When you see a friend start a business, you feel a sense of joy and anticipation, and also ask a number of questions you don’t tend to ask of others: Is this a good idea? Will they succeed? Are they the right person to do this? In the case of this week’s Featured Freelancer, the answer is Yes, Yes, and Yes.
Like the journey of most other Freelancers, it’s not always been plain sailing. Especially when it comes to the paperwork. Here is this week’s story. Enjoy!
What is your name, where are you based, and what do you do?
My Name is Sarah Carter and I am a Photographer based in Bourne, Lincolnshire.
How long have you been freelancing and why did you decide to become a freelancer?
I gave up my last job when my little boy was born, 3 years ago, as I couldn’t afford to go to work and pay child care. I would have been working 8am-8pm and traveling to get there and back. I just couldn’t find child care for those times. I had always done photography in the background as a hobby but never as my job. So I then had a choice: go back to a job I really didn’t like and miss out with my little boy or do something I love as well as work as and when I want to.
I started doing weddings and events 2 years ago and now have a studio that I love, where I do family portraits and product photography.
The last few months has brought more commercial work my way and now this takes up most of my working week.
What support did you have from family and friends? Did anyone advise you against becoming freelance?
Family and friends were very supportive. There were one or two that said “you are going to need to get a real job, you know!”
Did you use any professional support resources in starting your freelance business?
No I didn’t use any support resources when I first started. Looking back i really should have.
How would you describe your clients or customers?
My clients are varied depending on what job I am on and they are all fabulous in their own way. In the studio I meet lots of families with young children, at weddings I work with couples on a very happy but stressful day, and my commercial photography takes me all over the country to work with lots of different people, from creative teams in big companies to small business owners.
Why do your clients/customers select you over your competitors?
A lot of my clients have been with me from the start. I have a few families where I have photographed their wedding day, then their new born baby and their christening. I meet with clients before and always insist of a coffee and a chat before I take on any big jobs. I like getting to know my client and know their expectations too. My feedback on Facebook seems to say that I am really friendly and relaxed but get the job done.
Is being a freelancer what you expected? e.g. Do you work more hours (or less) than you had first anticipated?
Being a freelancer is pretty much what I expected work wise. I do work more hours than I thought I would but that’s what is motivating me at the moment to work smarter. I have found it hard at times but now I can happily chose what jobs I take on. If there is something I don’t want to do I just say no. You can’t do that when your boss comes over and asks you to do something! The freedom and feeling of being in control of what hours I work is amazing.
What app or website could you not run your business without, and why?
I could not work without Facebook. I don’t do any paid advertising so all my work has come via word of mouth and people finding me on Facebook. Occasionally more of my commercial work has come from Twitter. I have also recently joined Linkedin and have already booked some work from connections on there.
What advice would you give to anyone who wants to start a freelance business, specifically in your field?
Anyone wanting to go it alone and work for yourself as a photographer …Do it!
It can be hard work and people don’t always understand what you do behind the scenes but it’s worth it if you love it.
I would say not to take on too much at once and be honest. If you get asked to do something you feel is beyond your capabilities then say no. It’s better to get a job done that you are proud of and want to put your name to than something where you have over stretched and you’re not 100% happy with.
What are the most notable things you have learnt since starting your business; either about running a business or about yourself?
Since working for myself I have learnt that I am not wonder woman and I cannot do every job that comes my way. I have to plan my time so I am still able to build a relationship with my clients and spend enough time editing photos to their specification. I also need to make sure every client get the same amount of dedication.
I have learnt a day-to-page diary is the only diary. Small pretty handbag ones are no good to me!
What is it about being a freelancer that you most enjoy?
I have learnt that I need to be consistent in my approach and my attitude. Running a business is not just doing the job you have been paid to do, it’s all the other things behind the scenes too, e.g. invoicing, paying bills, customer service, enquiries, social media, networking, maintenance of the building, designing studio sets, ordering backdrops and props, forms and contracts and chasing payments. When I worked in a large company there were different people for all these jobs. Working for yourself means it’s just you and all those boring bits still need to be done.
What do you enjoy the least about being a freelancer?
What I enjoy least is all things to do with accounts. Numbers are not my friend. I am much more of a creative and even the thought of it gives me shivers. That’s the one area where absolutely needed help and have a lovely accountant that does all that number stuff for me.
What is your ultimate professional goal as a freelancer?
I would like to do more commercial work. I have a really exciting project that I worked on recently that hasn’t come to print yet. Once that is out I would love to do more work where I see it in print on shelves in the shops and can say I did that! I suppose ultimate goal would be to be recognised. Where someone sees a photo and says just by looking at the image “Wow, that’s by Sarah Carter!”
What one thing do you wish you had known before you became a freelancer?
I wish I had known how much time is wasted by over thinking, talking myself out of jobs or wondering if I can do this. If, from day one I believed I was good enough, I wouldn’t have spent the first few months worrying needlessly. I wish I had put pen to paper earlier on and had some outline of what I wanted to do and by when. It would have saved time further down the line.
To connect with Sarah, visit one (or all) of the following locations:
as well as the Freelance Heroes Facebook Group