How to freelance

How to freelance

By Jo Caird 11/01/11

Increasing numbers of creatives are eschewing the traditional career ladder and setting themselves up as freelancers. This path can offer opportunities and lifestyle advantages that staff jobs might not, but is it for you? Jo Caird shares some tips from established freelancers working across a range of disciplines…

Be organised

Whether you’re a freelance playwright, painter or puppeteer, you’re essentially running a business and that unfortunately will involve a certain amount of tedious admin. Textile designer Rose de Borman advises setting aside a short period at the same time each day for it – ideally a time when you know you’re generally not at your creative best. “And when that time is up,” she says, “try to just stop and shut the computer down. If there is more to be done, save it for the next slot.”


Create a professional working environment

Theatre director and adaptor Svetlana Dimcovic recommends working in a place that you can shut the door on. If you don’t have the luxury of a dedicated office space, ensure that the area where you do work is as separate from your non-work life as possible and kept free of clutter. To get yourself into a professional mindset at the start of each day, get dressed. You don’t need to look like you’re going to the office, but being physically prepared for the day can do wonders for your mental state.


Beware the deadline

It’s crucial for the sake of your reputation (and future financial success) that you complete work on time. For de Borman, a sure fire way of never missing a deadline is to “trick yourself into thinking you have less time than you have”. That way you’ll finish the task with time to spare for final tweaks and unforeseen dramas.


Think about the long game

The switch from busy periods to quiet times is one of the toughest aspects of freelancing. Building up a wide enough network of contacts to ensure that you’ve always got work coming in will most likely take a couple of years. “But don’t get despondent,” says performer and writer Steve Pretty. “Use the quiet moments to develop core skills and work on longer-term career aims.” That way, when the work does pick up again, you’ll be well equipped to tackle the next challenge.


Make a portfolio

For arts journalist Nancy Groves (who also writes for IdeasTap), a regularly updated portfolio – whether hard copy or online or ideally both – “is not only an important showcase for your work when seeking new contacts, projects or commissions, it’s also a great reminder to yourself of what you’ve achieved so far and a useful prompt for thinking over where you might want to go next”.


Don’t go it alone

Most people will find that working from home can get lonely at times. Groves has found that “meeting up with someone in the same boat as you provides a welcome break and is a great opportunity for brainstorming ideas, sharing contacts and having the moan we all need to have about our jobs from time to time. Find a freelance friend.”

This is particularly pertinent at the very beginning of your career as a freelancer, says de Borman, who really valued the practical advice she received from a couple of more established designer friends just as she was starting out. “It gave me a lot of confidence. I felt less like a young pretender because I felt like I knew how the industry worked.”

And finally, be easy on yourself. If you’re having a frustrating day, try not to let it get you down; tomorrow will be better.


Read more How to articles.

For advice on how to pitch articles, read this week’s Write Now.

Image courtesy of Britt Selvitelle on Flickr.

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