A day in the life of a freelancer
Have you have been considering leaving your permanent job and setting up as a freelancer? If you have you might be interested to find out what a typical freelancer’s day looks like.
We interviewed Susie Lee-Kilgariff a freelance Marketing Consultant to see what her day normally looks like.
A day in the life of a freelancer
- What is your job title? Marketing Consultant
- How long have you been freelancing and why did you decide to go freelance?I’ve been running my own business since the summer of 2011. I had resigned from a permanent role and was taking the summer off to decide what to do next. I was contacted by a number of the competitors of the place where I’d been working and was asked to provide some consultancy, which I did and it just grew from there. I’m not sure that many people deliberately set out to become freelance but once you’ve found you can stand on your own two feet, it’s incredibly hard to go back to working for someone else.
- Was it hard finding clients when you first started?
Not for me no. It started with a few competitors of my last employer but quickly grew through networking. I found the school playground was one of my best sources of new business and also got recommended by ex-colleagues and old suppliers.
- How did you figure out what day rate to charge?
I asked my accountant for help. I knew that I needed to earn at least the same as I had been doing when I was employed, so got him to calculate what my annual billings needed to be to take home the equivalent amount of money. I then made sure I allowed myself some holidays and based on that, calculated what I needed to bill each month and divided that back to a day rate.I then sense-checked that with a few other colleagues who either used the services of consultants like me or who were consultants themselves, to check I was in the right ballpark.
- What does your typical day look like? How do you split your day?
My typical day starts with dropping my children at school (which I could rarely do when I had to be sat at my desk at 9am) and then I often head straight to a client meeting. These can be anything from facilitating workshops to work in progress updates. Then its back home to my garden office where the rest of the day is spent researching and devising strategies, lots of calls with suppliers and media owners, and project management. A lot of my work involves assessing creative concepts and copy, or even copywriting, and I find the peace and lack of distraction means I’m very productive.
I try to keep to usual office hours but when I need to work flexibly around something like sports day, the joy of freelancing means doing some extra hours in the evening if I need to in order to give myself an afternoon off.
I try to dedicate specific days of the week to certain clients, depending on how much time they retain me for, but if an urgent issue arises, I’ll jump on it straight away. I’m acutely aware that I’m in a service industry and it’s just not good enough to take 3 days to reply to an email.
- Do you feel like your work life balance is better since you became a freelancer?
A thousand times yes! My last two permanent roles were intense, and involved long commutes. It meant hardly seeing my family through the week, which just made me miserable. Because I now work from home, I’ve saved 3 hours each day and can organise my time around family commitments. I still work hard but its on my terms.
- What are the best things about being a freelancer?
I enjoy the fact that I have a clearly defined scope of work and am clear on the objectives I’m working towards. It allows me to focus on delivering those objectives very single-mindedly, rather than being drawn off onto tangents or getting involved in office politics. I decided a long time ago that I wanted to be a marketing specialist rather than a generalist manager, and the freelance route allows me to be that expert. I definitely do not miss sitting in endless meetings of which only 10 minutes were relevant to me!
- What are some of the drawbacks of being freelance?
You have to make time for keeping your skills up to date and learning new stuff. Otherwise there’s a risk that you get pigeonholed for being good at one thing or worse, that you become dated. And then there’s the drawback of not being part of a wider team. I’m pretty good at motivating myself but there are days when it would be good to share the load or just have the office banter.
- Is there any advice you would offer anyone thinking about becoming a freelancer?
I would advise people to think carefully about how they will generate new business and who from. I’ve seen friends who relied too heavily on one source and when it dried up, they were left without work for weeks. You need to be out networking regularly, keeping in touch with ex-clients, chasing down leads and making sure you convert leads to the best of your ability. If you’re pitching to win a few thousand pounds’ worth of work, you’ve got to do more than a 3 line email with a price.
- What tools/apps/gadgets/books/blogs could you not live without as a freelancer?
I love the Toggl app which I use to track my time. This helps show clients what I’ve been working on, but also give me an insight into where my time goes and what work is most profitable it is also free and super-easy to use.