How I went freelance: Matt Collins, Charity Chap

(This is the second in a series of interviews with freelancers, telling us their stories on how they went freelance. The aim is to help others who are thinking of becoming freelance learn more about what it takes, as well as get advice and inspiration so they can get the confidence and understanding to find out if freelancing is right for them. If you want to take part in the series, simply head here to tell us your freelance story.)

Name: Matt Collins
Freelance area: Digital marketing for charities, particularly making social media work better, as well as email, web, Google Analytics, and strategic work
Freelancing since: About two years, and full time for just under half of that.
Website: charitychap.com
Twitter: @charitychap

What made you decide to go freelance?

There were two things that made me decide. First, I’d always wanted to be my own boss. To be able to work whenever and wherever it felt most productive to do so, and to be totally responsible for my direction, was something that had massively appealed to me for a very long time. Second, through an event called NFP Tweetup, I had met many of the loveliest and brightest people in the digital charity world, delivering brilliant campaigns in all sorts of areas. They are clever and delightful – I wanted to work with as many of them as I could, and being freelance would give me the opportunity to do so.

What steps did you put in place before you went freelance?

Having done bits of freelance work in the year before, I already had a laptop, a website at www.charitychap.com and couple of clients. So it was a matter of telling those clients that I was going freelance full time, bulking up the website with details of what I could do for other charities, and telling all those lovely people I mentioned that I was available. I then got myself a small business bank account with the Co-operative Bank (free if you’re a member of the Federation of Small Businesses) so I could keep track of my finances. I also started filling my knowledge gaps. I knew there were areas of digital marketing that weren’t my fortes, so I read up, spoke to people and did e-learning. This really prepared me well. I found most of the bits I had to do as preparation relatively straightforward – the main thing was taking the plunge and getting started with the work.

How did it feel before you went freelance?

I know I should say nerve-wracking, but it didn’t to be honest! Now that it was actually happening, it felt like entirely the right thing to do, and the perfect role for me to be in. I just wanted to get started.

How does it feel now you are freelance?

It actually is the perfect role for me to be in. I love it. I’d wanted to make a big change in my working life for a long time, and I am incredibly glad I’ve gone for it, because it’s bloomin’ brilliant.

What are the positives of freelance life?

Every job feels a victory. Any time I get some work, from half a day to a couple of months, I know I’ve been specifically chosen for it. I never felt like that when I was given work to do in full time employment!

I can work when I want. While working the hours most people do still works for me, if I want a lie-in because there’s no pressing work on that day, I can have one.

I can work where I want. Without a boss that I’m accountable to, I can mix working at home, in cafes, in-house, in my co-working space and at my friend’s office (he runs www.diginate.com). This keeps me productive.

I don’t have a boss. Successes are down to me, and failures are too. Making mistakes as a freelancer feels much more positive than it did in full time employment.

What are the negatives of freelance life?

Income is unstable. I’ve been lucky not to have had many troughs, but they do exist. So you have to plan for them, both financially and to use them for training and self-promotion in preparation for the next peak.

You have to find ways of interacting with others. There are always people to chat to in an office. But if you’re working solo, you need to book some meetings, coffees and other things to stop you turning into a crazy hermit.

You’re out of your comfort zone. In my first year, I’ve done lots of stuff I’ve never done before. That’s hard, but flippin’ eck do you learn a lot. And it’s a million times better than doing the same task over and over.

Any advice for others looking to go freelance?

Do it, do it, do it! To be fair, while I personally love it, it’s not for everyone. Lots of people have told me they could never do go freelance – of course they could, they just don’t want to, and that’s cool.

Just consider what you’ll do, your potential clients, how you’ll get yourself out there, and whether you can deal with having unstable income. If freelancing is something you want to do, you’ll work that stuff out. Because the rewards are there in abundance.

Thanks for taking part, Matt, and for sharing your tips and advice. Make sure to check out his website at CharityChap.com or follow him on Twitter at @charitychap. If you want to take part in the series, simply head here to tell us your freelance story.)

More from the How I Went Freelance series:

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