So, you’re thinking of working for yourself. Or already are. Awesome. Setting your own hours, being your own boss, working from home (in your pajamas!) can all be fantastic things. Having worked freelance for over a year prior to becoming a full-time Glammer, I’m amazed at how much I learned and how much I would do again. (So many mistakes!)

 

That said, I would encourage anyone (especially any woman) to work freelance if they can swing it. You have no idea how empowering it can be knowing that even if your company went under tomorrow, or you were let for go for any reason, you know you could survive (and, if you work editorial at a magazine, thrive) on your own (seriously, how do junior editors survive on those wages?!)

 

So, in the interest of sharing, I’ve gathered my top tips and takeaways here for going freelance. And please, do let me know if I’ve missed anything!

 

1) The most common question you will be asked is “What are you doing now?”

 

You may be so busy you can barely handle the workload but try not to take offense to this question. You’ll get sick of it but people have a hard time imagining where work comes from in this seemingly small market. Showcasing your work updates online should ease the annoyance.  Speaking of which…

 

2) Get your website/portfolio in order before you leave your job.

 

This includes updates to your CV, Linkedin and carving out your presence online. I cannot stress this enough: I’m STILL trying to gather over a decades worth of clips if for no other reason to have it all in one place as a digital monument to your blood, sweat and tears. But, this also applies when PR contacts for freelance assignment need to review your past work for consideration of other stories (interview requests etc.). It’s just a good thing to have.

 

3) Remember: You’re not a freelancer, you are a brand.

 

PR people will forget you (more on this in a later post) and #FOMO can drive you nuts but try not to get too irritated when you’re not invited to everything you used to. Even so, do make it a point to attend select events (read: higher profile or ones in your beat) and be seen every once in a while. Remember: Out of sight out of mind.

 

4) Always prepare a SOW

 

A S.O.W. (Statement of Work) saved my A.S.S. more times that I care to mention. Think of it as a very detailed contract – It basically lays out exactly what you are being tasked with, deliverables and timelines associated with it — but critical if it’s a longer term project.  Anything above and beyond the scope of the SOW, and the assignee either has to pay you more to do it or you’re not responsible for it.

 

You may think a basic contract will be enough but it’s best to prepare even just a basic SOW. One time I was asked to work on a magazine and in the SOW, I laid out exactly how many pages and words I was responsible for producing. After each one was approved along the way by the publisher (per the SOW) the publisher didn’t like how it all looked together and asked me to go back and produce several new pages. But, because of my SOW, the publisher had to pay me more to do it because as far as my contract was concerned, I had fulfilled my work. It’s unfortunate but companies will try and take advantage of you so it never hurts to protect yourself with a piece of paper, plus, as a freelancer your time is $$.

 

5) Speaking of which: Don’t underestimate your value.

 

One national newspaper I know offered $250 for a 2,000-word piece, interviews required. Another super successful Canadian mag demands that you sign off on global rights to your work meaning they can publish it in all of their international editions without paying you a dime. These, to me, are unacceptable terms. Just like any other professional or product, my time and my work have a market rate that must be met before you can leverage it.

 

6) Learn the art of negotiation

 

Ok, say you’re still building up your contacts or clips. You want to work for another brand but they don’t have the budget to pay you want you want. Well then, ask for more. Most women usually take the first offer, which is a big mistake. Professionally, courteously, realistically suggest you’re excited about said project, know you can deliver but would need TK% increase. 9 times out of 10, negotiating will work in your favour. #trust

 

7)  Carve out a niche.

 

You can’t be all things to all people but you can be the best to some and in the freelance game, expertise is what counts. My former colleague, Karen Kwan, specializes in health & fitness; Jill Dunn is beauty guru; Laura Lanktree specializes in video production. Become the go-to girl (or boy as the case may be) in a subject matter and, in essence, ‘own’ that category.

 

8)  Your work won’t always been inspiring…

 

…But it will pay the bills. The general rule is the less creativity required = the more it pays (think custom content, ghost writing and corporate and agency work). The key is to balance it with work that stimulates.

 

9)  Don’t say yes to every project.

 

The temptation is to say yes to everything that comes your way when you first start freelancing because you just don’t know when your next pay cheque will come. That’s a mistake. Only take what’s of value to you and what you can handle. I promise there will be other projects that come up and you’ll be cursing yourself when you’re working 24/7 trying to finish up some lame project you couldn’t give a crap about.

 

10)  Keep all your receipts.

 

You’ll be amazed at how many of those Starbucks Venti lattees are tax deductible. Major regrets on this one.

 

11) Keep up on your reading.

 

This may sound obvi but it’s important keep up on industry news so you can present new ideas and options for your clients. Indeed, they expect this and as an editor I get frustrated when freelancers don’t offer new ideas or know instantly what I’m referring to when it was published in WWD that week.

 

12)Do take advantage of more flexible schedules.

 

Deadlines come and go but there’s nothing quite as satisfying as booking a hair appointment with your mane man at 2 pm on a Wednesday while everyone else is in their cubicles.

 

13)Do keep a regular schedule.

 

It’s tempting to sleep till noon and catch up on your fave soaps but treat your work like, well, work – you should have ‘on’ time and ‘off’ time. I never though I had the discipline to avoid distractions (twitter, TV, online shopping, etc.) but after awhile you learn you don’t get paid until you put in the time so use it effectively. Plus, no one will see those purchases anyway if you don’t get your work done.