I was recently invited back to my former university, Leeds Trinity University, to chat to students about what it’s like to be a freelance copywriter and proofreader. The students asked lots of interesting questions and I enjoyed speaking to aspiring freelancers about the good, the bad and the ugly of freelancing.

Posted in: Freelancing

My talk covered how I got into freelancing, the research I did before starting my business, how I find clients and advice for students thinking about freelancing.

Here are my 10 tips for students considering a career as a freelancer:

 

1)  Make the most of the support from your university

Take advantage of the business advice, connections and career support you can get from your university.

Leeds Trinity has an Enterprise Centre that offers talks, advice, a place to work from and even funding for eligible students who are setting up their own businesses. I’m sure other universities will have similar programmes too.

If your university gives you the chance to do work placements as part of your course, use them to gain practical industry experience, make connections and build your portfolio of work.

If work placements aren’t built into your course, could you use the university holidays to gain relevant experience?

 

2)  Tell as many people as possible that you’re freelancing

When you’re just starting out as a freelancer, you might not have a huge portfolio of work behind you. To get you started, tell as many people as possible that you’re freelancing and ask them if they, or anybody they know, could use your services.

Word of mouth referrals are a really powerful way of growing your business. You never know who your family, friends or neighbours know and what it could lead to!

 

3)  Set up a LinkedIn profile

LinkedIn is a professional social media network that essentially functions as an online CV. Setting up a basic profile is free and easy to do. You can use it to build your professional network and even find clients.

Lots of recruiters and businesses use LinkedIn as a search engine to look for freelancers, so make sure you use the keywords you want to be found for in your headline. As an example, mine is ‘Freelance Copywriter and Proofreader’.

Having a LinkedIn profile is a good way to show that you’re credible and trustworthy, which brings me onto my next point …

 

4)  Get a professional headshot

Make sure your LinkedIn profile picture looks professional and gives off the vibe you want to convey to potential clients. Using a selfie from a night out might not be the best option!

For me, getting a professional headshot was invaluable. I use it everywhere from my website to my LinkedIn profile and ProCopywriters profile.

If your university offers photography courses, could you ask a budding photographer to take your photo to build up their portfolio?

 

5)  Freelance alongside other jobs if necessary

After you’ve graduated, start by freelancing alongside other jobs if you need to. I freelanced alongside various full-time jobs for three years before taking the leap into full-time freelancing.

This allowed me to build my portfolio and client base with the safety net of a monthly wage behind me. I also used my income from my full-time job to pay for my freelance website.

 

6)  Outsource the things you aren’t good at (if you can afford to)

I started out trying to build a website myself but soon realised I was getting nowhere fast. To speed up the process, I asked a web designer to design and develop my website and logo.

Although it came at a cost, the website was way more professional than anything I could ever have done myself.

So, if you can afford to, outsource the things you’re not as good at to other small businesses or freelancers. Whether it’s your website, admin or accounting, it will make your life so much easier!

 

7)  Get your processes and templates in place from the start

Setting up processes and templates might seem boring, especially if you just want to get on with the fun side of your work, but it’s a good idea to get them in place from the outset.

Things like setting up proposal templates and briefing documents that you can quickly edit for each client will reduce admin and save you time in the long run.

If you’re an aspiring copywriter, I recommend checking out the resources and templates on the ProCopywriters website.

 

8)  Join online freelance communities

I’ve found the freelance community on Twitter is very active and supportive. When I took my freelance business full-time, I tweeted asking for advice on taking the leap and was inundated with helpful tips from other freelancers. You can check out the thread here.

I recommend joining the Being Freelance and Freelance Heroes Facebook groups too. They’re a great place to meet other freelancers, ask questions and find freelance jobs.

 

9)  Don’t see other freelancers as competition

Even if another freelancer is in the same line of work as you, don’t see them as a threat. Everyone has something unique to offer clients and you’ll probably find there’s plenty of work to go around.

Getting to know other freelancers, whether it’s in person or online, is great for sharing advice and anecdotes and combatting the isolation you can sometimes experience as a freelancer.

You never know, they may even pass work to you if they’re too busy to do it themselves!

 

10)  Remember you don’t need to act on all the advice you’re given

Although I’ve already given you 9 pieces of advice in this blog, my main tip is to remember that you don’t need to act on every recommendation you’re given.

What works for me might not work for you. So, I’d say trust your instincts and do what feels right for you.

The beauty of being your own boss is you can make your own path!

 

Choose your own path

 

If you have any questions about becoming a freelancer, feel free to get in touch with me: kate@kategreenwood.com

 

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