Joining a number of freelance networks recently forced me to sit back and reflect on my first 18 months since taking the step into going it alone.
What was it that gave me the push?
I left my last full time role exhausted and what transpired, burned out.
I loved helping to build a brand from the beginning. I’d found myself so intertwined into so many areas of the business, my mental health and ability to think creatively and grow was at an all time low. A frank conversation with the CEO at the time gave me the impetus to say, ‘thank you, but I think it’s time to move on’, and I was off.
I’d always had ambitions to run my own business, and the recruitment process always seemed too long and too far out of my hands versus spending time and effort on growing my skills to find new opportunities.
Thanks to my experience being relevant to many entrepreneurs’ needs and broad enough to deliver a fully transformative approach to clients, some conversations turned into consultancy work, and the rest, as they say, is history.
As I got into it, I realised what work could be. Not something to endure and diminish facets of my personality for. Nor something to personal relationships under pressure for, to chase someone else’s ambitions.
It can be fulfilling, fascinating and inspiring, and it can also be on my terms.
It’s been a huge learning experience, and I believe I’ve grown my skills and experience much more comprehensively than at any point of my career to date.
I have a renewed freedom and drive to read around topics, where I previously would have referred to the “expert” in my team. Plus, I’ve rediscovered a love of learning to better myself and ultimately the output for my clients.
I’ve fallen back in love with my profession too. There’s something about explaining to clients and prospects what you can do for them which makes you realise “oh wow, I really love this”. I’ve also broadened my horizons, expanding into product management, customer experience and management consulting along the way.
It hasn’t always been easy.
Battling that internal self-saboteur, and imposter syndrome, as well as learning to market myself - this post a case in point.
It’s an awful lot easier to define a brand for a business you have no previous experience in, than for yourself.
Laying yourself down on a page, website or in defining your social media approach is hugely nerve wracking.
Learning to better describe what I do, and what value I can add for customers has been a reflective journey, but working out what makes me different is what will help me deliver better work in the future.
What’s on the horizon?
For me personally, I’m not interested in restricting myself to a niche, or to what I already know.
I’ve signed myself up to be on the early trial list for emerging social networks and advertising platforms, as well as working collaboratively with media owners to deliver some brand new ways of leveraging their platforms for a better customer experience.
With my business owner hat on, and as my business is all about my reputation, I believe there is an opportunity in the market too. To develop how freelancers are - and ought to be perceived within businesses.
The recent cases of freelancers working for free, and The Pool’s shutdown leaving freelance journalists unpaid highlight how much work needs to be done to make this career path a sustainable one.
My own experiences with potential clients who have been burned by poor experiences in the past is telling too.
We need to drive forward more transparency, honesty and accountability across the sector.
Let’s lose the “fake it til you make it” and making your experience seem inflated. You might not agree, and that’s fine, but for me, I believe Marketing as a discipline and a function will be much more valued if we stop pretending to know everything.