This week’s Featured Freelancer, as he keeps telling me, loves Freelance Heroes. Mainly because of the community spirit and the willingness from so many to dive in and support others. That’s because Bernie J Mitchell is all about community and collaboration, which you’ll learn when you read about all the collaborative projects he’s been involved in, both online and through the coworking spaces he works with and helps run. So it’s no surprise then that one of the main bits of advice Bernie would give to other freelancers is to go out and meet others.
There is no such thing as a solopreneur, which Freelance Heroes proves time and time again, and Bernie beats the drum of this mantra more than anyone I know. Plus, he’s a truly fascinating man, as I’m sure you’ll now learn from his freelancing story. Enjoy…
What is your name, where are you based, and what do you do?
Bernie, London, Content Strategy, Blog podcast and help run a coworking space in Euston
How long have you been freelancing and why did you decide to become a freelancer?
I worked this out the other day, I have been freelancing for over 15 years, first as an event manager and then in content and communications.
What support did you have from family and friends? Did anyone advise you against becoming freelance?
This part was tricky, all my family have ‘real jobs’ like teacher, nurse, banker, lawyer etc. I wanted to be a teacher and found out so much about education while doing my degree in English Literature and education. It made me realise I loved learning but did not like the school system. I leaped head first into being the world’s most amazing entrepreneur, it took a while and a few punches in the face to commit to building a solo freelance practice.
Did you use any professional support resources in starting your freelance business?
I joined a coworking space and invested in Fizzle, Freelancer to win, Paul Jarvis Creative Class, Copyblogger Authority – I read none stop and interview people every week for my podcast projects.
How would you describe your clients or customers?
I with people making online courses or products on Upwork and now Malt, and off-line I work with smaller coworking spaces. It is all about content strategy for building an audience and making leads.
Why do your clients/customers select you over your competitors?
I aim to be alarmingly honest and straightforward with people, so I am upfront about everything. These days I only work with people I click with. It was not always like this, I have worked on a lot of projects where I was the wrong person for the job.
Is being a freelancer what you expected? e.g. Do you work more hours (or less) than you had first anticipated?
It is now, I was playing at it for a long time. I was being a freelancer because I did not want to get a job or have a boss. Around five years ago when I was at an all-time low I found it in me to take building a freelance practice seriously. This was when I started hoovering up online courses and learning about online communication, content strategy and running a highly efficient one person business. I made boundaries of when to work and when to stop. Saying no nearly everything, even if I needed the money, sticking to a fee and only taking work that fitted in my wheelhouse. I am totally crap at deadlines and working under pressure so I don’t put myself in those situations either.
What app or website could you not run your business without, and why?
Voice Dream Reader, I am super dyslexia and find it hard to read and interpret written text. This app turns PDF’s, blogs, websites, ebooks, white papers and google docs into audio in a few seconds. You can also send audio files and change playback speed. These days I am always the only person in the room who has read the whole report.
What advice would you give to anyone who wants to start a freelance business, specifically in your field?
Read every day in your field and get online to UpWork, Malt or Freelancer and just get going. You can up your rate every job you do on these platforms and apply for all the starter jobs here. Then if you do work at home find other freelancers near you on Meetup.com or in a coworking space. Connect and compare war wounds.
What are the most notable things you have learnt since starting your business; either about running a business or about yourself?
Always get paid upfront, if people are serious about working with a professional freelancer they’ll pay you upfront. Everyone who owns or manages a business can find a way to do anything if they want it to happen.
What is it about being a freelancer that you most enjoy?
Making my own luck and always learning, when I dick around and whine nothing happens. When I stand up for myself and help other people good stuff happens.
What do you enjoy the least about being a freelancer?
Never quite finishing my website! It is a huge mental effort to always be working for yourself, the responsibility of doing what you love is a huge one, some days I just want to slack off and eat cakes and watch Netflix.
What is your ultimate professional goal as a freelancer?
Get more and more accurate and niched at what I do and to be able to travel every month with my family and leave my computer at home.
What one thing do you wish you had known before you became a freelancer?
That it is a valid career option. Not a stop gap, ‘can’t get a job’ or weird thing to do. Even when I was a freelance event manager it felt like a stop gap. I’d would have dug my heels in earlier and set out to “build a freelance practice” like I am now, rather than done anything that came my way.
You can connect with Bernie at:
Podcast: Ouishare Radio
Coworking Space: At Workhubs, Euston
and, of course, in the Freelance Heroes FB Group (along with 2300+ other UK Freelancers)