How to survive being the new freelancer in town

Blog written by Emma Saldanha

Research by The Association of Independent Professionals and Self-Employed (or IPSE for short) published at the end of February shows that 2 million people now work as freelancers, and amazingly 21% of these live in Greater London.

London is the fastest growing area for freelancers. In fact, the number of freelancers who live in Greater London has increased by 59% in the last 8 years alone.

This begs the question, is now a good time to choose to become a freelancer? Is the market not saturated with freelancers?

As the new freelancer in town, I can tell you that the answers to these questions are “Yes” and “No”.

I studied in the North-East of England but started and built my career in London. I chose to do this because 17 years ago opportunities were lacking in the North-East and London offered so much more in terms of jobs and career development.

17 years on and this hasn’t changed, in fact, more opportunities are now available and this is not being driven by large corporations but rather smaller organisations, freelancers and startups. In fact, The Telegraph newspaper reported last year 80 new businesses were being born every 24 hours. This is an unbelievable figure!

Is it difficult to be the new freelancer in town?

My motto is ‘anything that is worth doing is not without its challenges’. My journey to becoming a freelance copywriter was not without its obstacles and challenges. Mainly the obstacles were in my mind. I had a job that offered flexibility, I liked the people I worked with and after 17 years of being an employee, the thought of giving up a guaranteed wage was very scary.

The challenges were more real. I had to first of all create my business brand, build a website, create social media accounts and begin to connect and engage with individuals and businesses. For the first 6 months, I had no clients at all, and I was purely developing the business.

The lack of clients wasn’t down to there not being any, but I didn’t know how to find them. Putting out tweets and posts that you are looking for copywriting work is simply not going to make clients flock to you. I have learned that as a freelancer you have to actively search for work and ask for the opportunity to show businesses what you can do.

Another mistake I made was promoting myself as generalist copywriter and offering my service to anybody who I came across. Let me tell you this will not get you much work. After a mentoring session I decided to change my focus and target areas that I had worked in previously. This was useful in two ways; I had ready-made examples of work I could show and I had a connection with these industries and people that I could reach out to see if they needed my assistance.

This approach proved to be more successful.

Overall, the two things that have made my transition into freelancing easier are; other freelancers and a new project management tool called Skwish.

I have found that freelancers who are my direct competition are readily willing to offer a helping hand and give advice when I need it.

Secondly, using a tool that enables me to communicate effortlessly with clients and other freelancers, forward work for approval and submit invoices has made my freelance life a lot easier.

My advice to anyone thinking of becoming a freelancer is to go for it and check out Skwish. You will love it as much as I do.

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