I’ve been a Freelancer for a few years now and it has been quite the journey! As soon as I got my Literature Degree I began utilising it on the online market. Now I’m no hotshot freelancer, the kind that supports themselves solely through their freelancing work, that’s the dream! But I’ve at least travelled the road and can impart some little nuggets for those considering starting to freelance or wanting to take it seriously.
2) Prepare to grind
There is nothing romantic about the grind. If my life was a film that part would be condensed down and shown as a montage of the endless hours and nonsense jobs I took with “You make my dreams come true” by Daryl Hall and John Oates playing over the top to disguise just how badly my soul was getting crushed.
I cant remember them all but some choice ones were as follows:
– 500 Stationary product descriptions for an African pen company
– Clickbait articles on healthy living like “Eat this one food every day!”
– Writing out a students psychology report
– SEO articles for a company who sold baseball caps at the Monaco Grand Prix
All of these were legit jobs and collectively earned me about £60. There are a few people who come from established backgrounds that can avoid the grind but for the rest of us, we need to get our heads down and work. So be mentally and financially prepared to spend long hours for little pay to get some valid experience behind you.
1) Aim low if no experience
If you are just starting out, and like me had no experience writing for money, don’t expect to land big jobs straight away. It never hurts to try, but if employers have absolutely no idea who you are because your freelance history is thin, then it’s unlikely they will put their brand identity (and money) in your hands. But thankfully there are literally thousands of jobs that will accept starter freelancers, because only beginners would accept the rates they are willing to pay. This is where it begins for many of us.
3) Prepare to get screwed
As time goes on and the online process to protect both freelancers and employers becomes more advanced, there is less chance of this happening. Note I said less chance, not no chance.
This will likely happen early on in your career. If you do not know what an escrow account is, let me quickly summarise; an escrow account is a neutral account where money is held. Neither party (freelancer or employer) can access the escrow funds unless both parties agree to the withdrawal of funds. This is usually after you have delivered the work and requested the money. The employer then consents to you withdrawing the money. More established employers are more stringent about the process of payment and use escrow accounts properly.
But down in the grind there are plenty of scam employers looking to exploit you. I personally was a ghostwriter for a while. Writing ebooks for other authors to slap their name on. One day I get an offer to write one but the employer didn’t want to use an escrow (I was stupid and ignored the red flag that raised). Regardless I wrote the book and sent it over and never heard from them again. Obvious mistake, but I learned it and haven’t made it since.
When you are starting out it’s easy to bend to the will of the employer, especially if you think you’ll get a decent pay at the end, but don’t. Employers need you for the service you provide, the power is in your hands, not theirs. So never work until the money is in an escrow and keep all communications as proof in case you deliver the work only to find the employer denies your request to withdraw the funds from the escrow.
4) Be ready to step up a level
Most employers who work with freelancers know they had to start somewhere, so they expect to see some weird and wonderful jobs in your work history. As I said earlier, it never hurts to throw your hat in for a bigger job, and as soon as you have that experience I say do it more. Always keep an eye out for that mid-level job that could elevate you out of the grind for a while.
The aim is to get a mid-level job and then return to the grind for a while. Hopefully another mid-level job will come along soon and over time, you’ll find yourself spending less time in the lower echelons of the freelancing world between these mid-level jobs. Eventually you will be spending all your time on mid-level jobs (so much so that they become the new level of the grind) as you look out for your first high-end job.
Be wary of spending too much time in the lowest level grind before trying to step up. It can actually work against you as employers may feel like you might not cut it at a higher level if you’ve spent so much time down there without making any your first foray upward.
5) If going for your first high-end job, don’t ask for the high end of the budget.
Anyone who knows me knows I work for “Percy Nobleman” a beard grooming company. Back in 2014 the CEO put up an advert looking for a comic writer. The budget was £3000 for 75 page comic script. Naturally there were a lot of applicants.
I felt like I could do it and more so, I wanted the job. It was an amazing opportunity and sounded like a lot of fun. I asked for £1500 of which I would receive £1250 after fees to the middleman freelance website. That got their attention and led to me getting the job. Despite taking a lower rate then, it opened up a whole new realm of opportunities for me. Those opportunities have more than made up for the £1500 I missed out on and I haven’t looked back since.
Now I don’t have to aim low. See what I’m saying?
6) Aim to specialise early
If you have a particular passion or area of expertise to utilise, aim to do so as soon as possible. Down in the grind if you can nail one or two jobs in your eventual field of expertise then it will make getting jobs of that ilk easier. I know some freelancers who now write exclusively for comedians but they started off writing humorous scripts for other peoples YouTube videos. Yes the grind is soul destroying, but at the end of the day it’s the foundation of your freelance career. Be smart about it and you can build a skyscraper on those foundations.
7) Be courteous and personable
This is a no-brainer and applies to life in general, but being a generally nice person can grease the wheels for a lot of opportunities. If an employer is weighing up two or more potential candidates (you being one of them) then how you come across in general may be the deciding factor. By all means, tout achievements and big up yourself. But don’t overdo it, never use hyperboles or exaggerations as they let people know that you can be unrealistic and may take what you say seriously, with a pinch of salt. Especially if you are unlucky in your application, the channels of communication have been opened and you are still in a better position than before.
If you liked this list, please consider giving this article a like or checking out some of my other posts. Have a good day everyone! Until next time,