HOW TO FREELANCE.

freelance life

Emma Hoareau

Emma Hoareau
November 27, 2017

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HOW TO FREELANCE.

A while ago I decided to focus a part of the blog on being freelance, as it’s something I get asked about a lot. How to do it, what to plan, what you have to know, how much to charge… I shared my own experience of going freelance here (with more bits to come).

To understand how others made the jump, I decided to interview 6 amazing freelance women. From stylists to writers, masseurs to food stall owners, they’ve been through all the highs and lows of freelance life. The main thing that stood out for me in all their answers was the phrase – so I just did it. That’s it. If you want to do it you just have to do it, there will be no perfect time or moment. It’s all on you.

I hope you find these women as inspiring as I do, and their answers useful if you’re thinking of doing the same…

Natalie Hughes, Founding Director of The Fashion Digital @natalie_hughes

Tell us a bit about yourself 

I’m Natalie Hughes and I live in London with my boyfriend and a cat called Fashion. I’m the Founding Director of The Fashion Digital, a social media agency for fashion brands. Our clients include Roland Mouret and the British Fashion Council. In my spare time, I write about fashion and music for the likes of VICE andMatchesFashion.com. And I also lecture on social media at Central Saint Martins.

What did you want to be when you were younger, and did you imagine you’d work for yourself?

I wanted to be a fashion journalist, working at a print magazine. I never imagined I’d be working in digital, let alone for myself, but thanks to the advent of social media and an underlying entrepreneurial spirit, here I am!

Did you study? 

Yep. I studied English Literature at Warwick Uni. When I told my tutor I wanted to go into fashion, he looked horrified.

When and why did you go freelance 

I went freelance in 2012. I was working as NET-A-PORTER’s Social Media Editor alongside running my personal fashion blog, and I was saying no to a lot of opportunities because of my full-time job. It felt like the right time to go freelance. Three years in, I was at capacity and realised I needed a team. The Fashion Digital was born!

What was the biggest challenge? And how did you over come it / what are you doing to try and overcome it? 

The biggest challenge was – and is – separating personal and work lives. When you’re freelance or running your own business, it’s all too tempting to work 15 hour days, and that’s just not sustainable. Moving into an office made this separation easier, and I also try to make more time for self-care, be it a quick yoga session at home or a massage… or a glass of rioja.

What did you wish you’d done or you knew before making the jump (if anything) 

The importance of saying no. When you’re freelance it’s all too tempting to say yes to everything that comes your way. It’s important to only work on projects and with people that bring you joy, and to save time for non-work stuff.

How did you figure out how much to charge? 

In the beginning, I had an idea of day rates from freelance friends. If you’re unsure, ask self-employed friends in the same industry! 

Do you think you’ll always work for yourself?

Undoubtably yes. I love being my own boss.

Frances Davison, photographer and Stylist @tilfrances

Tell us a bit about yourself 

I work as a freelance photographer and stylist, as well as contributing to an independent magazine as Fashion Editor. Most of my work is with fashion and lifestyle brands and bloggers. I’ve been living and working in London for the last 6 years.

What did you want to be when you were younger, and did you imagine you’d work for yourself?

I’ve always known I wanted to work in fashion but was never sure in what capacity – I never imagined being self employed because so much of success within fashion is being able to link yourself back to a big name – or it used to be anyway.

Did you study? 

I studied an academic BA at Central Saint Martins – Fashion History & Theory

When and why did you go freelance 

I worked throughout my degree and continued to intern when I finished – I did apply for full time positions but in the end I had enough relationships and returning clients that I didn’t need to look for a 9 to 5 role

What was the biggest challenge? And how did you over come it / what are you doing to try and overcome it? 

I still find the biggest challenge to be working solo – I thrive as part of a team, ironically. I try to forge relationships with people I can turn to for advice and as sounding boards who might have more experience in a certain aspect of a job, or to ask for recommendations on stuff like doing your own accounts and how much to charge. I recommend doing as many favours for people as you can.

What did you wish you’d done or you knew before making the jump?

To fully commit to it – for so long I didn’t really feel like I was freelance, I was just treading water until my ‘real job’ turned up.

How did you figure out how much to charge? 

I’m still figuring it out in some ways – usage can vary so much. Sometimes it’s all by the book, sometimes you do something because you want it in your portfolio or you love the brand.

Do you think you’ll always work for yourself?

In one sense I hope not – I’d like to know what it feels like to be part of a team in the wider sense than just production. There are a few brands and companies out there that I’d love to get the chance to work with on a more permanent level. On the other hand, I’m very used to working across many aspects of the creative process and would find it challenging to work in a narrowed role without as much control over direction.

Lucy Mee, Co-founding Director at Bill or Beak and Ink Squid @lucemee

Tell us a bit about yourself 

I grew up in a cute little town in Oxfordshire with my mother who was a self -employed dress maker and designer. At the age of 18 I started working at the flagship Jamie’s Italian in Oxford where my love for food grew. The produce used there was outstanding and I would stand at the pass by the chefs and ask questions, taste different dishes and learn about where the ingredients were coming from.

What did you want to be when you were younger, and did you imagine you’d work for yourself?

I actually really wanted to be an architect. I had always been into that type of thing but never really done anything about it. I think we are so pushed towards the norm when we are young. Going to school, doing our exams, getting into uni, getting a job… Which is all great to do, but I think unless you think other than that you wouldn’t know that there’s more you can do. My mum worked for herself so I had a little bit of that in me when I was young, but I really thought when I was at university that I would need to get a job working for someone else. So no I guess I didn’t really imagine it, I just fell into it.

Did you study? 

Yes, I studied Product Design. I hated it and didn’t know why I was doing it until third year when we had to write our dissertations. Since we could write it on anything we wanted to as long as the ‘Design’ theme was there (and because of my love of food) I wrote about how design plays a huge part in the food scene and how it was evolving at the time. That was it! I found my calling…

When and why did you go freelance 

After uni, and after realising that I loved food, my boyfriend and I researched the London street food scene. It was all kicking off and I loved everything about it. We thought, screw it let’s move to London,  start at street food stall and ride this god damn wave. So we did.

What was the biggest challenge? And how did you over come it / what are you doing to try and overcome it? 

In the beginning the hardest challenge was the lack of money. We almost had no money to pay our rent and it was tough. We applied to so many markets and just made great looking and tasting food and people just bought into it. We were a young couple starting out and people loved that. We got a double page spread in The Guardian a few months into our venture and it just took off from there. Now things have progressed massively, we are concentrating on self-drive and motivation, making sure we don’t over work ourselves and how to delegate properly, as we now have a team of employees. I’ve recently learnt the art of ‘letting go’ it and its magical…

What did you wish you’d done or you knew before making the jump (if anything) 

I wish I had known a little more about actual ‘business’. The numbers, the VAT, the Tax. It’s difficult to keep your self on top of these things when you have a million and one other things going on.

How did you figure out how much to charge? 

Back then, 3 years ago, we had absolutely no idea. We just saw what other people were charging and just went with that. Now we have full costing of every item and know our margins really well. That’s been 3 years in the making though.

Do you think you’ll always work for yourself?

100%. I know this sounds awful but I really couldn’t work for anyone now. I’ve never really had to so I just don’t know what it’s like which I’m very proud to say. However, I think the security of working for someone else is often a massive benefit and the fact that you can (in most cases) leave work at 6 and not have to think about it until the next morning. If you’re freelance – say good bye to that! However say hello to a cheeky Monday morning lie in if you want…

Shannon Mahanty, Freelance writer @shannonmahanty

Tell us a bit about yourself 

Hi! My name is Shannon, and I’m a 27 year-old journalist. I’ve worked in-house for titles like ELLE and ASOS Magazine and now I’m freelance!

What did you want to be when you were younger, and did you imagine you’d work for yourself?

I’ve always wanted to be a writer, at school I realised I could use writing to get into gigs for free (I had terrible music taste and this was obviously a huge deal at the time) and its always stuck. I didn’t really plan on working for myself, but I think now is a good time to do it. I’m glad I started out in-house, it’s given me a thorough understanding of how a print title works, and helped me get lots of contacts.

Did you study? 

I studied English and Theatre at Leeds, and did a year abroad at a Berlin University.

When and why did you go freelance 

Very recently! I’ve decided to move to New York in January, and I was doing a maternity cover at ELLE, so when that came to an end it felt like the perfect time to start working for myself.

What was the biggest challenge? And how did you over come it / what are you doing to try and overcome it? 

Organising my time is a big thing. I’ve learned not to just mimic office hours, some days it’s fine to start earlier or later, and what other job lets you have a bath in the middle of the day? I’ve learned to make the most of that and not feel guilty.

What did you wish you’d done or you knew before making the jump (if anything) 

I wish I’d known a lot more about taxes and all the dry financial stuff. I’m not very organised so I wish I’d got better at saving receipts and being on top of my finances before going freelance.

How did you figure out how much to charge? 

I always used to freelance on the side so I knew how much various places pay for an article. Having a day rate has been a new thing though, I figured it out by asking people I trust what felt like a fair amount. It’s really important to know your worth, especially as a woman when there’s still such a significant gender pay gap.

Do you think you’ll always work for yourself?

I have no idea! Definitely for the foreseeable future. There are pro’s and con’s of both, being freelance gives you the independence to write what you want (ish), but I’m a magazine nerd and there are some publications I’d still love to work for. I think it’s good to experience a bit of both.

Jade Jasmin, Wellbeing Consultant, Retreats, Holistic Therapies, Yoga @jadejasminco

What did you want to be when you were younger, and did you imagine you’d work for yourself?

I had always imagined myself in a creative industry of some sort. Hence why I tried out fashion and music. Although, I have also grown up around holistic therapies, skincare and business so this has also played a huge role in where I am now.

What did you want to be when you were younger, and did you imagine you’d work for yourself?

To be honest, I hadn’t thought about working for myself until a few years ago. I guess I didn’t feel I was ready and didn’t know what my business would be but when I began to think about it and ideas arose, I knew that I had to make it happen.

Did you study? Yes. I studied Fashion design at university and since then I have studied holistic massage therapy, Reiki, Rose Quartz massage and I am now completing my YTT 200 hours.

When and why did you go freelance?

I went freelance in June 2016 after spending over five years working in creative, busy roles in music, marketing, management and events. I became acutely aware of the physical and emotional impact of these hectic industries and stressful job roles. Therefore I made the move into wellness to help redress my own balance, and now receive great joy in helping others find theirs. I also decided that I wanted to be flexible, be open for opportunities and do collaborations that felt right.

What was the biggest challenge?

The biggest challenge was building up a client base and going back to basics after being on a comfortable salary. Although, it really puts things in to perspective and makes you realise that you don’t need all this “stuff”. I am really lucky to have amazing clients and people I collaborate with. Without them, this wouldn’t be possible. It’s built into a really nice community. Saying this being self employed can be difficult and there will always be highs and lows, but I always come back to thinking how lucky I am to be doing something that I truly believe in and love.
And how did you over come it / what are you doing to try and overcome it? 

It took time but I stayed true to who I was and what I believed in. I also set goals and put together manifestation boards to ensure I kept focused. I still do 🙂

What did you wish you’d done or you knew before making the jump? 

It would have been great to know more about the finance side of being self employed. How it all works etc.

How did you figure out how much to charge?

I really wanted to ensure my prices are affordable but I also think it’s important for there to be an equal exchange to make sure everyone feels good.

Do you think you’ll always work for yourself? 

Yes, I love it. I am currently lucky enough to have taken 5 weeks out of London to further my personal and learning developments – YTT in India. I love being able to be flexible for my clients and make business decisions based on if I feel it’s right. It’s important for me to collaborate with other people that inspire me and we have a similar ethos. I have joined together with Pip Roberts for our first Retreat abroad together this March in Morocco. Very excited about this one!

Tona Stell, Stylist and Fashion Director @tonastell


Tell us a bit about yourself 

I’m a London based stylist and Fashion Director at SUITCASE Magazine

What did you want to be when you were younger, and did you imagine you’d work for yourself?

To be honest when I was younger I never thought I would work in fashion, when I was really little I wanted to be a farmer, and by that I mean own lots of animals. Then as a teen I actually wanted to be a photographer.

Did you study? 

I did an Art Foundation at Wimbledon College of Art and then I studied Fashion Design at University of Leeds.

When and why did you go freelance

I went freelance in April this year, after being in-house at SUITCASE for about 4 years. I think it was time to try something new, and steer my career in the direction I wanted. Although I still work closely with SUITCASE I now have the opportunity to work with other magazines and brands.

What was the biggest challenge? And how did you over come it / what are you doing to try and overcome it? 

I think learning to accept that some weeks you may only have 3 days of work and some weeks you work non stop for 7 days. Also getting used to not having a pay check at the end of every month, things are a lot less routine and you need to be very organised to manage it. To be honest I am still working on all these things!

What did you wish you’d done or you knew before making the jump (if anything) 

I wish I had my finances in better order, but then I think I could always say that.

How did you figure out how much to charge? 

Luckily as soon as I went freelance I was signed to an agency called Stella Creatives. They’re amazing and handle all those tricky things I wasn’t sure about.

Do you think you’ll always work for yourself?

After university I think everyone has this fear of the dreaded 9-5 but I never really thought there was another option. It was only once I worked in fashion and met so many freelancers whilst I was at SUITCASE that it then felt like an option to me.