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Making the leap: The iMG. guide to becoming a Freelancer

Geting started

Getting started.

 

So, you've read everything so far and you want to start freelancing. Great decision! 

 

How exactly do you begin? 

Every freelancer has their own journey

 

Some:

  • Dabble on evening and weekends using platforms like Fiverr. PeoplePerHour or Upwork to gain a reputation and extra income.

  • Experience a redundancy or life change (new baby, house move) and decide to simply not return to their employer or a full time role.

  • Some are offered a freelance or contract opportunity and decide to take it and see what happens afterwards. 

 

There is no wrong or right way to make the leap, and it might not be a leap at all - but a gentle stretch into freelance. You could reduce your working hours to work on other tasks or move from a high pressure role into something less demanding or part time to create space to think and test the waters. 

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I started to think about going freelance and had an initial call with the iMG. where we talked about what was possible - and I thought – I’ll go for it. That first call was December and at the start of April, there was an opportunity for a contract for four days a week, on an initial three month contract. I finished my full time job at the end of March and started the next week, in a four day a week freelance gig. It was crazy in terms of the speed, and it meant that I've had some flexibility in the evenings on Friday and weekends to support with other areas that I want to try out. And I’m now saying no to clients, and I never thought I would have that opportunity in my first six months of being freelance. - Emily Wilson, iMG. community member 

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I have a business and we have got direct clients, but it doesn't always fill the pot. Having some extra security and extra leads from iMG. helps. - Kerry Leech, iMG. community member 

iMG. really was very attractive option for me, because it allowed me to get these full time big contracts to work on and take freelancing more seriously without having that network in place.  Previously I was a bit more comfortable, I felt that maybe working freelance was a bit too risky for me but joining the iMG. the whole process is so organised. The clients that we're working with makes it a very good option and working with all these wonderful people and learning from them. I wish I would have done it earlier. There can be hesitance in that comfortable little zone of working full time for someone but there's just so much more benefit of being a contractor or working full time working as a freelancer. - Nouman Khalid, iMG. community member 

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A flagship client is like a passport to other companies, and this is what the iMG. can do for freelancers. Instead of small fish, you are working with the big fish straight away!” - Elaine Keep, iMG. community member 

What feels right for you?

 You can start as slowly and carefully as you like or go with both feet straight in. It's really up to you. If you wanted to dip your toe with us and start us as a community member you will need professional indemnity insurance, your company details - whether you're a Soletrader or a limited business and a business bank account. That's it! You get given a branded email and access to our supportive community group, then we'll try to get you start with real clients as soon as possible.

If we have something suitable then the first thing is to see if you have the capacity, meet the client and if everyone is happy, get contracts signed and you can start to get that client work under your belt. You then invoice us for the work you've done and within a month of starting you will have that first paycheck.  

 

You can then start to build on everything else you need in the background - creating your company website and logo and acquiring those other assets. You might also start to put feelers out on LinkedIn, announcing your intentions, or pick up more work from platforms or recommendations. 

How to set your rates?

 

When you are starting out, it can be tricky to know how much to charge for your services.  The best way to work out your rates is to think about how much you need/want to earn in a year and break it down into an hourly rate. 

 

For example, if you want to earn £30,000 a year, that works out at £576 a week. If you want to work 35 hours a week, that's £16.43 an hour, but we know that the average rates are higher than that. Once you have your hourly rate, you can start to think about what services you can offer and how much to charge for them. 

 

Remember that freelancer rates are higher because you’ll need to pay your own taxes, National Insurance, buy equipment, pay for broadband, phones, software, Corporation Tax etc. so add that into your calculation to work out how much you need to earn to be comfortable. 

 

Remember, as a freelancer you are not just selling your time - you are also selling your skills, experience, and expertise. 

 

Be sure to include time for additional work beyond the job itself. Meetings, admin, chasing files and edits/ revisions should be included. Your contracts should also entail how many revisions you include.

Don't be afraid to charge what you're worth!

 

One of the most important things to remember as a freelancer is that you are running a business. This means that you need to know your worth and charge accordingly. Don't be afraid to ask for what you're worth; if a client wants your services, they will be willing to pay what you're asking.

 

When you're just starting out, people may recommend that you lower your rates. However, you may have decades of experience. You are not the same as someone who has just decided to start doing some marketing for friends and family. You have tenure and value to bring. Don't reduce your rates just to get started. Live with a little discomfort as you learn to negotiate, pitch and your first victory will be worth celebrating! 

 

Remember if you low ball your day rate to land your first gig and it goes well, increasing that day rate in a renewal situation is just as hard as getting the day rate you wanted at the start of the contract…maybe even harder!

 

If you're not sure what to charge, have a look at what other freelancers in your field are charging. This will give you an idea of what is realistic and achievable. 

 

How to find support.

 

With the right support, you can have a network that you rely on just like when you worked in marketing for a business. Connecting to other freelancers is a great way to decompress, bounce ideas and get insights. Even if you go it alone, you can still get new ideas. Podcasts are a great way to hear new insights. 

 

Some of the top marketing podcasts we like to get new ideas from include The Small Business Boss, The Digital Marketing Podcast, Perpetual Traffic and Marketing Over Coffee. 

 

I was kind of worried going into freelancing that I might not be as emotionally involved with the project, but I certainly have. I'm so invested in how it's working. I'm up all hours checking it's live and the right time. I think you don't lose anything from not necessarily being a full time employee. With the company, you're still well supported, and with the clients that I've been working with, and with you guys, I still feel like I'm in the team. - Emily Wilson, iMG. community member 

Pick your niche

 

You can be a specialist in a skill or an area. What's best?  Depends on you. When you have a focus, it makes it easier for clients to understand what you do and why they should work with you. It also allows you to build up a reputation as an expert in that area. 

 

If you want to be a generalist, that's fine too! Just be prepared to explain to potential clients why they should work with you over someone who specializes in their area. 

 

Some freelancers find that they enjoy the variety of working on different projects with different clients. Others prefer the stability of working with just a few clients on long-term projects. There is no right or wrong answer - it all depends on what you want and what works for you. 

 

Your brand name is up to you, but something simple and memorable should be top of your list. Trying to explain that your strapline is the Latin term for ‘memorable, comprehensive, cost effective’ (memorabilis, comprehensiva, sumptus efficens) will soon get tiresome. 

Getting your first client

 

The iMG. will support you when you are a member, but once you've made the decision to go freelance, it's time to start looking for clients in all sorts of ways. The best way to find clients is to network. Get out there and meet people in your industry; you never know who might need your services. You can also search for job postings online but be warned that the competition is stiff and contract value can be low. 

 

Another way to find clients is to build a portfolio. This can be a website, blog, or even a social media account where you showcase your work. When you have a portfolio, potential clients can see your skills and decide if you're the right person for the job.

 

If you don't have any previous work to show for the niche you want to enter, don't worry! You can create some sample pieces to put in your portfolio. Or some of the previous work you have completed in full time roles. Use what you have and be creative. 

 

A huge source of new business is new people who are, or work with existing clients. It never hurts to ask your customers if there's anyone else they know who might be able to use your skills. 

 

Meetings and business events are also great ways to connect with people and play the long game. Networking at these events isn’t about leaving clutching a signed contract, but about building relationships, listening to the needs of someone else, and suggesting a win-win opportunity if it’s appropriate to do so.  

Using your network

 

Your network can be as vast as: 

  • Previous employers / current clients

  • Previous colleagues

  • Relatives / Family connections 

  • Neighbourhood groups/ online groups

  • Meet up / business groups 

  • Online sites in your niche

  • Forums 

  • Social media channels 

 

Speak to people and aim to bring value, share wisdom or add insights. 

 

This is why having a blog or portfolio comes in handy. As people research you, there’s information out there on what you do and why you’re so great!

Read the news! The news can be a great source of ideas. Perhaps you worked with a client in green energy for a one off job. News of the reduced wind rates could be a reason to get in touch. Would they like an article, video, graphic or campaign around the news? Tell them you have some ideas and get ahead of other people. 

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