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From agency to freelancer: Making the transition

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Last week, I marked 12 months since leaving the security of full time employment and joining Marie at The Enamel Works. It’s been hard work, challenging and at times scary – but incredibly rewarding, fulfilling and enjoyable too.

I’m not normally one to put myself forward as an adviser or an authoritative voice – I’m usually writing content that allows my clients to do that. But more than one person has asked me in the last week ‘what tips would you give?’ on leaving an agency and becoming a freelance consultant.

Far more experienced freelancers have already blogged about this, and I have no doubt many more will follow, but every freelance role is different and maybe, just maybe, nobody has done it our way. So here are my top five tips for nailing the transition from employment to freelancing.

 

1. Seek advice. The most important thing we did was speak to as many people as possible. We might not have realised at the time but each little nugget of advice helped us when making the decisions we made to get where we are now.

From other freelancers, to marketing bods and senior people from other sectors too – friends, family, colleagues and more. Speak to anyone, anywhere, anytime – there is no substitute for experience.

2. Invest in your website. I was hesitant about spending much on a website. I thought we needed a landing page at most, especially because we knew most of our leads would come through word of mouth and personal contacts. But I’m pleased to have been proved wrong.

Now our website is more than an SEO tool, it’s a portfolio; a branding tool and a show of intent. Even if they found us offline, we are quick to send prospective clients to www.theenamelworks.co.uk to show that we’re serious, not just working in our joggers from the kitchen table.

3. Make time to read. The biggest change for me moving from a thriving agency to a garden office has been losing the ‘office’ environment. Yes it’s the conversations at the kettle, but from a professional point of view it means I can no longer learn from colleagues.

We quickly recognised that we would need to do more reading than ever before if we want to stay up to date with the latest trends and ideas – so we make time for it every single day.

4. Build your networks. Don’t get me wrong here, I don’t just mean make yourself known at networking events – you know, the “I have clients looking for a copywriter, come to the golf club” type invites that we’ve all had.

I’ve lost count of the number of times in the last 12 months we’ve been asked ‘can you do <insert other job here>?’. Fortunately our experience means we’ve been able to say yes more times than no, but for things like design, photography or print, we’ve built a good network of partners that we trust.

Our clients know they lean on us for more than just our main services, so we’ve become a trusted adviser not just their copywriter.

5. Be prepared to work hard. Above all else, freelancing is not easy. If you’re looking for an easy ride outside of agency pressures, then it’s not for you.

You can expect late nights, difficult decisions, short deadlines and challenging situations – all before you’ve had to tackle accounts, new business, marketing and everything else that sits outside of the ‘day job’ (we’ve already blogged about this part of it).

I make no bones about it; if you’re not prepared to work harder than you do now, stay where you are.

 

Like the sound of The Enamel Works?

Of course, not everyone has the time to commit full time to freelancing – which makes it even harder to build a profile and win new clients. If this sounds familiar, we’re recruiting for a part-time freelance copywriter and communications consultant – offering all the benefits of freelancing without the hassle.

Click here for more details.