Going freelance: being your own boss, working flexibly, and taking charge in an industry you love. For many creative types, successful self-employment is the dream. As companies realise the benefits of outsourcing projects, the opportunity to freelance is growing. In 2015, the UK saw 1.8 million people enter freelance roles across sectors: something that was replicated across the globe, as 34% of the US workforce is now counted as self-employed.
The trend doesn’t just highlight a greater number of freelancing professionals, but a greater desire to work according to your own timetable and rules. According to Freelance Statistics 2016, 78% of the UK public thinks that freelancing and flexible working help promote a good work/life balance, with a further 72% believing that freelancing has a positive effect on family life.
Among recent graduates, over 87% of students with a first or second-class degree see freelancing as a lucrative career option with 69% of all graduates seeing independent work as offering a better work-life balance.
However, despite the positives, many people shy away from going it alone. This is down to issues like financial insecurity, a lack of contacts, and a deficit in the knowledge and skillset it takes to get started - all barriers to self-employment. Many would-be freelancers have the technical skills required within their field to do the job, but lack the acumen on gaining clients, building a portfolio or creating a business plan to make the freelance dream a reality.
The main problems can often lie within key areas of getting started: Who are your clients? How you will support yourself? When will you (and won’t you) be working as your own boss?
Defining your Clients
Finding clients is without a doubt the most difficult task a new freelance creative has to face in their career. Many start freelancing alongside part time (or even full time) work to ensure they have a large enough client base to support themselves financially. At the beginning, you need to find your clients – the clients won’t come to you.
The first thing you need to do is find people willing to pay for the services you offer. This can be tricky if you haven’t quite nailed down exactly what you’ll be doing. If you don’t know your target audience, marketing your services, and pitching for work in the right areas will become confused and result in lack of opportunities.
Lack of Security
Starting out isn't secure, and it is financial fears that often hold people back from freelancing. You’ll need to make peace with the fact that you don’t have all the rights you might have become used to as an employee. A savings cushion is an important thing to fall back on when you’re at the early stages, and it is often recommended to have enough to keep you going for at least six months without work. Getting your finances in order is the most important – and often daunting – part of the transition to freelance work.
As a freelancer, you need to be organised to succeed. You might be your own boss, but you still need to be strict. Don’t let yourself get away with slacking, but equally, don’t make your waking hours all working ones. The balance is something that is hard to strike, especially when you’re used to fixed, nine-to-five shifts.
As an online education provider for undergraduate and postgraduate design students – many of whom work in the creative industries alongside studying - we are well aware of the problems that people face when starting out as freelancers.
Fiona Crosbie, director and co-founder of the Interactive Design Institute, comments: “We provide our students with the skillset they need to make it professionally, as well as technically, within their chosen field: with modules focusing on brand building, professional development and presentation and pitching skills, amongst others.”
To share in that wisdom, we have compiled some of this knowledge, as well as a little more research of our own, to provide you with the ultimate resource to succeed as a freelancer in the creative industries. Included in this,we have a lecture slide deck on self-promotion and professional development; a ‘build your own brand: masterclass’ video; and a comprehensive eBook containing everything you need to start out as a self-employed creative.
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This article and freelance resources were created by The Interactive Design Institute (IDI). We're e-learning specialists in art and design. Click here to find out more about who we are, and what we do.