Hey lovely freelance peeps! This week we’ve got a guest post from the lovely Katie from Little Green Duck!
Over to you Katie!
In 2017, whilst on maternity leave with my second child (he’s 5 now, HOW?), I got a call from my company’s US-based HR department to tell me they’d be making me redundant with immediate effect.
The entire UK function of the company was closing, so there was nowhere else to go. This was pre-COVID and therefore pre super flexible global working – I wonder how that conversation would have gone in these new, remote times.
Anyway, the point was, I found myself at a very abrupt end of a corporate career in the broadcast industry that had started when I was just 22 years old. So it’s pretty much all I’d ever known.
In that period of swift transition, and pretty much every day since, I’ve learnt some important lessons about navigating the differences between corporate and freelance life, and I’d love to share some of them with you if you are, or are soon to be in a similar situation.
Leverage your existing network
In those first few months after leaving my corporate job, I made sure I burnt no bridges. I was well-respected and (apparently – likeability is in the eye of the beholder) well-liked, and I had a lot of friends and contacts in pretty influential places.
If you’re just embarking on your freelance career, make the most of every single connection, whether you think it’s relevant or not. Send messages to people to let them know what you’re now doing – you never know when they might have a conversation with a potential client.
Remember – telling someone who already knows and trusts you about your new venture is WAY easier than reaching out cold to someone who has never heard of you before. That respect and willingness to recommend you no matter what you’re offering is absolute gold dust, so don’t let it slip through your fingers.
Treat your business like a client
One mistake I made right at the beginning was trying to shoehorn all my marketing, admin, content creation, sales, accounts and everything else that wasn’t a paying client into the odd hour here and there, or into my evenings.
This meant that I wasn’t giving the same attention to my own business as I was to my clients. Therefore, arguably ensuring their success but not their own.
As soon as I transitioned into treating my business like a fully-fledged paying client and giving it the time and respect it needed (and deserved), it BECAME a paying client by bringing me, you guessed it, paying clients.
Oh and as well as treating your business like a client, try to treat yourself like you would a close friend. Give yourself the advice you’d give to someone you really care about, and try really hard to take it.
These two approaches combined will help you build a business that is sustainable and that you enjoy, rather than spending all the time chasing your tail and being cross with yourself.
Build a relevant social media network
If your freelance career is in a similar field to your corporate one, this step should be fairly easy. Using tip 1 above, keep networking with relevant people, make the most of introductions and encourage referrals. Join in conversations so people in your existing network get used to your new role as a freelancer (and so you get used to it too!)
If, however, you’re making a move into a totally new industry, now might be the time to have a big purge of your LinkedIn and other social media contacts (being sure to keep hold of anyone from your old industry who is active on social media or who might be able to refer you to others. Next, populate your feed with voices you want to hear from and start joining those conversations. You’ll be amazed at how quickly you’ll start seeing regular familiar faces, and becoming a regular, familiar face to others.
Save for tax, and don’t panic when income dips
Freelance life is a total rollercoaster. One that I don’t think anyone is ever truly comfortable riding.
But it’s important to save for taxes, so on a low income month you know you can always keep HMRC happy. Then, it’s just about buckling in and bracing yourself for the peaks and troughs. The projects & money WILL come again if it’s come before. Stay consistent, believe in yourself and instead of going into panic mode when you have a slow client month, use it as an opportunity to get ahead with marketing, double down on booking in sales calls and taking a bit of time for yourself before things pick up again.
ASK. FOR. HELP.
I wrote that in capitals because it is SO IMPORTANT.
Freelancing can be a lonely head f*ck. Trying to do everything alone like making strategic decisions, planning, budgeting, marketing, selling, designing, writing, bookkeeping, and all the other stuff that comes with freelance life, as well as trying to have an actual life can be tough, Please don’t be ashamed to join communities, ask for advice, invest in expert support and be vulnerable on social media.
If you’re going through it, someone has likely gone through it before you, so please ask for help when you feel you might need it.
Oh, and one last thing. Get a comfy chair. You’re going to spend a lot of time in that chair so make sure it doesn’t screw your back up.
Anything I’ve missed?
I’d love to hear your thoughts on navigating the shift from corporate to freelance life, so I’ve popped a thread on LinkedIn for you to add to. Please feel free to swing by and add your own lessons, or add a question for me or another business owner to answer.
Good luck with your transition and please do reach out if you need any advice or support.
About the author
Katie Skelton is the founder of LIttle Green Duck. Katie is a business strategist & consultant, who helps impact-led and sustainability-focused business owners to manage their teams and projects, get clear on their goals and ultimately amplify their impact.
Katie lives in the New Forest in Hampshire with her husband and two children, lists “eating crisps” as one of her main hobbies and is most at peace watching a sunset (or sunrise, if she’s up in time) over the sea.