as a Freelance Consultant, but how can I grow, develop and expand what I do? Am I Beckie, a working mum, who puts in the hours in order to pay for the kids shoes? Or am I Beckie, the owner of a Consultancy business who, currently only has one member of staff (myself) but would like that number to grow? I think the latter is more fitting to my personality.
Although I am a sole trader, I tell myself that I am an employed director of a business, and it is my job to ensure that that business goes from strength to strength. This encourages me to think big; I want to lead the business to increased productivity, increased income, and increased recognition.
To do this, I need a business plan. I need a vision for what I would like the business to look like in 1, 3, 5 and even 10 years time. I need targets, objectives, outcomes, and KPI’s to keep check of whether I’m growing and progressing. I need contingency plans which I can fall back on if things don’t go to plan.
Ultimately, I’d like the business to be sizeable enough to employ staff, transforming my role to focus on winning clients and delivering the really big contracts. I’d have a team of experts in their field who help deliver work for other clients.
Reminding myself that I work for a business also forces me to be strict with the finances. For example, following Christmas when everyone is a bit skint, it would be so easy to borrow a bit from the business account. But if an employee of a business would do that, they would lose their job immediately. Therefore, tempting as it may be, I mustn’t do it either.
So there you have it. The blog for AMAculturehive comes to an end. There have been real ups and downs. Winning contracts makes you feel like you are standing on top of the world. Being between clients can make you feel so very alone and isolated, but if you keep plugging away at it, contracts will get bigger and stability will come.
To end things with a bang, here’s a top 10 do’s and don’ts of things I’ve learned over the past six months:
- ALWAYS save 1/3 of your income for the tax man
- ALWAYS save a bit of money to compensate for quiet months
- Meet people and network
- Market yourself and apply for contracts even when you have work
- Make decisions based on the business, not yourself
- Always recommend other freelancers
- Always celebrate with prosecco when you win a client
- Create a ‘working agreement’ or ‘contract’ with every client
- Create a financial forecast for yourself and your business and stick to it.
- Write yourself a business plan.
- NEVER forget to save 1/3 of your income for the tax man
- Don’t convince yourself have messed up your whole career, just because you have a quiet month
- Don’t convince yourself it has all gone wrong, just because you didn’t win a contract
- Don’t give up – chat to people instead
- Don’t have one phone. Have a work phone and a home phone
- Don’t forget to enforce working hours and home hours
- Don’t let your work emails come up on your home devices
- Don’t feel the need to respond ‘immediately’
- Don’t work from home all of the time
- Don’t forget to train and develop yourself
This is the final blog in the series. Click here for the full archive of MY FREELANCE JOURNEY.