Being a Successful Freelancer

With 428 Wired Sussex members registered as freelance, we run biannual breakfast workshops on ‘Being a Successful Freelancer’, with the aim of helping our freelance members to stay on top of their game.

Yesterday we held the first of 2014, with a really fantastic panel offering their knowledge, expertise, support and guidance – as well as a few jokes along the way!

The panel consisted of:

David Lockie (Pragmatic Web), Martine Scott, (Puree Design) and Paul Allen, (Lark).  For more information about our panellists, check out the event page here.

The event was attended by individuals with a range of experience in terms of how long they had been freelancing – from just a few months to 20 years.

As spaces at these events are in hot demand, we wanted to share as much of the conversation and advice as possible. Below is a breakdown of the discussion, highlighting key takeaways from the conversation.

Business development

  • Be clear and concise about what you do.  Don’t spread yourself too thinly – identify your specialism and most importantly what you enjoy.
  • Company name/trading name – consider the clients that you work with, brand reputation and recognition.  Some clients would like to employ an individual, some a business.  Consider whether you’ll work in house or remotely.  Build a consistent and believable story.
  • Taking on support in the form of a fellow freelancer a few days a week, can help to free up your time for business development, marketing.
  • Look into mentors/business coaches.  There are schemes available such as the Growth Accelerator fund that can help you grow and expand your business.

Clients & Workloads

  • Have a contingency in place for what you’ll do if you get offered too much.
  • Outsource if you cannot do the work (i.e. if you don’t have enough time).  Maybe you could refer the potential client to someone good (they’ll remember you for it!) or alternatively look to have someone white label the work for you.
  • Remember to keep the quality of your work high – if you take on too much, it’s unlikely that you’ll produce as good-a work.
  • Question a client’s deadline & check for movement.  Explain that you’d like to do the best possible job and that might mean a longer time frame.  Often client deadines aren’t their ‘real’ deadlines.
  • Use the ‘good, fast, cheap’ mantra.  If a client wants something good and fast, it’s not going to be cheap.  Longer deadlines could be cheaper quote wise – so negotiate.
  • Remember negotiation is a two way street.  What can a client give you in order to achieve the budget they want?

Marketing Methods

  • A good website is essential.
  • When you are really busy, this is the time that you need to be marketing yourself, so that you have work coming in during leaner periods.  As a freelancer you should be in a constant state of being prepared.  So keep in touch with every client you have worked with.
  • Do what works best for you – what are you good at?
  • Ditch what doesn’t work for you or for your business.
  • Reputation, reputation, reputation – particularly important in a small place (i.e. Brighton).
  • Word of mouth is very crucial for freelancers.
  • Collaborating and coworking can be effective marketing methods.

Finances

  • Ensure you have clear and strict terms and conditions in place.  Outline exactly what you’ll do in all circumstances, for example, late payment.  Update your terms and conditions constantly.
  • Consider the pre-payment of invoices, for example 1/3 of full quote in advance of any work.  If a client refuses, question the job.  Freelance work is a two way street, and requires trust from both parties.

Networking

  • Be friendly and genuine, you don’t always need to give the hard sell.
  • Network with people who have complementary skills and even competitors, all contacts can potentially lead to new work.
  • Experiment and find the right environment for you.  If you feel more comfortable chatting over a coffee, an informal meetup would work well for you.  Or maybe you prefer a more structured networking event?
  • For more networking tips, see previous blog post Networking, Networking, Networking.

Events

  • Wired Sussex member meetups are informal networking events for business owners, freelancers and employees of member organisations, so they’re a great chance to catch up with and meet peers in an informal setting.  The Wired Sussex team are always on hand to help introduce you if there’s anyone in particular that you’d like to meet.
  • Brighton Farm is a must for freelancers in and around the Brighton area.  Run by Paul Silver, the weekly meetup has grown from a group of programmers having a beer, to now attracting 25 – 30 freelancers from all walks of expertise.
  • Sign up to receive weekly alerts from our community events calendar to keep up to date with other creative, digital, media and tech events around Sussex.

Work spaces

  • The Skiff is a lovely co-working space in the North Laines with over 140 members.
  • At a dead-end?  Why not try a chance of scene, whether it be a coffee shop, a new room in your house or moving your desk around – this kind of flexibility is just one of the many joys of freelancing no?
  • Check out the Wired Sussex workspace board to find out about other available office and desk space.

Feel free to share your thoughts, feedback and/or freelancing tips via the comments section below, or tweet us @WiredSussex using #WSBrekkie.

For more hints and tips on successful freelancing, check out a previous blog post that followed last year’s Wired Sussex workshop for freelancers.

Our freelancer workshops are always very popular and are in high demand!  The next will be on Thursday 31st July 2014 at The FuseBox.  More information and sign up details will be sent out nearer the time.

If you have any questions about this event, about Wired Sussex events in general or about events taking place in Brighton and the rest of Sussex, feel free to email laura@wiredsussex.com

And if you’re not yet a member, find out more about membership here!

 

Laura

Events Manager, Wired Sussex

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