‘Hey Carly, what do you for work? You’re always here at such random times!’
My trainer at the gym was taking us through our stretches at the end of the class and was asking everyone what they were doing for the rest of the day. She was dead right about me. I am always there at random times. Most of the time I’m there for the 7am class but depending on my schedule I could also be there at 9.30, 11.30, 4.30 or 5.30. There aren’t too many people that have that kind of flexibility.
‘I’m a writer and I also run an online crochet school.’
‘Oh cooooool! That’s why you’re all over the place.’
Yep. I am all over the place. One day I’m filming crochet tutorials, the next I’m writing blog posts for Smaggle. Some days I write copy for clients, others days I write articles for publications. I could also be doing this in a dozen different locations. My own house in Melbourne, my parent’s house in Canberra, Mr Smaggle’s family farm near Berry, libraries, co-working spaces, a villa in Italy, a little Bungalow in Bali or in a car on the side of the road in the California desert.
I won’t make it sound more romantic than it is though. It’s bloody hard work. There’s no holiday pay, sick pay, continuity or security. I have to hustle constantly. There’s no flex time or time in lieu. I get paid for the work I do and that’s it. If I’m sick, I either work while I’m sick or I don’t get paid. If I want a holiday I have to work at double speed to get my work done to take the time off and then I don’t get paid while I take that time off. There’s a lot of budgeting and management involved in being a freelancer.
Having said that I never have to leave my house if I don’t want to. I can pack my laptop, crochet hooks and yarn into a back pack and work from anywhere. If I miss the gym in the morning, I can just go in the afternoon. If I want a day off, I can re-arrange my week to make it happen. Just last week, I visited Mama Smaggle and took her out for a late mother’s day outing. We went to the Cartier exhibition and out for lunch. The freedom and flexibility is totally worth it for me. I wouldn’t have it any other way.
If you’re keen to be a freelancer, here are a few things you should know before you get started…
1. Do the work first.
No one will hire you if you can’t show them what you’ve done. Start a blog or YouTube channel and contribute to it regularly. That’s not an easy thing to do but my blog is one of the most valuable bodies of work in my portfolio. Being able to prove to a client that I can write quality content, three to five times per week for ten years is all they need to be comfortable hiring me. It proves I’m consistent and dedicated. I’ve also written for Cleo, Cosmo, The Australian Review and The Sydney Morning Herald but my own work on my own platform has been far more lucrative in terms of securing decent freelance clients.
2. Make friends with people who are already doing what you want to do
Most of my freelance work has come from other freelancer/blogger friends. A lot of people get hung up on competition and keeping opportunities to themselves but this is the worst way to get ahead in a freelance career. Some jobs and clients won’t be quite right for your skills set, so you should definitely pass those jobs on to other people who are better suited. They, in turn, will send work to you when something isn’t right for them. The best way to make friends with people in your industry is to comment on their social posts regularly. This is how I made friends with all of my blogging/writer mates. Scribe and Social/Sonia Styling, Styling You, Woog’s World, Baby Mac, Veggie Mama, Fat Mum Slim, Secret Blogger’s Business, Hair Romance, Kelly Exeter, Low Tox Life, Undercover Architect, Flourish Online… we all commented and supported each other online and now we have these fabulous, solid relationships where we help each other, recommend each other and be each other’s cheerleaders.
Hot tip: Don’t email someone out of the blue and ask them to meet you for a coffee. You’ve got to warm up the oven before you stick the turkey in right?
3. Make friends with people who need to hire people who do what you do
It’s awesome to be friends with people who do what you want to do but the super-lucrative people to be friends with are the ones who hire people who do what you do. If you’re a copywriter, make friends with business owners who need regular copy written for them. Chances are they know lots of other business owners who also need copy written for them.
4. Make it as easy as possible for people to hire you
Have examples of your work available, testimonials ready to go, price sheets and deliverables estimates sitting there ready for anyone who enquires. If someone asks you how much you charge and your answer is ‘Ummmmm…’, they’re going to walk away. Be clear on what you offer and very prompt with every enquiry. Make it sound like them hiring you is going to solve all their problems and then live up to your own hype.
5. Be patient, it doesn’t happen overnight
It took me about 5 years of blogging and freelancing on the side of my teaching job before I was able to go full time with my freelance career. That meant 5 years of teaching all day, coming home, having a 20-minute nap and then working until midnight to get my client and blogging work done. It meant spending every weekend slamming through my blog content so my evenings were free to write for clients. It meant spending my teaching lunch break proofreading last night’s article before sending it off to a client. My life is slightly less hectic these days but I still work most evenings and weekends but the difference is I’m working in the same field. It was exhausting teaching all day, then coming home and putting my writer hat on but it was totally worth it. Those 5 years of slogging it out means I have a totally portable career, I can work from home, I’m the boss of my own hours and I can fit my work in around my life. At times it felt like it was never going to happen and now I’m here, it’s still a daily grind to keep that freelancer machine running but I wouldn’t have it any other way.