If you knew how much admin was involved in running your own freelance business, would you still have done it? I suspect that if I polled this question, the answer would still be a resounding “yes”.
Yet it’s this lesson, along with so many others, that every freelancer has to learn when they start out. Not only that, but many challenges come as a complete surprise until we’re faced with them. Here are this week’s Featured Freelancers’ lessons and the story of her freelancing journey…
What is your name, where are you based, and what do you do?
My name is Rachel, I currently live in County Durham, and I’m a freelance video editor.
How long have you been freelancing and why did you decide to become a freelancer?
I’ve been freelancing for around five years, and it was something I really just fell into! I had been editing videos for around five years before that, until I got talking to someone who worked for a production company and I started working for them as a freelancer, all because they liked some of the fan-videos I’d put together. It was pure luck.
What support did you have from family and friends? Did anyone advise you against becoming freelance?
I had always been aware of the fact that freelancers are typically financially insecure, that it’s a risky thing to do etc., but at the time there were very few jobs to be had around where I lived – certainly not many creative jobs – so it really seemed to be the best way of working and gaining experience instead of hanging around waiting for a full-time, stable job to come along. My family and friends were extremely supportive, as editing is something I had wanted to do professionally for a long time.
Did you use any professional support resources in starting your freelance business?
It all started incredibly small with the few contacts I had and grew from there, so I didn’t use many resources initially. I use more networking sites and forums now, which really help to make new contacts.
How would you describe your clients or customers?
My clients are mostly videographers, filmmakers and directors/producers who are looking for someone for whom editing is their sole profession, and their speciality. I have several wedding videographer clients for example who outsource their editing to me when they have an unmanageable backlog, and some use me for all their editing, which is really great.
Why do your clients/customers select you over your competitors?
I think a lot of people in my field of work, particularly in this region, tend to market themselves as all-round filmmakers, and I think this can hold them back if a client is looking for someone who specialises in a particular aspect of film production. Editing is what I love to do, and is what I have the most experience in by far, so this is how I market myself.
I’ve also been told that I’m approachable, and that clients are not afraid to tell me exactly what they want in their project. They know that I won’t ‘take over’ their film and try to inject too much of myself into it unless they want me to, as I try to stay as close as possible to the artistic vision of each client.
Is being a freelancer what you expected? E.g. Do you work more hours (or less) than you had first anticipated?
Oh goodness, I definitely work more hours than I had anticipated! Though I recently came to an arrangement with my fiancée (who is also a freelancer) that we would take Sundays off, as work was beginning to take over and stress was taking some of the enjoyment out of what we did. Making that decision and deciding on specific working hours and enforcing a day off really helped to increase productivity during the rest of the week.
What app or website could you not run your business without, and why?
I recently began using an invoicing website called Zervant, which is completely free, and I’ve found it saves me so much time in admin and figuring out earnings and easily keeping track of what I’ve earned that month.
Social media is of course also really important to connect with potential clients and share what I do with a wide audience.
What advice would you give to anyone who wants to start a freelance business, specifically in your field?
Stick to your guns! Not everyone will like you, or appreciate what you do, but as with any creative job there will be people who love your work and people who don’t. Be as knowledgeable as you can about all aspects of your profession, and don’t be afraid to ask for clarification or help from other professionals in your field if you aren’t sure of anything. Most people are lovely. Make sure you take a day off work every so often to recharge, and always charge proper rates. Don’t undercut yourself, as doing this will just sap the creative energy right out of you. Also don’t panic if you have a quiet few weeks- it never lasts long, and downtime just gives you more time to improve your marketing strategy.
What are the most notable things you have learnt since starting your business; either about running a business or about yourself?
The most notable thing I’ve learnt about myself is that I have more guts than I ever thought I did. Running my own business has given me confidence in all aspects of my life, so really it’s been worth it just for that! Anything else is a bonus.
In terms of running a business, I think the most vital thing is forming good, strong, working relationships with your clients. If you’re not both on the same page from the outset, it just won’t work.
What is it about being a freelancer that you most enjoy?
I enjoy getting to make the decisions about most aspects of my job, including the hours I work, right down to being selective about the projects I take on. I love the variety and diversity of projects, and getting to use a multitude of different editing techniques, depending on what each project calls for.
What do you enjoy the least about being a freelancer?
There’s a side to me that really quite likes stability and job security, which is something that only very few freelancers get to experience. On some levels I do wish I had that. On the other hand, instability does keep me on my toes…
What is your ultimate professional goal as a freelancer?
I don’t have a lot of solid goals, as I feel it can lead to tremendous disappointment in yourself if, for whatever reason, they can’t be reached. I’d like to live a bit more comfortably, but so would everyone I think. I’d love to just see where this crazy life takes me.
What one thing do you wish you had known before you became a freelancer?
I wish I had known that a good 30% of my working life would be spent doing admin, paperwork, organising invoices, marketing etc… – the sheer amount of time it all takes up was a shock to me when I first started out, but it is incredibly important to keep up with these things and it ultimately really helps your business, so I’m used to it now. I also wish I had been stricter in in the first couple of years with using contracts and taking deposits before starting work, but it’s all a learning curve. I think it’s a good thing to not know everything straight away, as making mistakes is all part of growing as a professional in the early stages.
To get in touch with Rachel, visit one (preferally all) of the following:
Linkedin: Rachel Shenton
and, of course, in the Freelance Heroes FB group