Confessions of a first time freelancer

by | Jun 1, 2018 | Emma Willder

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Confessions of a first time freelancer

Well I’ve made it! I have officially been self employed for ONE WHOLE YEAR! It’s been a year of ups and downs (mainly ups) and there has been lots of learning…here are some of the key ones.

Easy to say, sometimes hard to do. When I set up, my vision was to specialise in helping Charities with their finance and governance however during the first few months I only had a couple of contracts and was beginning to doubt that there was a market out there for what I was offering.

Self-doubt started to creep in – ’What if I couldn’t get any work in the area I really wanted to work in?’ It was at this point that I decided to cast my net a bit wider to become a ‘I do everything’ type of accountant. I wish I had stuck to my guns and believed in myself and my vision a bit more as now I almost exclusively work with Charities.

Trust your gut
Did you know that scientists in Australia have done some research which suggests that there really is a second brain in your gut? Interesting huh!

One of my key lessons would be to trust your gut – if a potential client doesn’t feel right then explore that feeling. Is it because the work is outside your comfort zone? Or is it something else? If it’s something else, you just can’t put your finger on then trust it. I have had one client where I ignored this gut instinct and I wish I hadn’t as it ended up being more hassle than its worth.

Working in your business v Working on your business
It’s very easy to get caught up in doing work for your clients and ignoring the needs in your own business. Don’t forget as a freelancer you also have to do your own marketing, admin, finances etc. etc.

If you don’t have enough time to work on your business, then either outsource some of this (there are loads of other freelancers who would love to help you with this) or re-evaluate your workload.

Take some time off
I find this really, really, really hard. Since I started I think I have only taken off around 10 days which I know isn’t good for me, my health and ultimately my clients. So, I’ve now decided to give myself a holiday allowance (similar to when I was working) to ensure that I do get that downtime.

I have also got a separate phone just for work so that I can switch off when I am on holiday. This may not work for some people but for me it was essential.

Don’t undersell yourself! Its very easy when you’re just starting out to under-price yourself, but this could mean that you end up with too much work. ‘Well that’s no bad thing’ I hear you cry. I would counteract that if you have too much work you may not do any of it to the best of your ability and therefore not secure repeat business.

This should be one of the first things you sort. Either get yourself a decent accountant if you are nervous about numbers or use some online accounting software such as QuickBooks Self Employed which does much of the hard work for you. If you are set up as a limited company I would recommend the accountant route as they will also do your company accounts and tax returns.

You are your brand
When people buy your services it’s really you they are buying. Your skills and experience. This is one of the reasons that, for the moment, I have chosen to remain as just me and not take on any staff and expand.

Use your networks
Many of my clients have come from personal recommendations of previous colleagues. Don’t underestimate the value of your networks and let people know what you are doing.

Get networking
I am part of several supportive networks that all offer me different things. Freelance Heroes is a super supportive network for freelancers and is free to join. As a CIMA[1] member in practice I have also joined MiPNet which is a fantastic resource if I get stuck on something technical.

There are many more things I have learnt about myself personally, mainly that I really value freedom – freedom to work for who I want to on what I want. I have also met some amazing people who I would never have met if I hadn’t taken the leap into self-employment.

So, here’s to another year and several more after that – CHEERS!

[1] CIMA – Chartered Institute of Management Accountants

If you’re looking for more than an accountant then why not give Emma an email or a call?

07419 786 943

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