November 7, 2018

The Freelance Diary | Taking the Leap



Suited and booted in Boden*. Sunshine velvet is proper professional. Photo: Natasha Nuttall

It’s been a while. I feel like my last six posts have all said the same thing. I haven’t written a blog post since September (I know, crazy), but, for good reason. I mentioned in my post back in August on juggling creative pursuits that times were a little hectic at work and I was going freelance. By George, quick as a flash, that time has already come. I’m now on week four. Yes, ALREADY.

In the interest of documenting my whole life online to some degree, I feel like I would be doing a disservice if I didn’t talk about this massive change in my circumstances and after several conversations with folk who are thinking of taking the leap, I thought “hey, why don’t I share how I’ve done it”; highs, lows and all the in-betweens. I’m sure there’s plenty that I haven’t thought about, and some shocks to come along the way. Who can ever get it 100% right, eh? There’s plenty to it – tax, expenses, pitching, pricing, the list goes on. Occasionally I read something on the subject and I feel like the juicy parts have been missed out; the secrets that competitors don’t want you to know. The parts that person doesn’t want the other to have the heads up on, or is included in their costly book or e-course instead. I want to include it all, so any questions, please holla and I’ll do my best to address them. Although, let’s not hold me to this if that book deal does come along. A girl has got to eat.

Yellow sunshine and blue skies. Photo: Natasha Nuttall

The Background.

My story starts with the desire to make my own rules, the discomfort in an office setting and the need for variety. All indicators that I’m the perfect person for a freelance role. I’ve worked from home in the past and loved it. I’ve worked separately on my blog for the last three years with little income to spur me on. I’ve been in positions where I’ve been allowed free reign of the land. Again, more green traffic lights to show me and everyone around me that this is the right step for me to take.

I’m also pretty fearless. I’ve stepped into this world with no savings, no back-up and nobody to help out should it all go tits up. While I wouldn’t say this is advisable, it’s not always possible to save up for six months worth of rent, and I know, looking at my own qualities, that I will MAKE IT WORK. There will always be an excuse for not going freelance and if you find yourself making them a little too often, it’s probably not the right gig for you. That confidence shows me that I know what I’m doing and have a belief in myself to back it up.

STRIDE BY. Photo: Natasha Nuttall

The Pitches.

I’d started putting plans into action before leaving my last role. Setting up meetings and starting conversations before you take the leap is pretty darn vital. I knew there was an interest out there for what I was doing and this gave me the confidence to resist the urge of stepping into another job. That being said, “The Fear” was real on day one and there’s nothing worse than realising that you are not being paid for your time. Time-wasting is simply not an option. Squashing that fear instantly was the only route forward for me. I’ll admit to ten minutes of glancing at what part-time jobs were on offer before telling myself to get a grip (I would totally consider this if things weren’t quite working down the line, but hell no on day one). The reality is, while worrying about these things, you could just be pitching for work.

The pitch to me is something that I can’t get enough of. I love the thrill of the chase. Researching who I’m pitching to. Guessing their direct email. Crafting an articulate email that I hope to draw them in with for a coffee. I’ll write a more detailed post on this soon. Week one is all about following up on those pitches you’ve already laid out and working out new leads in case those others don’t come off. In the first few days, I wrote a list of around 25 people that I hadn’t contacted previously and started working my way through them. I still haven’t got through that entire list. Not for being lazy, but for the fact that when you start sending out emails, you start getting responses. And that leads me onto the next big thing of the first few weeks of freelancing…

Just working against walls these days. Photo: Natasha Nuttall

The Meetings.

If you want to go freelance, a lot of your time initially will be spent going for coffee and spreading the word that you are indeed, freelance. This is where that backup money comes into play as you might not necessarily be actually carrying out any work in the first few weeks. Or if you are, you’ll be doing it after the 9-5 of conversing and selling yourself. Tiring work if you ask me. For ease and productivity, I’ve mainly tried to group my meetings into days. 2-3 days out meeting people at first and the rest spent outreaching or following up from said meetings.

Connecting with people in your industry is absolutely vital and even if you know that someone doesn’t have the capacity to employ, they might hear of opportunities within their network which they will pass on to you. Believe me, the minority of things I’ve come by so far have been via others mentioning me. A common myth of freelancing (in my eyes anyway) is that it’s quite insular. I argue that it’s certainly not if you’re based in London. If you want to be top of your game, you should be meeting and catching up with others in your industry on the regular. If you’re not doing this, you’re probably going to struggle with work. I kid you not.

The Future.

To wrap this first session up, let’s talk about to future. This post is all about my own personal story, but going forward I’d like it to take on a more practical approach that will help YOU. I’d like to open the floor to any questions. You can drop me an email on Emma(@) for any advice or leave a comment if you don’t mind your question being public.

On another note, while I’m selling myself, if you’d like to hear more about my freelancing gigs, let’s go for coffee. I specialise in content creation including social media and writing as well as strategy. The next instalment is coming soon so tell me if there’s anything you’d like to hear more on.

Disclaimer: Suit gifted from Boden. All love of being suited and booted my own.


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Emma Jane Palin is a freelance art consultant, interior stylist and multi-award-winning blogger residing in Margate, UK. She has worked with various home and lifestyle brands not limited to West Elm, Apple, John Lewis, Habitat, MADE, Caran D'Ache + No.3 Gin. Emma is also a regular contributor to Hunker where she writes about design trends and interior advice.

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