Business Start-ups: The Freelancer

Second in my theme of business start-ups is Developer Freelancer, Patrick, let’s see what he has to say about his work and what tips he can bring to those of us seeking to set-up shop:

  1. What made you decide to go freelance?

It chose me! I worked at a great agency and took a leap to progress my career – I joined a start-up. After 2 years of hard graft, the start-up ran out of cash and made me redundant. I had a lot of contacts so jumping into a freelance role was the easiest way to restore income while I figured out what to do in the long term. I had freelancer friends and former-colleagues who had made the jump who helped me out a lot with good advice. In the end, I found that the flexibility suited me so I carried on.

  1. What was the thing you were most frightened about when you considered the prospect?

Once I had the experience of switching contracts a couple of times I started to lose the fear and feel more confident in the stability of the freelance market and my ability to find interesting work.

Ultimately your network, reputation and motivation are the biggest factors that you can control that will determine how successful you are as a freelancer.

  1. Now you have worked as a freelancer what would you say is the most rewarding part?

Ironically – the most rewarding part for me is when I feel integrated with the wider team. I’ve always maintained that it’s better to put your effort into supporting the team you’re working with as opposed to a specific project or their client. The quality of the work, satisfaction of the end-client and success of your direct-client all flows from that.

Projects, clients and agencies will come and go but there’s a real satisfaction that comes with building a relationship that survives for years and in my experience, it consistently leads to future work.

  1. Is there anything you find difficult about working as a freelancer?

My biggest struggle is getting actionable feedback to help me improve. In the freelance world, if you have a bad project your contract may be terminated but you may never get a clear understanding of what went wrong.

Similarly, you may have a great project and not fully appreciate which part of your contribution really made the difference. I’ve sought feedback from my clients on a number of occasions and despite getting positive feedback, I struggle to get anything actionable. There’s nobody who has a vested interest in helping you grow, so it’s something I have to work quite hard at to make sure I am developing professionally.

  1. Is there anything you miss about being a full time employed member of a team?

I’ve been extremely lucky to have worked for some truly fantastic teams, and I truly do miss working with them. I always valued having a boss and peers who were in my corner, rooting for me, and willing to help me. My career progressed very quickly as a direct result of the support I gained from colleagues who inspired me and were generous with sharing their time and experience.

Also the sense of ownership of a piece of work is something that doesn’t come so easily for a piece of freelance work and I do miss that.

Thank you for your thoughts in this, Patrick. This week really highlights again the importance of a great network of contacts to keep you going. Following-up with clients and colleagues can feel like a real time-sink but it is really worth taking time out to build these precious relationships for the future. If you are worried about neglecting your contacts and need help prioritising then please take a look at my client referrals or get in contact for more information.

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