People choose to take the leap into the world of freelancing for many reasons – choosing your own hours, being your own boss, operating in new locations, and having the opportunity to earn and keep all your profit being just a few.
When IPSE released their latest research to coincide with National Freelancers Day, the annual event celebrating the UK’s 1.9 million people who make the brave step to work as independent professionals, I thought it was worth pulling out the most important reasons from the research that freelancers choose to work in this way.
1. Being your own boss
79% of people work as a freelancer because they like to be in control of their own work. As a freelancer, you don’t have to answer to anyone but your customers and yourself. Working for this way frees you from the employee mind-set as you can choose the people that you work with. And making the tough decisions is your responsibility: Freelancing is effectively like being in charge of your own business, except you are the business, you are in control.
2. A better work/life balance
69% of freelancers choose to work this way because it provides them with a better work/life balance. As a freelancer, you choose how you want to work, whether this working from home or on the move. You’re no longer constrained to a nine to five office environment. Finding the way you work best can be a real boost to productivity.
3. Flexible Hours
61% of freelancers work this way to gain greater control of their work hours. When you’re a freelancer, you choose how, where and when you work. Greater flexibility means that if you want to work at home you can, or if you need time off for a holiday or to just take a break, you can do that. Freelancers can work during their most creative and dynamic hours, and that doesn’t have to mean regular business hours.
4. Keeping the profits
59% of freelancers are motivated by the opportunity to keep their profits, maximising their earning potential. As a freelancer, you get to work at your own skill level, where you can allocate or keep all the profits from the work you do. This provides freelancers with the freedom to then use that money to save for their future and secure their finances.
5. We choose to freelance
Freelancers are sometimes cast as a vulnerable group, but IPSE’s research found only two per cent are actively looking to make the switch to becoming an employee. And only one in ten responded that they turned to freelancing because they had no other option.
It’s clear the vast majority of freelancers prefer and enjoy this way of working. Not only that, but IPSE’s research has also shown the growth in the number of freelancers has come in professional and highly skilled sectors.
Overall, freelancers just love the way and would encourage anyone else to do it.
I’ve been shortlisted by the nice people at IPSE as a Freelancer of the Year finalist in their Freelancer Awards. This is mainly for my work at Montfort, but also for other initiatives like Freelance in 30 Days. It’s a lovely surprise.
I love learning about how other freelancers run their businesses, so it’s been interesting to look at the stories behind and how they’re setup. I’m looking forward to meeting the other finalists in real life, as ‘ useful when freelancers get together and share insight on what is and isn’t working for them.
There are also some fantastic examples of younger freelancers going it alone at a relatively early stage in their professional careers. I’ve had several conversations recently about the rise of freelancing as a choice among people leaving university in the UK, which I’ll expose in a later post, but for now it’s well worth checking out – and supporting! – the shortlisted young finalists:
The results of the award will be announced as part of the celebrations around National Freelancer Day on 12th November. I’ll be sure to let you know how I got on then.
As part of the award judging process, I was interviewed by the IPSE team about my journey as a freelancer so far, as well as what I love about freelancing and my thoughts on the future of freelancing and self employment.
I’ve copied the interview below so you can share in my thoughts. I’d love to know what you think in the comments.
IPSE Freelancer Awards 2015: Interview with Ben Matthews
Describe your business
Working along with my wife, we run a digital agency, Montfort, which runs digital, social and contenting marketing campaigns for some of the biggest and brands in the world. We offer senior strategic counsel and honest independent advice to the biggest brands around the world.
Together we work with the likes of the UN Refugee Agency, The Guardian and Harper Collins, bringing in a wide range of trusted freelancers (AKA Mates of Montfort) to work alongside us.
What is your greatest business achievement?
I was recently appointed as the youngest member to the panel of Public Relations Consultants Association (PRCA), which represents the interests of PRCA members operating as independent consultants. I’ll be working alongside people ten years my senior, a daunting but rewarding prospect.
For Montfort, I’d have to say one of most recent campaigns, for the Twitter hashtag #WalkTogether. A wide group of organisations, co-ordinated by British Future, were looking to engage the people of London and across the UK on social media in a public commemoration of the tenth anniversary of the 7/7 bombings. Montfort were asked to manage key social media channels on 6 and 7 July, engaging with supporters of the #WalkTogether campaign, encouraging people to take more photos, retweets, favourites and likes. The results were outstanding. For a small team, we were able to have #WalkTogether trend worldwide for the day.
What made you want to work for yourself?
I felt like I was stuck in a rut and wasn’t stretching myself enough as an employee. I initially hadn’t considered freelancing until I met with a former colleague who had taken the jump years previously, and told me how much more joy it brings to his work life balance.
Taking the leap into freelancing after having a steady job was probably one of the most nerve-wracking things I’ve ever done. But I survived (and thrived!) and haven’t looked back since.
Why is self-employment so important?
The freedom and opportunity to create new projects is particularly exciting, especially as it hasn’t been readily available in my industry until now. It’s made it an exciting time to be a freelancer.
Speaking about digital trends for 10 minutes is hard enough. Speaking about digital trends for 10 minutes to a group of around 50 independent consultants is harder. Speaking about digital trends for 10 minutes to a group of around 50, slightly soggy from the London rain, eager to get back to networking, independent consultants was the fine audience I spoke to tonight.
I was invited by the PRCA Independent Consultants Group to speak on 10 digital trends in 10 minutes, so here I am replicating that talk in digital form, which should take you – hopefully less soggy, less eager to get back to networking – digital person about 10 minutes to read / consume.
Here are my slides and notes. Enjoy.
10 Digital Trends in 10 Minutes for Independent Consultants
To get thing started, here is the Slideshare of my slides from the digital trends talk. Pretty to look at and will give you the gist of the talk, but you’ll probably need to read on to get the full impact of my talk.
And for those of you who want the short version, here’s a GIF made using the simply brilliant gifdeck.in, that has made my 10 minute long talk into a 3 second, 10 image gif.
For those of you with the thirst for the full digital trend experience, here’s my rundown of the 10 digital trends I picked out and my notes from the talk. Keep scrolling to the end for questions – and answers – from the question and answer part of the talk.
1. Your network is still key, but is increasingly dispersed
Slack has been a runaway success since opening for business just over a year ago: it now has 1.1 million daily active users, with 300,000 of them paying for premium tiers of the service bringing in annual recurring revenue of $25 million.
We’re working with a client whose team is based in London, New York, Geneva and Copenhagen. Slack holds that team together.
Airbnb is a website for people to rent out their homes. It has over 1,000,000 listings in 34,000 cities and 190 countries. Airbnb offers more rooms than many of the largest hotel groups in the world–Hilton, InterContinental and Marriott—which each maintain just under 700,000 rooms.
Next week, I’m going on a working holiday to Turkey, using Airbnb. Good wifi, cheap flights and my clients don’t care where I work as long as the work gets done.
2. You’ll face increased competition, but have more opportunities.
“Trust in the authenticity and reliability of our sources is essential. Digital communications and a fast-moving news environment present special challenges for verification, and scepticism should therefore be the starting point”
More experienced consultants should already have this trust and know how to keep it
The Edelman Trust Barometer states that “Trust is built through specific attributes, which can be organised into five performance clusters”
products and services
These attributes apply to brands, but in the digital age they apply to consultants as well – especially as reputation can be more easily share online
4. Digital by design, not digital by default.
Digital is growing, but is not always the right answer.
Offline interaction still works wonders for the right campaigns.
Take a look at the number of events, photocalls and conferences that happen.
If traditional means of getting a client’s message out is the right one, then have confidence in that.
But if digital is the right medium to get the message out, then make sure that your campaigns have the right assets for digital – video, photos, text content.
5. Content is still king. Distribution is queen.
Content marketing is the creation and sharing of digital content, such as articles and videos, that informs, educates, or entertains you.
Content marketing allows brands to attract customers through articles and videos.
Instead of interrupting your online browsing with an ad, content marketing gives you valuable information through articles and videos that you choose to view.
While digital advertising focuses on promoting a brand, content marketing focuses on giving you helpful information that you want to see online.
6. Think mobile first, then work back from there.
Including the way you work, the content you create and how people consume it.
Ensure that your content is optimised for smartphones.
Ensure all media materials are succinct and engaging.
Use images and video to maximise campaign reach.
7. Paid social is becoming the norm. Understand its value.
Understand its value, even if you don’t use it yourself.
Run a few Facebook ads. See what works. Begin to learn what can work for your clients.
8. Video is on the rise (again). Facebook is challenging YouTube.
Fuelled by Facebook, vloggers and fast mobile data.
Zoella: 25 years old, born in 1990, has 8.5 million subscribers.
Facebook and Twitter both have native video players where video content is hosted and viewed natively within Facebook and Twitter.
Before this move, users who wanted to watch videos were sent off to YouTube, Vimeo or wherever the video was hosted. Now users can just watch the video natively where they are.
The end result? Twitter users stay within Twitter longer and use Twitter more.
“Within 18 months of releasing their YouTube competitor, Twitter will at least double their monthly users, double their time per user, and triple their revenue.”
Calin from Freelance Business Guide invited me to contribute to his Freelance Inspiration Infographic and I was more than happy to help inspire other freelancers on their journey.
Being called a “leading freelancer” was a great compliment, given the other names appearing alongside me on the infographic.
The likes of Sara Horowitz, Justin Jackson and Paul Jarvis are freelancers that I’ve been following, learning from and getting inspired by ever since I can remember being a freelancer.
It’s also great to discover new inspiring freelancers to check out, such as Julie Elster, Kai Davis and Brent Galloway.
The quotes themselves are copied underneath the infographic and it’s worth checking out Freelance Business Guide for even more inspiration.
What quotes give you the most inspiration as a freelancer? Let me know in the comments below!
The Freelance Inspiration Infographic
11 Inspirational Freelance Quotes
“The biggest challenge I overcame while growing my consulting business wasn’t convincing my clients to pay me more money or chasing after invoices. Rather, the biggest challenge was internal — convincing myself that I was worth the rate I wanted to charge and raising my rates from $25/hour to $100/hour, $1,000/day, and $5,000+/week. And you know what? As I’ve increased my prices, the clients I’ve worked with have turned out to be better, more receptive to my advice, and see us as partners instead of viewing me as a laborer on their project.
So, dear consultant, know this: the easiest way to get paid more is to raise your rates. And the only person in the world who can stop you? That’s you.”
“Don’t ever be afraid to pick up your phone. Seven figure business owners don’t survive unless they pick up the phone and make that real connection to their clients. Email can be a crutch in client communication. If you need something, call.”
“To truly excel in a consulting career, you need to sell your brain. Your strategy, knowledge, and advice will always be more valuable than your hands. Help your clients reduce risk, and build value, not just complete tasks. Don’t sell your time, sell clients a better version of their life.”
“In order to shape the industry for the better, you have to create high standards and stick to them no matter what.
As a business person, it’s your responsibility to know your core values and to pass them along to anyone that works with you. You might feel obligated to give in to a client’s request for the sake of landing the job or to get paid. You might fear that you have to do absolutely anything to stay ahead of your competition. But the secret is – you don’t have competition! As a freelancer, there will always be someone beneath you charging next to nothing for the same services you offer, but the clients that go to those people aren’t clients you should want to work with.”
“You can think of freelancing as volatile and risky, or as flexible and opportunity-rich.
Doesn’t having multiple sources of income and multiple moneymaking skills sound less risky than putting all your eggs in one employer’s basket?
Freelancing lets you shift gears when the world does.”
“Position yourself as more of a consultant and less of a freelancer. Freelance work tends to be transactional, where you’re delivering directly on a service that a client had asked you to provide. The client asks you to complete a project, you deliver on that project. The difference with being a consultant is that you are looking to deliver value to a client. This approach can mean a large difference in the value a client sees in your work and the fee you get paid.”
“Most reasons to delay are invalid if you get right to the core: no time, no money, no audience. These are all future concerns, which make it hard to start anything. Worry about those things later or not at all. Make small decisions at first, and start moving in a direction that feels right.”
“Remember, nobody is hiring you just because you can design, write, market or code… they’re hiring you because they have a business problem. Your service (in their mind and yours) provides the solution to that problem, so focus on that rather than skill-jargon, buzzwords and vague lists of qualifications.”
“Don’t freelance to make a living – freelance to make a life. Money is important – but when you hit ruts, work 16 hour days and get that tough feedback, it’s going to be something else that motivates you. You need to remember why you started and keep it in focus.”
Finding freelance clients is one of the big challenges in freelance life. You may think it’s tough at the beginning, but the ebb and flow of freelance work never stops and carries on right on through your more experienced years.
But any effort you put into finding and testing reliable places to find new freelance clients will make the job of finding more work that much easier. And if you put the effort in consistently and repeatedly, you’ll find that your efforts are rewarded exponentially.
1) Where do you find your clients? Freelance marketplaces (such as Upwork, Elance, etc.), or friends, or someone who has recommended you?
I always ask new client leads where they heard of us, which makes it much easier to track this. Looking back at the last few years, 90% of new clients are referrals from our existing network, 5% from old clients coming back to us, and 5% from enquiries through our agency website (mainly through the SEO and Content Marketing work we do).
2) With referrals, how you had got ones when you started? It’s hard to get quality referrals when you don’t have any clients.
When I started, I let people know that I was going freelance and was looking for work. Several friends and previous clients then recommended me for roles they were aware of.
One thing I did do when I first started freelancing was use my previous employer as one of my first clients. I hired myself back to them for 2-3 days a week, which helped make the transition to full time freelancer much easier!
3) Had you found any clients through your blog?
Yes, probably 10-15, but these are generally lower quality / smaller budget leads than through referrals or previous clients. I blog mainly to help other freelancers looking to establish their careers and become better freelances themselves.
4) What online resources related to freelance you read daily? What can you suggest?
I read the /r/freelance subreddit often, which has a lot of useful, real world problems and excellent advice for freelancers on a whole range of issues.
5) Is it possible to work in a daily office job as well as doing remote (freelance) work (for designers, marketers, and others)?
Yes, you can freelance on the side (known as “moonlighting”), but this can be stressful due to working for clients alongside a day job. It can be difficult to moonlight and remain productive at the same time!
Alexander’s post goes into great detail for each of these places to find freelance work, so the post is definitely worth a read when you have a moment.
Personally, I’m a big fan of number 15, as you can tell by my answers to Alexander, but number 13 is also proving a success for me. People like Preston Lee agrees with me, as shown in his post “Stop trying to find new freelance clients”.
I haven’t tried any of the other methods, but it would be interesting to hear if you or other freelancers you know have found success in finding freelance clients using those methods and what your breakdown of where you find new freelance work looks like.