Have you go what it takes to become a freelancer? - Matt Essam

Have you got what it takes to become a freelancer?

If you are a talented creative type stuck in a nine to five you hate, you are probably restless at work. Maybe even with life in general. Yup, I know how you feel! But let me tell you this, there are ways to earn a living as a freelancer doing the job you dream of.

And even when you feel you don’t stand a chance, it can still happen! All you need is talent, time and persistence. Let me begin by telling you my story.

In 2005, I was 30 years old and worked in the legal field as a Senior Technical Advisor for a claims management company. Believe it or not, I actually enjoyed my job, but the managers were arrogant, ignorant and impossible to work for. Needless to say, the project I was working on was poorly run.  To cut a long story short, the decision makers did not understand the technical aspects of the job and consistently implemented ridiculous ideas. I could not see myself working for numbskull managers, or people in the legal field full-stop for another 30 to 40 years. I needed a change.

Life as a freelance writer

Whilst working in law, my hobby was writing fiction. Flexing my creative muscles was something I enjoyed to do – actually it was something I needed to do in order to release the creative energy I wasn’t able to expend anywhere else.

During this time, I discovered I had a gift with words so decided to pursue a career as a freelance writer. So I sold my house, handed in my resignation and moved to Amsterdam where I took a year-long writing course to hone my skills.When I first started working as a freelancer, work was difficult to find. There were no dedicated freelance sites posting jobs for creatives online. And without a profile I could not find paid work with a magazine or a company.

I did manage to publish a couple of funny stories in FHM and That’s Life! for which I was paid a minimal fee, and also found jobs through Gum Tree and Craigslist. However, most of the work I undertook in those early days were unpaid, but it was enough to build up a profile I could present to editors. With proof of what I could do, I landed a short-term role as a staff writer for a money management website. Ironically, the job paid less than the minimum wage.

But the experience was invaluable and I eventually started landing more paid jobs working as a freelancer from home. I focused on an email campaign targeting other creative industries and picked up a couple of clients I was able to collaborate with.

Finding Freelance work

Today, the market for online freelancers is massive and there are literally thousands of job listings posted to freelance websites on a daily basis. A quick search on Google will bring up plenty of encouraging opportunities for whatever creative industry you are interested in.

Freelance sites such as Guru.com, People Per Hour and Elance provide jobs for creative people across many industries, even virtual assistants and social media marketers. Then there are websites dedicated to creative industries which offer opportunities.

The wealth of opportunities to find paid freelance projects online is enormous, but you also need to be proactive and create jobs yourself. They often lead to better paying clients. They can be time-consuming and it sometimes feels like you are getting nowhere, but persistence always pays off! An email campaign is a good place to start, but you should be aware there is also a code of conduct for sending “cold-call” emails. Make sure you do plenty of research beforehand so you are up to speed with the do’s and don’ts.

The other alternative is to join social media networks. Linkedin especially is designed specifically for professionals to connect and you can land jobs through this platform if you conduct yourself in the right manner. Again do some research about networking on Linkedin.

You will also need to market yourself offline, networking at industry shows and exhibitions can open doorways.

Pros and cons of working as a creative freelancer

Despite the exciting possibility of working from home as a creative freelancer, do not allow me to lead you into a false pretence at this point; there are pros and cons.

Most freelancers will tell you that working from home and running your own business has its obvious benefits; keep your own hours, be your own boss, choose the projects you want to work on – and you don’t have to wear a suit or uniform.  All of this can be true – once you are established! When you first start out, the reality is you work long hours, you answer to clients who have no understanding of your job, and you can’t afford to turn projects down. But you can work in your pyjamas.

Online freelance sites attract small businesses and start-ups with small budgets. They cannot afford to pay top fees for online marketing campaigns or design work they need to set up their online store. But they are a good market to get you started if you are prepared to put the work in.Once you build up a profile that showcases your talents, you will gradually attract better paid work. That’s when you will see and feel the benefits of running a creative business. But even through the early stages, just the pleasure of working on things you enjoy doing is enough.

My career as a freelance writer kicked off in 2008. Since then, I have travelled around Europe and South America and have lived in eight different countries. If you want to travel, working online as a creative freelancer is the best job you can have. Not only that you can expand your services by networking and collaborating with other creative freelancers. Following my success as a lone writer, I now have a digital marketing firm working with freelance web developers, designers and writers.

So despite the challenges, with talent and determination you can live the dream. The opportunities are there and the law of attraction rules that you create your own world. If you are creative, you are a creator – so create the life you want.

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