My freelancing toolkit

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Sole trader

Freelancing means being your own accountant, new business department, admin assistant, facilities manager and boss all in one day, alongside doing the work you’re actually qualified to do. So you need all the help you can get, and ideally without forking out each time. Every freelancer has their own mix of resources — here’s what works for me:

Facebook

Yep, Facebook is top of my list, thanks to the groups that put you in instant contact with hundreds or thousands of other professionals. The eight or so networks I dip in and out of are unmatched by other social media (even by LinkedIn, which is supposed to be for professional networking — its groups feel like empty wastelands).

It’s not great for staying focused — you log on to ask a question and get distracted by all the baby photos/political rants in your newsfeed — but for me it’s worthwhile. In the last week alone I’ve found a PR consultant for a new project, located a quick solution to a tricky file conversion issue, and crowdsourced ideas for an article; last month I tracked down a journalist in Ghana and found an editor who agreed to join our latest Exposure project. For instant advice, helpful contacts and general moral support/sympathy (one copywriters’ group has a ‘Whinge Wednesday’ thread), Facebook is an essential.

Public libraries

Lots of freelancers swear by shared workspaces, but for me it’s London’s public libraries that keep me sane. Free, picnic-friendly, low-level background noise and dotted across the city, these public spaces are a welcome break from my desk at home.

Project teams

When you’re deep into an assignment, a face-to-face meeting or even a Skype call can feel like unnecessary diversion from work. But it’s vital for challenging your thinking and working through problems together — not to mention some (on some days much-needed) human interaction. As I’ve become more aware of the balance I need, I’ve been looking to increase the work I do with teams (for example as part of the Impact Collective), alongside individual projects.

Professional networks

Most of my work comes from referrals, repeat custom or my own outreach, but I’ve had one regular, rewarding client come from being listed on CharityComms’ suppliers’ directory. Membership of CharityComms also gives access to seminars and networking events throughout the year, a good way of keeping your knowledge fresh and meeting others in the sector.

Online resources for freelancers

You can waste hours on the millions of articles aimed at freelancers and creative businesses. Many are content marketing fluff. But some are genuinely useful. This post from CreativeLive on how to calculate your hourly rate helped me figure out the actual fee I needed to be charging, not just what sounded reasonable. This freelancer’s side project survival guide reminded me that you can actually dictate how and when you want to work, and that it’s ok to make room for your creative projects too.

Skills exchange

I recently had a business planning session via Echo, the skills trading marketplace, that I’d paid for by giving my own time to other small businesses. If money’s tight or if you just don’t feel ready to pay for that one-off bit of help with graphic design / web development / a massage / whatever else you need, trading is a great solution.

Less structured, but equally nice to know it’s there, is the ever-growing network of On Purpose alumni: hundreds of people now working in the social enterprise and related sectors, willing to share contacts, advice and expertise (and sometimes give me quotes for articles).

London’s free events

PhotoForum monthly talks by photographers, LSE’s public events, the Impact Hub’s social change events and all the other stuff that energetic people are hosting across the city make it worth living in a savings-swallowing capital like London. For new perspectives, an injection of inspiration, learning new things and discovering new places, the opportunities here are endless. It’d just be nice to have a PA to organise my calendar so I could fit them all in…

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