What its like being a freelancer

Are you thinking of going freelance?

I’ve been self employed for 10 years this year as a freelance digital marketer, trainer, blogger & general wheeler dealer.  I took the plunge after becoming increasingly frustrated by office politics and red tape. I just wanted to create awesome campaigns, learn new skills and make my employers a tonne of money.  So when a freelancing opportunity came up, I made the leap and never looked back.


Why do I do this?

  1. I’m my own boss, in control of my destiny & can drive my career in the direction I want.
  2. I love working from home. My dog is my constant companion and I get to spend quality time with my daughter.
  3. Work life balance – this is something I’ve tried really hard to get right, and have to keep working at. For me, it does mean working mornings and evenings and a few hours at weekends and you need to have your family on-board with that
  4. Variety is the spice of life. I don’t have a single income stream, I have several so if one dries up, it won’t be a total disaster.
  5. I’m always learning. For me, this has always been my biggest motivator.

Some focused family time

My favourite work colleague

what I’m currently working on

  • I currently offer paid search or ppc marketing (mainly Google Adwords) and digital marketing consultancy to a variety of organisations.
  • I also write for a couple of blogs, including this one, sell vintage toys and collectibles (with my husband) and I’ve got a couple of other businesses in the pipeline.
  • It’s really common for freelancers to have several income streams and it’s not as complex as it seems.

what i’m looking forward to this year

  • Launching new businesses
  • Increasing my community – I’ve met a lot of creative bloggers and makers in the past 12 months and hope to grow that very supportive network
  • Blogtacular in June. It’s a fabulously friendly blogger conference
  • Improving my photography – I’ve joined Makelight and learned an unbelievable amount in a short space of time, not to mention meeting some lovely people online.
  • Video editing – learning a new skill so I can add a different dimension to my blogging.

I’m really enjoying the Makelight Beautify Your Instagram course – it’s taken my photography up a notch

self development

It’s really key to keep learning and developing your skill set, especially professional qualifications. It is a cost you need to suck up, but I know it keeps my income streams constant and drives me to try new things which I can then advise my clients on too.

what my aims are

  • To help other people understand online marketing and build their brand online. Ultimately to help people make more money online.
  • Build my own brands online.
  • Keep learning new skills
  • Maintain work life balance

the scary bits

  1. The lean months
  2. The late payers
  3. The non payers
  4. Getting cash flow sorted out
  5. Your first big tax bill!

common misconceptions

  1. You can drop everything at a moments notice. While there’s a certain amount of flexibility (I set my own holidays, and do both ends of the school run three days a week), when you have clients that  work standard office hours, you need to make yourself available within those hours too. It’s really not acceptable to disappear suddenly because you had childcare issues or you fancied a day off, you owe your clients a professional duty of care and agree availability up front.
  2. That it’s the easy option. People think I work part time. In reality, I work more hours than I did when employed, it’s just spread around more
  3. You make loads per hour. Compared to a salary, an hourly rate it seems high. In reality it needs to cover sickness, holidays & sometimes people just don’t pay up not to mention those quiet months (it’s often feast or famine.)

Believe in yourself and magic can happen!

top tips to becoming a freelancer

  1. Have a nest egg ready for those lean months and emergencies. Ideally 3-6 months salary – it sounds a lot, but it’s better than credit card debt, believe me.
  2. You don’t have to have a business bank account, it costs you money unnecessarily
  3. Put 25% of your income away each month for tax. This is likely to be more than enough but gives you something else to fall back on in lean months.
  4. Keep on top of your hours, accounts and invoicing. I do this daily.
  5. Keep on top of tasks and deadlines. Even if you don’t have clients, you are your own client and need to book in self development and marketing time
  6. Keep on top of your inbox and communications – don’t be that person with 5 million unopened emails and never returns calls (your freelance work will dry up very quickly!)
  7. You don’t need an accountant to do your tax return but it helps in the beginning. A good accountant will save you more money than they cost.
  8. You can say no. Don’t accept every bit of work you’re offered because you’re worried you might not get work in the future. If it doesn’t feel right, turn it down.
  9. Set ground rules. Just because you’re working from home, doesn’t mean friends and family can phone or pop round when they feel like it.
  10. Some people will never get what you do and ask when you’re getting a “proper job”. Just let it roll over you, they’ll never understand!

Question: are you a freelancer or are you thinking of taking the leap? If you have any questions, I’d love to help, just comment below.

12 thoughts on “What its like being a freelancer

  1. Em Linthorpe says:

    So many great hints and tips here…I personally have a couple of bits and bobs on the side but it’s only pocket money really…hoping to put much more time and effort into it all when my son starts nursery next year 😉 congratulations on all your successes and long may they continue!! ❤❤

    • lollowe says:

      Thank you! I watched a great lecture yesterday about working on new projects and it was about starting small and just try stuff out, otherwise we can become overwhelmed by the “big idea”. Basically something small can snowball into something great, but if it doesn’t, just move on to the next thing. Good luck with your projects 😘

      • Em Linthorpe says:

        Cool, and that makes total sense. The whole “don’t put all your eggs in one basket” theory definitely applies to working from home, certainly until you truly find your strengths and passions x

  2. angelanoelauthor says:

    I like how you’ve laid out the challenges and the joys of your freelancing journey. I think you’ve hit on one of the best ways to build your brand–being an authentic human being. I’m no expert, but that’s what draws me in whenever I follow a blog. Thanks for the post!

  3. Janice Wald says:

    Hi Llowe,
    I know Shelley, Lisa, and Linda.
    In response to what you wrote, it is timely for me. I am having one of the “lean” periods you mentioned. I appreciate the perspective that there will be those times. I am keeping a cushion in my PayPal but people don’t understand why.
    Thanks for coming by my blog this weekend. I wanted to thank you for liking my blog traffic tips post and introduce myself.

    • lollowe says:

      Hi Janice, it’s lovely to meet you 😊 Those lean times are tough mentally as well as financially, hopefully a period of “feast” is on its way for you. I’m also on a leaner period, whether it’s the effect of Brexit or something else. So I’m doing a lot more self development time, getting ready for better days 😄

  4. Josephine Dellow says:

    I’d been wondering that about business bank accounts after looking them up and seeing that they wanted to charge for every transaction! You cleared that up quite simply, think I’ll be fine without! 🙂

    • lollowe says:

      I fell into the trap of the business bank account – it’s a totally pointless expense for freelancers. I ditched mine quite quickly when I wised up!

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