How to be a Freelancer in the Creative Industry

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Here in the UK, freelancing is on the rise. Since last year there are more 182.000 people working for themselves, with a total of 4.69 million citizens declaring being self-employed.  The trend will only grow as the so-called shared economy expands opportunities worldwide and Wi-Fi connections allow us to be online practically everywhere.

In fashion and other creative industries, freelancing is as new as Dior’s New Look since informality is king and many jobs don’t require a long period of contract. For example, to shoot a campaign, you only need a photographer, stylist, models, hair stylists and makeup artists for a matter of days, and then a designer to art-finalise the project whilst web developers, copywriters and textile designers can work for multiple clients at once, completing tasks instead of hours. With the demand for all things digital, more functions were added, but they are not necessarily attached to a life in the office.

The freedom and flexibility are great and I believe more and more desired, however, as everything else in life there is a good and a bad side. Constantly chasing opportunities, doing your own accountancy and collecting payments are the down part of the freelance life. That’s why being organised and prepared is super important to avoid frustration, under payment or even no payment at all! So here are some hacks to set up, improve and make a real living as a freelancer:

  • Don’t work for free: do I need to explain? Well, just a quick example: would you go to a café and ask for a cappuccino for free because “if I like the taste I’ll tell all my friends to come here”? Of course not! So, repeat after me: I’m not going to work for free, I’m not going to work for free, I’m not going to work for free. Believe me, it took years to understand that there is no point in doing it. However…
  • Collaborate to build your portfolio: ok, you are going to tell me that without a proper portfolio, you can’t showcase your work and don’t have money to pay models, photographers, designers etc. Well, I’m sure the models, photographers, designers etc think the same, so collaborate with each other! Everyone will be happy and gets an improved portfolio! Most important: without falling for false promises or feeling undermined!
  • Network, network, network:  there is no better way to meet potential clients and collaborators. You should have a killing portfolio/presentation but talking face to face about your work and exchanging business cards means you are a few steps ahead to be remembered and contacted for a job. It is totally worth to put a real effort. (read my networking tips here)
  • Money matters: you already know that, of course, but how to manage it? Do you know your hourly rate, how to do the monthly accountancy and calculate taxes? If you are under an Umbrella or has registered as a limited company, someone will take care of this, but it is always good to have it organised. Softwares like FreshBooks and Hiveage help to create invoices, receive payments and manage expenses while apps like Motiv give the price you should charge based on expenses and lifestyle. There’s more suggestions here. 
  • Don’t forget the contract: last but not least, always sign a contract. It doesn’t need to be an elaborate, 100 page document, just a simple agreement stating what the client requests, what you will deliver and key details, like how many alterations/revisions are included, dates of payments, deadlines etc. If you don’t have a clue on how to write one, check Shake, an app that offers templates for different types of legal docs.

Finally, look for organizations that provide guidance, support and networking. On IPSE, by becoming a member you are entitled to special services like insurance, contract reviews and specialist advice. The Freelancers Club is a community of creatives that allows you to promote work, apply for jobs and collaborate. Both also offer regular webinar and talks, so check it out!

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