A few tips about how to make money, network and have fun as a freelance writer!
When you read this blog please don’t assume that I have my life as a freelancer completely figured out. Some months are fantastic I am running around talking to new clients, cashing cheques and dining out at amazing restaurants for free. However, some months are a little different and the stress is just all consuming.
Making the choice to become a freelance anything is empowering and also limiting at the same time. You have the freedom to make your own schedule, work with the clients you choose, however, you have no one to give you a salary and have to fight everyday to make sure people know your name. Some days it can be difficult to do this and also a little exhausting. But when it works and you have won, maintained and satisfied your client it is incredibly rewarding.
Here are a few things I have learnt along the way as a freelance copywriter in Dubai.
Build your network
Living in Dubai has been a revelation, the networking community is extensive, and it even seems to be a hobby for some people. There is a lot of advice out there about how to network, however, I believe that you should look at quality over quantity. Don’t just turn up to every single networking event out there. Pick the ones that appeal most to you and if you attend one and it doesn’t work out then don’t go back.
I have been invited to attend a couple of the hyper-professional paid networking groups. For big businesses I can completely see the selling point, they meet with potential clients looking to spend large amounts of money. However, as a freelancer I felt there just wasn’t the business potential there, and people didn’t refer much work to me as there wasn’t necessarily going to be a big return for them.
When choosing your networking groups pick the ones that appear supportive, people who view you as a long-term contact. They may refer you on the understanding that as your business and reputation grow eventually you will be able to repay the referral in kind.
Oh, and don’t forget to get business cards printed! Even if you are just one person on your own they are a simple method to market yourself and make sure people remember who you are.
This is the part I have always struggled with, marketing yourself seems so simple until you realise just how daunting a task it really is. You have to sell your brand, and this means bragging just a little. You have to sound proud of what you have achieved, showcase your product and use social media to the fullest extent.
I would recommend selecting 3 platforms that you feel you can really get your teeth into. I personally went for Instagram, Facebook and LinkedIn. Each one appeals to a different audience and you can market different facets of your skill set. The aim here is to get yourself noticed.
There are many freelance websites out there, in the UAE check out Nabbesh, complete your profile and the website will connect you with potential clients and you can bid for the project. For the more international freelancers out there look at Upwork, similar idea but you are the one applying to specific jobs that interest you. There are countless Facebook groups out there dedicated to freelancers, constantly posting jobs, so dust off your resume and start applying!
Make sure you get paid!
This is advice directly from my mother and it is incredibly important. When you are working with large companies they do forget that whilst 1000AED may seem like a small amount to them, for a freelancer that is money for bills, food or transport to meetings. If you do not get paid then you cannot be a freelancer.
This is one of the trickier parts of this job and I have personally worked with clients who have loved the work, published my writing and then somehow seem to disappear off the face of the planet. You just have to keep ringing them to make sure you get your money. So far I am yet to have an unpaid invoice!
I am longing for the day when I can just reject these ‘bad’ clients; they end up wasting so much of your time and also can make you feel quite low. However, in the meantime just remember that if they don’t have a good reason and they publish the work then you deserve your payment.
Build a portfolio
Starting out as a freelancer this was a massive source of stress; I wanted to apply for jobs but never had a sufficient portfolio. It takes a bit of time to build up an impressive body of work, and can also be difficult depending on the type of work you are doing. For a while I ended up writing brochures and never saw the end results to show to other potential clients.
You can just ask people for the end brochure and most will be happy to oblige. The secret here is to just write as much as possible, this way you will eventually have a decent collection and be able to show it off to clients.
If you are struggling to find a way to display your work have a look at the website Clippings. This is a stunningly simple website to use to upload your work, the first 10 ‘clippings’ are free, and then there is a monthly charge.
This may sound obvious but I have seen some incredibly scruffy freelancers at various events. Just because you are self-employed this does not mean you have to look like you have spent the whole day working from your bed (no matter how true this may actually be). When you have a meeting with a potential/current client or are attending an event look like you have made the conscious decision to dress to impress. As much as people don’t like to hear it, everyone “judges the book by its cover,” it can be difficult to recover from a shaky first impression.
So buy yourself a few smart suits and polish your shoes, it is amazing how much difference this one small act can make. It will also help you to feel more professional and able to negotiate and sell your brand.
On a final note, while becoming a freelancer can be unbelievably stressful and at times you may wish to just pack it in and apply for a salaried job, it is also endlessly rewarding and when your clients praise you and you see your work published it makes all that effort completely worthwhile.