After 15 years’ experiencing the good, the bad and the truly ugly side of freelancing, I’ve taken the momentous decision to fire the clients and embark on an exciting new adventure. I’m starting a home-based business – a venture where I’m well and truly the BOSS!
Now you may think that freelancers have it easy. It’s all slopping around in your PJs, latte on tap and listening to Smooth FM, whilst bashing out the odd piece of content as you drift dreamily through your day.
Yet this has not been my experience at all.
Okay, in theory, time is your own to schedule as you see fit. But unless you’re strict with yourself about when and if to answer the phone during work hours, not to mention curtailing unscheduled visits from friends/ neighbours/ acquaintances who happened to spot your car in the driveway and thought they’d surprise you, it’s easy to get sucked into a regime where it’s hard to say ‘no’ to people’s demands on your time.
So, without further ado, here’s:
12 Things I Won’t Miss About the Gig Economy (in no particular order)
- are exceptionally price-conscious, or prefer to award their precious project to the lowest bidder, regardless of ability.
- use the phrase “if we could just tweak …”
- say things like: “this should only take someone with your skills an hour or so”.
- haven’t a clue what they want/ keep changing their mind.
- want stuff yesterday.
- think it’s okay to call you up on weekends/ outside of normal business hours.
- phone you up for a chat on the way to a meeting.
- want to ‘pick your brains’, not pay you for your expertise.
- show your content around to their colleagues/ friends/ family and want to change a paragraph because Great Aunt Marge objects to the wording.
- ignore your invoice requests for ‘payment within 30 days please’ and constantly settle late.
- think it’s fine to cancel their project at a moment’s notice, even though they’ve signed a contract.
And finally (though this is by no means an exhaustive list!):
- the unpredictability of freelance work/ income.
Don’t get me wrong. Today’s gig economy offers some great benefits over the traditional office environment, for example:
- Flexibility – work where you want and when you are at your most productive.
- 30-second commute and zero travel costs.
- Holiday when you want.
- Unlimited earning potential.
- No dress code.
- No office politics.
But to make the gig economy work in your favour you need to be far savvier than ever I was starting out. So, here’s the advice I would give anyone wishing to pursue a career as a freelance creative today:
- Never accept a role as an intern, or offer to work ‘on spec’. Any ethical company will value your skillset and be prepared to pay the going rate for it.
- Charge what you are worth and be discerning about the clients you take on.
- Don’t use freelance job boards or sites where you have to bid on projects. (You can waste a lot of time pitching for projects that never get awarded). Also, these places tend to attract price-conscious clients, (see list above).
- Market yourself as a ‘niche specialist’ rather than a generalist and create a strong portfolio around your chosen niche.
- Ask for at least 30% of your agreed fee up front and the remainder to be paid within 14 days of completion.
- Try not to limit yourself to only one client, even if he/ she wants to employ you full time. If the company goes bust, (as happened with one of my clients), then you will be left scratching around for work just to pay the bills.
So what’s next for me?
Well, I’ve been designing my own-brand birthday cards for friends and family for a while now. And the fact is, I love designing bespoke greetings so much that I plan to turn my hobby into a home-based business, selling personalised cards and digital art.
I spent yesterday afternoon eagerly devouring Clare Hudson’s excellent Kindle book: Etsy Artist: How to Successfully Launch, Market and Sell Your Art on Etsy, and I’m going to spend the rest of this afternoon setting up my new Etsy shop: JordynDigitalArt.
Exciting times, eh?
I’m also going to document my progress in the form of an online diary so that anyone wishing to do something similar can benefit from my experiences; the good, the bad and … (you know the rest!)
Thanks for reading this piece and I hope you’ll drop by and check out my shop soon. Oh and do feel free to post a comment below if you wish!