E104: 10 Biggest Lessons I’ve learned as a Freelancer with Steve Folland
Steve Follard is the host of the ‘Being Freelance’ Podcast and the ‘Doing it for the Kids’ Podcast. He’s also a video and audio freelancer.
He’s talked to countless freelancers about the challenges of our strange rollercoaster life and he wanted to share the biggest lessons with the Hot Copy listeners.
Just a note this episode was recorded as a Masterclass for my Clever Copywriting Community, so if you hear anything strange that’s why.
Tune in to learn:
- Why you shouldn’t freak out
- Why it’s important to understand your finances
- The lesson of Knowing yourself.
- How to be Yourself
- Why nice guys get paid last
- How to stop being so available
- How to Learn to say NO
- Why Steve schedules life first
- How to make opportunities for yourself
- Why Other Freelancers are NOT the competition.
Hot Copy #104: 10 Biggest Lessons I’ve learned as a Freelancer with Steve Folland. #copywriting #hotcopy
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What’s your biggest freelance lesson?
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Thanks! Thanks to Anna in Canada for a fantastic review of the show.
Steve is a video & audio creator. Usually for businesses, but as you can tell, he has a habit of doing it for the freelance community too.
That’s what he does now. For years he worked in radio.
In 2013 he swapped early starts for a life being freelance: to be his own boss, to be with his two kids, to be more awake.
He’s always freelanced alongside ‘full time’ jobs though: radio producer, presenter, scriptwriter, voiceover or copywriter.
He started the Being Freelance podcast in January 2015.
In 2016 he started documenting his freelance life with the Being Freelance vlog.
In 2018 he started speaking at events on the subject of freelancing and finding work-life balance.
2019 saw him launch the Being Freelance Community and become the co-host of a second podcast for freelance parents: Doing It For The Kids podcast.
He loves cake.
He runs because he knows he should.
Sometimes it’s past a bakers.
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Hot Copy #104: 10 Biggest Lessons I’ve learned as a Freelancer with Steve Folland. #copywriting #hotcopy
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Speaker 1: So hello and welcome to this week’s master class. And we’re very lucky this week to have the loveliest, the followed all the way from England. He’s flown here just to be here to talk to us today. Just sitting next to me in the room over there. So before we start, before we get started, Steve, do you want to introduce yourself to the group? Tell us who you are and what you do and why you do it.
Steve: Flipping that. Hello. So I’m Steve and I host the Being Freelance podcast, which I started a year after I went freelance. So I went freelance so I could look after my kids and I’m a video and audio freelancer. Before that I worked in radio and yes. And now I get to work from home or in a co work space, a very bland co work space that you can see me in right now. And I make videos and do script writing, voice overs, stuff like that. But yeah, Being Freelance was the podcast I started in 2015 was it yeah, four years ago.
So about to hit 200 guests this year and each week I get a different freelancer on to tell their story. And that was basically so I could learn from them because I didn’t know any other freelancers when I started. And now I do another podcast of freelancers as well, which is, I’m doing it for the kids, which I cohost with a female freelancer. So she is the mum, I’m a dad and we chat about freelancing as parents because there’s a whole other load of issues in there as well. So that’s pretty much what keeps me busy. That and look on after two kids.
Speaker 1: Fabulous. And obviously you had an amazing guest on that podcast many years ago and that’s how we met. Can I ask, you may have just said this and it might have gone right through my brain, but how long have you been freelancing for? When did you break free?
Steve: So I quit my job in 2013 so proper, but then I left for six weeks in Australia, funnily enough, and so it was 2014 when I properly started. And at first I was still doing that, looking about eight months, nine month old baby, and gradually sort of ramped it up. But before that I was always doing freelance stuff on the side. I was writing scripts and doing copywriting, making videos, presenting videos, editing videos on the side of my full time job. So I was probably doing that for another five years before that as well.
Speaker 1: Yeah, I’m the same. I did a lot of stuff on the side when I had a full time job at an agency. I just used to change my stuff computer over very quickly. Sorry. Actually, I have no sorrys for the agencies at all. They deserve that if we can make up. Oh, ouch and I’m sure none of them are listening to this podcast. So look, let’s get started. The subject for today’s master class is 10 lessons you’ve learned while being a freelancer. So it’s kind of a cautionary tale and advice and hopefully all of us can learn a thing or two for it. I’m sure there’s going to be a lot of nodding heads as I read through this, I was like Yeah. Yep. Yup. Yup. So Steve, let’s kickoff. What is your first, what’s your number one lesson that your first lesson?
Steve: My number one is don’t freak out. Three key words, which I think we all need to remember. This was actually a quote from Louisa Heinrich on the podcast where, yeah, basically there will be lots of opportunity for you to freak out when you go freelance. When you first fill in your first ever tax return for example, and then when you do your second one and your third one and your fourth, that never goes away. Also when you’ve not got any work and you start freaking out, but then suddenly you’ll have too much work and you start freaking out. Like it’s there’s just so much opportunity.
So I think it’s important to remember, don’t freak out. Figure out how best to deal with overwhelm, when it comes along because it will come along. I’ve personally found just sort of sitting back and figuring out what you can control helps. So be it making a list or just getting up a bit earlier and actually starting that task that you’ve been putting off. Or if it was child care figuring out, okay, what am I actually doing next week? Like there’s so many things or, but with a VAT return, like a tax return type thing that I was doing, just taking a whole day out and like figuring out the best way to do my financial processes and yeah, just like get on with it. But don’t let it freak you out.
Speaker 1: Yeah, I think that’s so important. I think. But you know, if I was getting freaked out by my tax return, the first thing I ever do is hand it over to an accountant because that is, no, I’m a words person. But I often bring it down to really one simple point. What can I actually get done today? You know, I have this huge list of things, you know, what can I get done? If I could only do one thing, what would it be? And that often gives me a lot of clarity and stepping away. Like most of the time if I just take a little walk around the block, or go and get a cup of tea, you just get that little bit of clarity, but when you’re in the eye of the storm, it can be really, really overwhelming.
And one other thing I would say is, you know, don’t let the good times affect you and don’t let the bad times affect you. What I mean by that is don’t let it go to your head either. Like there’s periods where you like, “I’m winning all the jobs, I’m getting other testimonials and money’s coming in.” And you get on a real high and once you’re up that high, it’s really easy to be brought down low. So don’t, refuse to ride the roller coaster. Get off the rollercoaster and go on the, what are the other ones?
Steve: The travelator?
Speaker 1: The travel, the roundabouty one.
Steve: The carousel.
Speaker 1: The carousel. I like that. That’s the main for the show. Okay. Tip number two. What’s your next tip? Rose says the dodgems that might be more accurate for freelancers.
Steve: Number two was know your finances. There was a guest called Jess who actually says, “Know your finances and understand them.” I was quite bad early on I think at just knowing, getting my head around what I was going to owe the tax man for starters and stuff like that. But even as I’ve gone on, like suddenly you’ll be really busy and maybe you’ll get further away from sending the invoices that you were meant to send, which is ridiculous, but it can also happen or knowing which invoices to chase. So know your finances. Try and get yourself separate bank accounts as soon as you can. Personal and business. Also get yourself some accounting software, online accounting software. There’s plenty of them to choose from now best, so good.
And for example, I use Free Agent and it shows me what tax I’m going to owe and when, which has just been so good for me to, to put that away. But more than that, I think when Jess was talking about it, it was about even if you end up hiring a bookkeeper and accountant. And definitely for me getting an accountant was brilliant, is even if you’ve got those layers of people helping you, never let yourself get too far away from your finances and understanding them.
So knowing what it is that is making you profitable, knowing what it is that you need to be charging to cover what it is you’ll spend, knowing who are good payers or the bad payers, knowing what subscription has a sign up for like you sign up for something online and you put your credit card in and suddenly they’re taking this money each month and then you think I don’t, I never used that. But actually when you’re the person who’s reconciling the bank statements and finding the invoice, you think, do you know what? I’m going to bin that one off. Like just be aware of what you’re spending, because spending is also important to look at as well as the earning bit I think because you know, one kind of cancels out the other otherwise, but yeah, definitely be on top of your finances and doing that really helps keep you calm but also sets you up for, yeah the success I think.
Speaker 1: Well, success. Yes. I totally agree. I use Zero for my accounts, which makes reconciling my accounts really easy. I can do it on my phone when I’m walking my dog and I’m a big advocate of profit first, which is like an envelope system where you put money into different pots for different things. Because I, no matter what I never seem to have enough money when tax time came along here in Australia we have GST as well, which is like business tax. I just never had enough. I don’t know what happened and even when I started earning more money, I was like, I’m going to be really rich now and just lying in a pool of champagne.
But I wasn’t because the percentages all move around and change. So super, super important and I very much agree with the accounting thing. It’s like anything, I don’t really like people when they kind of hand over the web development to someone else and they don’t even understand how to upload an image or they haven’t, you know, you got to go to the garage and have a vague knowledge of how your car works rather than just handing it over to a random, you know. So have a little bit of knowledge I think is so important. So talking about knowing things, what’s your tip number three Steve?
Steve: So yes, if number two was know your finances, three is know yourself, which sounds a little bit woo. I have found over the past five years in particular that when I started doing a vlog, which was about me filming as myself, like an idiot each day, and then like creating a vlog each week of my “freelance journey”, I became a lot more self aware. Like I was analysing stuff by doing this vlog. And lots of people talk about journaling, similar sort of thing, but writing it down, like I was analysing what I was doing, how I was doing it, looking at my processes, looking at the way things made me feel. So yeah, that really helped me get better at being freelance. But also, know I guess like your energy levels change like maybe across the week or the year. Definitely across the day.
So when I could figure out that maybe I’m a bit rubbish after lunch, then I would switch certain tasks for after lunch. I know that I’m really pretty good at writing for example in the mornings. So if I got scripts to write, I will do it the first thing. But if I need to edit something, I can leave that until later on in the day. So by getting to know yourself, you can actually become a lot more productive. You can feel better about yourself. And yeah, I think in general, you end up being a better freelancer. But weirdly for me, vlogging and kind of showing other people myself ended up making me know myself better. So yes. Self-Awareness.
Speaker 1: Yeah, I agree. A lot of the blog posts I used to write on Katine Copywriter are extremely cathartic. They were literally me kind of writing to myself about problems I’d had and how I dealt with them so that I could read those on another day. I think the energy level is really important. We talk a lot in the group about, you know, whether you’re a, I can’t remember it morning worm was or afternoon something or night owl or whatever. But you know, I’m really good for the first couple of hours a day, which sometimes I squander on stupid tasks. And then, you know, I’m absolutely useless after 3:00. And I can’t burn the midnight oil. There’s a couple of people in the group who talk about how they’ve done all nighters. I just couldn’t do that ever.
So yeah, knowing yourself, knowing what your triggers are as well. Certain clients really can trigger bad emotions and make you angry before they’ve even done anything. Do you know what I mean? Or a little word. So keeping I the idea almost so keeping a work diary, I used to just write like down three things a day that had gone well and one lesson because I don’t, you don’t write things that have gone badly, you write a lesson you can learn from the day. And I used to, I did that. I’ve even got a little sparkly book here that I used to use.
Steve: Oh that is sparkly.
Speaker 1: That is so sparkly. And it really helped because what I found was it was the same five problems that I had again and again and again. And once I knew them, it made them a lot more easy to cope with. I came up with little strategies. Okay. So that’s number three. So knowing yourself is important, what else is important?
Steve: Being yourself.
Speaker 1: See how well I segued that?
Steve: And I took it right?
Speaker 1: Yeah you took the bait. Nice.
Steve: To be yourself it takes … Actually I remember when I first like quit my job and became a freelancer and I realised I might be going to meetings and stuff like that. I went and bought myself a blazer, never worn a blazer since I was at school, but I thought, you know, I had this vision of me of like jeans, a blazer would make me professional and then I’d have like this, I felt such an idiot. I felt so uncomfortable. Listen, if you can wear that stuff and that’s you, then brilliant. But that was the whole point. It wasn’t me. And I soon realised that, I was much better off when I was totally being myself, in front of people, than trying to pretend to be anything else. Then you realise of course that, that’s actually key to being a freelancer.
The fact that they could hire any other copywriter, any other graphic designer or video producer, but the fact is they want to work with you and so they need to get to know you. And yeah, just being yourself, like when you finally building some sort of client relationship as it grows, like getting to chat to them and giving a little bit of yourself away for when you’re in a video or Instagram stories or whatever, you know, your medium of choice is. Like even writing for that matter, like writing when you writing personal stuff like it is yourself and in your voice I think really helps. And then especially because if we’re talking about Instagram stories or vlogging or blogging, then when it is in your voice, people then start to get to know you. And of course we’ve all heard the whole, you know, they get to know you, they get to like you, they get to trust you and then eventually they buy from you or they refer you to somebody else and it really works.
And so if you can be yourself, if they can remember you, that person that they met in the library or the coffee shop who said they were a copywriter or video producer and then they go, oh, actually lend that blah. So yeah, be yourself and actually you’ll enjoy it a lot more because you’ll just feel so comfortable about the fact that you’re being yourself. And then some people are like, “Oh, but not everybody likes me.” That’s … Who gives a stuff about the ones who don’t like you? You want to work with the ones who do, and that’s a good thing. You will yeah probably push away some people who aren’t like you, but you’ll also attract the ones who are. And so that works in your benefit too.
Speaker 1: I agree. I think one thing that lots of copywriters do a very bad job of is expressing their personalities on their own websites. The copy that they’ll write for their own websites is often the worst copy they ever write. So again, top tip is to get someone else to read it and go, “Look, I know you Megan, I know you Donna. I know you Steve. You don’t talk like that. So why are you talking about that on your website?” Because it’s going to be such a disconnect when I finally do get to speak to you that, you know, it’s not going to work. Not that those three people don’t have great websites. Sorry, I just picked them because I can see their little faces. Okay. Tip number five is about being nasty, I believe.
Steve: Well, is it? You see, tip number five is a quote from a guy called Fraser Davidson and it is “Nice guys get paid last” which always stuck in my mind. He was like, “Nice guys get paid last.” But actually he’s not talking about you being nasty. It’s kind of like that nice word because if you’re going to somebody who owes you money and you keep sending that email or maybe you phoning them up and say, “Oh, are you going to pay me this Friday?” And then they say, “Oh, I’m sorry you missed the line. It will be next week.” And you’ll go, “Oh, okay no problem.” Then who are they going to pay first? The person who goes, “Okay, no problem.” Or the person who goes, “Well, no, actually it was last Friday. I really need it to go through, can you talk to Janice in accounts and get this done?”
It’s really this whole quote, nice guys get paid last is about standing up for yourself and as a freelancer you do want to be nice. You’re going to have to be friendly because people want to work with friendly people, but you also have to stick up for yourself. And when people try to take the mic as they will and when they try to push the scope of your project and ask for a little bit more, you need to have the confidence to stand up for yourself and stick up for yourself and not just be “nice” and rollover and let them take advantage of you. Especially because once you start doing that, that’s the way that’s going to go forward. Whereas if you start confident, that’s the way it’s going to go forward. So that’s the whole thing about nice guys get paid last. Stick up for yourself.
Speaker 1: I love it. And one of the things I recommend to the copywriters in my group is if you’re not confident about being strong about getting paid, then invent a fake accountant. And so I had a fake accountant called Sue, or she could have been called Janice. I think Janice is a perfectly good accountant name. And what I did is I kept my crazy emails, my emails sending copy and my relationship with the client for me. Then when invoices came there came from Sue. Sue didn’t exist. Sue was a bit of a bitch, Sue didn’t stand for nothing, and Sue got me paid very quickly every single time. So you know, don’t all go out and call your accountant or bookkeeper Sue, try and think of some other names. But maybe Steve is a good name or Kate. Okay. So I like this next one. This is my favourite one of all your tips. So number six, Steve what’s your number six lesson?
Steve: Stop being so available. This was a freelancer on Being Freelance called Emily in Sweden. And I’m not just saying Emily in Sweden, so I avoid saying her surname wrong. We will call it anyway, stop being so available. Turn off notifications for starts so that you’ll stop being so available to your devices, be it email, Instagram, Twitter, like every single app on your phone wants to get your attention so turn them off. I don’t think I’ve ever spoken to anybody who did that and then went, “Oh I really missed the way my phone …” it doesn’t happen. It feels so good. Also I used to have client email on my phone and actually now, mostly I only have it on my laptop for example. So I basically put more in charge of what I get to see, what I want to see, when I want to see it.
If somebody is calling you at like 10:00 at night, 11:00 at night or whatever, if you’ve decided your boundary is no I’m that working past 5:00 or 6:00, then don’t feel you need to apply straight away. They probably don’t even expect you to. But if you start, then they will start expecting it. So stop being so available both to the devices which are screaming for your attention, but also the clients who are after it as well. Unless you want some sort of contract where you said you would get back to them every minute of the day, in which case re look at that contract, then there’s just no need. So yeah, stop being so available to everybody and everything else.
Speaker 1: Yeah, I agree and articulate those boundaries clearly right at the start of the product project, you know. If you didn’t tell people that you’re not available on a weekend or that you don’t work on Friday afternoons, they’re not going to know. And people don’t, I think deliberately set out to be obnoxious. They just sometimes are, you know. The only notification I keep is my Paypal ping and my Stripe ping. So I get a little buzz on my Garmin and it gives me a nice at all little thrill when someone pays me. I do enjoy that. So if we’re going to be available, what follows non-available sorry, what follows on very nicely from that is your lesson number seven.
Steve: Learn to say no. The sooner you realise that saying no to something means you can say yes to something else is important. Equally if you’ve said yes to everything and it all goes to pot because if you keep saying yes, either you’re going to have to work loads and loads and loads or and burn yourself out, or you’re going to drop the stuff that you start to say yes to. You’re going to start to do less, better quality and you’re going to start to hate yourself for having said yes to something. And this isn’t just client projects, this is all the other opportunities. Like the can we have a coffee opportunity or can you help me with this article thing or, like people will always be calling for your time and that’s great and that’s nice and it’s really good to help other people.
But learning to say no is important. Every opportunity don’t they say comes at a cost? And it really is true. So you need to learn how that is. And also this is a hard one to though, because equally, people might be listening and thinking, yeah that’s all well and good but what if I say no and then I don’t get the work. So that’s where it becomes even harder. I get it. You think, well if I say no to this time they might not come back. Learn maybe to say, “Okay, is the deadline really this deadline you’ve given me? Or is it the week after?” And actually if you start to say, “Well, I’m fully booked this week. I’m busy this week.” People kind of like that too, because they think, oh well they’re really good. I should have got here sooner and given them more chance or that deadline isn’t that pressing and maybe they can shift it back.
It means that you gain more control over your own schedule and what you’re doing. It also gives you the opportunity when you say no to choose the work that you’re actually doing. So maybe you’ve decided that a certain type of projects that you want to start saying no to so that you can build up a portfolio of a certain type. Maybe you really want to get into, I don’t know, sales letters and get rid of about page copy or vice versa. So learn being confident to saying no in something will free up your time either to market yourself for something else or to say yes to those other opportunities.
Speaker 1: Yup. I agree. I’ve replaced, sometimes I find no is hard but so I replaced it with not now. So I get offered a lot of opportunities to speak at this or do that and I’m like, you know, I’m not saying closing the door but not now. And the other phrase I have is, I wouldn’t say it quite like this, but not that way. So someone wants to meet me for a coffee and I’ll be like, “Look, I’m more than happy to chat to you. Here’s my page where you can book me for an hour and pay for my time.” The other thing, I think that’s really important there is that think about what else you’re giving up because you spend an hour having a chat with someone, you can do that. What you know when you’re getting started, of course you do that and you have to judge these opportunities one by one.
But I get so many people who want to just get my help, which is lovely and I’d love to do it. But every time I do that, I’m taking time away from my son, from my family, from myself, and not necessarily from my clients, but just from my family and therefore I have to kind of weigh up which would I rather, what would I rather be doing and is this the best use of my time? I’ve actually got a post it note that says that is this the best use of my time and that helps me kind of really make decisions easily. And you know some people get a bit fed up, but let them be fed up because you’re, you know they asked for something, you’re allowed to say no and then they can go and ask someone else. Okay, I love this next one. It kind of leads on from my thing about, you know, taking time away from family. Your lesson number eight.
Steve: Lesson number eight is schedule life first, which is a quote from a copywriter called Rachel Ingram here in the UK. And when I spoke to her, she, this was some of the stuff she did by the way. So she had an appointment with guide dogs for the blind I think they were. So like each week she was volunteering at, with basically hang out with puppies [inaudible 00:22:55]. The other things he was doing was learning to fly planes or helicopters, I think it was. So she also had her flying lesson scheduled in and maybe lunch with a friend. So she would put those in her diary and then do her client work around it. And I’m sure Rachel, if she ever hears this, would say, “Yeah it doesn’t always work out that way. No okay stuff doesn’t.” But the point is that it’s very easy to find time for clients and sometimes not find time for ourselves.
So you’ve almost got to treat yourself, your health, your friends, your family, all the stuff that you want to do like it’s a piece of client work and put it in the calendar. Like last weekend I went to France for the week. I know get me and hang out with my friends family in the south for France. But if that wasn’t in the diary a few months ago, I would have easily found an excuse not to go because I had so much client work to do. So put it in there. Personally, I’m not somebody who likes to go to the gym.I know you wouldn’t guess it, but at the start of this year, I got a personal trainer and I know it’s more expensive, but I have actually felt the health benefits, but more importantly it’s the fact that I have to schedule an appointment with that person and then that is what actually makes me keep it.
So by making time in my calendar for actually doing something healthy and keeping myself fit, it’s made such a difference to like my health and my wellbeing. So yeah, put it in the diary. Something preferably that can’t be moved. And even if, go to the cinema, whatever it might be, treat yourself for the afternoon, getting that air conditioning then yes. Schedule life first.
Speaker 1: Yeah, I agree. Ironically, I got a personal trainer at the start of this year and you know, because I blocked him in, I don’t want to let him down, I go. I think that’s the truth is that having a small business of any kind will eat your life if you let it. It slips into every crack, no matter how much time you give it, it will always want more. And you know, a lot of the people in the group are parents and they’re like, “Oh, it’s going to be easier when my kid goes to school and I’ll have more days and I’ll have more time.” But you know, the work will expand. So some kind of law isn’t there that the amount of time you have is exactly the amount of time you need.
And there’s a guy over here called Darren Rouse who said very similar things schedule life first. And he showed us his Google calendar before and after and before it was like client work, then this, then this, then this. And then what he did was he was like, there’s no time for me. So now he doesn’t schedule time for client work. All he puts in his Google calendar is his personal stuff. And then he works around that. Which is a different approach, isn’t it? You know, working to live, not living, one of them. One of those living to work, working, living, working to work. That’s what most of [inaudible 00:25:39].
Steve: I think it’s actually, and I think it’s even more important. It’s interesting you mentioned there about the being a parent. Is that actually when you are a parent, your children kind of schedule that life in for you. Like I have no option but to go and pick them up. Okay, I could, I’ll get somebody else to do it. But I like-
Speaker 1: Leave them there overnight. You can leave them there, they’d survive.
Steve: So I have that blocked out, the beginning of my day, the end of my day is, is all to do with my kids and therefore it concentrates my work and actually makes me more effective in that bit in the middle. But I think if you don’t have children then of course you can let work take over your whole day. Literally there is no reason not to be working all day long, which makes it even more important not to have children and not stressing [crosstalk 00:26:29].
Speaker 1: And make sure you have a child, everybody. That’s the answer.
Steve: But to basically make your life that baby make, you know, doing the things that you love doing, chilling out or health or family or friends or whatever that your baby so that it is taking up that time.
Speaker 1: Yeah. I’ve got a dog who looks at me with pleading eyes and that makes me walk every morning. But as well as my, I think finding it quite ironic that you said that because my son’s getting older and more self sufficient and he doesn’t need me as much, which is leading me to do more and more work. But what I would quite like to do is instead of having to spend all my time either working or looking after a kid, is actually do something for myself. Wow. Shock. A couple of people on the call and Alisa says that she has now carved out Wednesday afternoons from midday for herself to avoid burnout. And Angela said she’d fallen into the trap of letting work fill up all her time, working late and sleeping in. The last two weeks she’s prioritised a morning workout. It does work. We all slip, we all slip. Like I’m good for a couple of weeks and then I get bad again and I have to check myself and try and get the routine back. But it does make such a difference.
Steve: Do you know the good thing about building slack into your life in that way as well. But let’s say I’ve kept Wednesday afternoons go to cinema. If something does crop up, be it like personal or client wise, suddenly I’ve got a bit of time. But if I filled up my diary with nothing but client work, then there is nothing to give apart from my sleep. So actually having that slack in your day is really … try and protect it and keep it just for yourself rather than client work. But it is nice to know that it’s there.
Speaker 1: Yeah. Especially if you get sick or something. Again, another guy over here called Robert Garrett always gives himself Friday afternoons and he doesn’t necessarily what he’s going to do, he has a choice. He can choose to work if he wants to. But he can choose not to. And I think a lot of us sometimes feel as freelancers, we don’t have a choice. We are the creatures of our clients. And you know, we’re on this little hamster wheel just running around. So yeah, I love that idea. So lesson number nine, we’ve only got two left. What’s number nine?
Steve: Make opportunities for yourself. Yeah make opportunities. I mean, in general, it took me a while to realise this, but you have to make stuff happen for yourself in your life in general, like everybody else is taking care of their own life. So nobody’s going to get stuff happening for you apart from yourself and that happens in every aspect of your life. But when you’re your own business, when you’re freelance, you start to realise that actually like no work is going to come your way unless you go out there and make opportunities happen. If you want to build yourself and your credibility or put yourself out there as an expert or just get people to know that you exist and what your skills are and what your portfolio is, like you have to put yourself out there.
So putting yourself out there is part of that. But then also asking for stuff like at the beginning of last year I decided in order to try and promote the Being Freelance podcast, I would try and do some talks. I’ve not done live speaking events before, but I thought I’d give it a go. And so in my vlog I was like talking about this fact, the fact that I want to give it a go, and I showed the fact that I was applying to some conferences as speakers. So I was actually asking and putting my, what’s the worst that can happen? I figured they’d just say no, doesn’t matter. And actually one of them said yes. And so that was booked in. But just by putting myself out there, by voicing what I wanted to happen, people who had been watching the vlog realised that I wanted to speak at events. And then somebody who was organising a freelance, a conference had said, “Does anybody know who would be a good speaker for this particular topic?”
And about three or four people suggested me because it had been talking about it. So suddenly I found myself on that stage, given like this 45 minute talk way, way, way more than I thought I ever would be doing. Likewise towards the end of last year when I didn’t have much speaking events again, I thought maybe students would be good people to tell about the Being Freelance podcast because maybe they were, you know, they’re on the verge of becoming freelance perhaps. So I wrote to these people, I’ve met organisation here in the UK called Ipsi who like represent freelancers and said, “Do you guys do anything with universities? Is there any opportunities?” Within the next two months before the end of 2018, I’d spoken at two events, designed one for like undergraduates, one for like a more senior, senior, older freelances and students.
Anyway, if I hadn’t have asked, I would never have been top of mind. They would’ve never … like it’s purely because I made that opportunity for myself. And I really learned this lesson by like all my life, that when I was a kid, I always wanted to be a DJ on radio one that was like my like seven or eight year old dream. And then if I was in Australia it would have been Triple J but that’s still quite not to be on Triple J. So that was what it was. And actually I did end up becoming a radio presenter. Like I made the opportunities for myself to begin with. I like, you know, went full for different stages and all the different things to end up on a professional station being paid. But then what I did was I sat there and thought that people would in the industry, radio industry would notice how brilliant I was because everybody seemed to be enjoying it. And actually I was is an idiot.
I spent about 10 years doing that, thinking that like the people in radio one or the BBC would notice me like standing at the end of that drive, just casually waving when in fact there was actually people knocking on the door or climbing through the windows to work there. And that is a lesson that I then I’m quite happy, but I didn’t end up doing that. But now I will always be that one who’s happy to knock on the door. You have to push yourself out there and make opportunities for yourself because stuff just won’t come to you.
Speaker 1: I love that. And I love the fact that you used your own vlog and your own social media to talk about your goals. You articulated them, which is kind of a way of kind of making yourself accountable to yourself. You know, I’m going to do this and I’ve now said it on my blog in front of all these people. But the fact that other people picked up on that and mentioned it. I had a similar thing I said, “Oh, you know, I’ve done a lot of speaking last year. I’d love to MC in events. I’d really like to MC an event.” And I mentioned that within two weeks I was offered to MC a big event here called Interactive Minds. Couldn’t do it. I’m going to Bali, I’m not too sad about that. But then I also got an offer to MC a big virtual assistant conferences happening next year in Sydney.
And that again is just me kind of going, “I’d like to do this.” And people go, “Oh well we never knew. You never said, you’ve never said that you write sales letters, you’d never said that you’re a real estate copywriter. You’ve never told us this.” And as soon as you tell people that like, “Okay.” They don’t go, “How dare you? Who the hell do you think you are?” Most people just immediately go, “Okay, well I know a bloke and I know woman then well get you in touch.” So I very much agree. And I also like your point about pushing a bit harder because I think many of us think, yeah we know we need to put ourselves out there. We’re going to apply for that event.
We’ve got a couple of knock backs and we stop because we’re like, “You know, I did try and it didn’t work.” But the people who do get the jobs, they do keep going and it is hard. You know, you’ve got to kiss a lot of frogs, lick a lot of frogs as well. I’m obsessed with frogs, licking them, caressing them, fondling them, all the things. You have to keep trying. You know, the number of times I tried to speak at conferences and didn’t get accepted and then you do get accepted. And it’s pretty awesome. So here we are.
Steve: You just saw it. You know that there is a snowballing effect to that as well isn’t there? Like the more people get to know like, and the more, I guess the more opportunities would come your way. Also probably boost your confidence in your positivity anyway, but it’s somehow just by putting yourself out there, good stuff starts to happen. So yeah-
Speaker 1: [inaudible 00:34:19] but it’s the secret isn’t it? And I think this works even if we’re not talking about speaking and things like that, it works with clients. So people, we had a chat yesterday in the group about someone who was like, “I’d really like to work for you know, one of the big supermarkets here in Australia writing, they’re like their magazine.” And I’m like, “Well, you know, you have to start with your local produce shop and then go up a level to some small business. Then maybe one of the food delivery companies like Hello Fresh. And then when you got all those logos in your portfolio, go to the big company and they do get, you know t’s a done deal.” You know, you have to kind of, as you said, it snowballs, it builds up in itself.
As soon as I started being a guest on podcasts, other people ask you to be a guest on podcasts. As soon as you speak, people see you at the event and give you work and ask you to speak to other things. It definitely does snowball. So it’s awesome. So look, we’re coming to the end of the episodes. I’m really interested in your final lesson because it’s something very dear to my heart. What is it come Steve, lesson number 10.
Steve: Other freelances aren’t the competition.
Speaker 1: Boo yeah.
Steve: They’re really not. And I don’t know where this even comes, I think maybe we grow up watching films or TV shows where like people who are doing businessy stuff or like, oh, what are the competition do? Hey the competition did this. And so maybe we take that with us, this ingrained thing. But you realise actually there’s loads of work to go round and you are you, like we mentioned earlier. So actually let everybody do their own thing and just get to know them and learn from them and support each other. Like being a freelancer can be really isolating and the best thing you can do is find a community of other people. And that might be on Twitter, it might be on Instagram, it might be on Facebook-
Speaker 1: Or it might be the clever copywriting community-
Steve: Well who?
Speaker 1: Anyway. Yes. It can be a paid group, a free group, it can be you in [crosstalk 00:36:10].
Steve: You will find those people and you’ll find the people that you get on with because you’re being yourself. For example, other freelances I would challenge, and actually, you know, yes other copywriters but other freelancers in general because of course they might end up needing copywriters. And you can learn from other industries experiences as well. So, but it’s not just your own, but it’s a chance like to have friends because actually suddenly you might be working literally by yourself at home. You can, I strongly believe you can just build friendships online without even meeting the people. If you meet them in real life, even better, get yourself to meet ups for example and meet freelancers that way. They’re like a sounding board for your ideas. They cheer you on, they pick you up when things go a bit wrong.
They refer work to you and you to them. And one of my guests actually said like his phrase was just keep meeting people because he was convinced basically the more people he met during his freelance career, the better it got. It’s that snowball effect again, the more chance there are for people to refer you or to help you. So in general, just keep meeting people. But yeah, find yourself other freelancers and by the way, don’t be shy. Realise that everybody is a bit shy and nobody really, especially in a networking event, meetup type thing, everybody is feeling that awkward. Probably the people who aren’t the ones you want to talk to. It’s the, everybody’s feeling a bit shy. So really go out there and meet them and it just makes everything so much better. And I really only realised that in particular over the last year or two, like this strength of that community of things to know people online.
And in fact, one in particular, I got chat to her through Instagram and we built up a friendship. We realised that we both had big side projects on the side. We both had two kids with our freelance businesses and without even realising we had started just through Instagram messaging, like running ideas past each other or like cheering each other on when stuff was going well. And in the end we decided to start co-mentoring each other. So now we meet once a month via online or in person we have coffee, and like chat through our business ideas. So it’s a little bit more, I guess formal in an informal way, but it’s a little bit more structured and it’s making such a difference to both of us to sort of have that to air. So yeah, don’t do it alone. Find other freelancers because they’re not the competition.
Speaker 1: They’re not. I like lots of things you said there. Just to kind of reframe a few of them, yeah I think the referrals thing is really good, especially if you’ve niched, you know, you can’t write about every single industry. You can’t necessarily, you’re not an expert in every single type of copywriting. And you know, referrals are great way to pass [inaudible 00:38:56]. You also can’t do all the work. Like I got to the point where I was getting loads and loads of leads. I simply, I couldn’t do all the work. I’ve only got finite amount of time a week. What am I going to do with all that stuff? It’s so much better to refer people on to other copywriters instead of making them go back into the wastelands of Google search and start that comparison and vice versa all over again.
Whereas if you can say this writer is kind of like me, he’s got a good skill set. Great. You’ve helped them and you’ve helped someone else. The meeting people think I’m like, you know, I do … It does make me wonder why people are so scared of talking to people. What are they going to do? They’re not going to bite you, are they? I mean, maybe if they’re me, I might bite you. You know? And often I find that people can be a bit quiet and reserved and almost seem a bit rude. It’s just nerves. Like, I’ll go and meet people, I’m like, “Oh he’s a bit off.” And then afterwards I reflect and go, actually he’s probably just been nervous, didn’t know what to say and he came across oddly. I am bitey yes, very bitey but in a lovely kind of gummy way.
Rose says, “I think the mind shift for me was one of the toughest aspects of going into freelance after working in house where there was a much more competitive environment where you were going for a promotion, maybe there was a team of you at the same level and you had to kind of outdo each other to get promoted.” And that’s one of the great things about being a freelancer, you’re your own boss. You can promote yourself whenever you want. You can be employee of the month, every single month. Can’t you? It’s a thing I could, I recommend.
Steve: I’ve got my mug here that says non-employee of the week.
Speaker 1: Awesome. I put my dog. I did make a poster of him as employee of the month. He wins every month though. So now he’s a little bit blaze about it.
Steve: That’s some trouble, complacency kicked in yeah.
Speaker 1: Yeah, it does. You know. Steve, I want to thank you so much for chatting with us today. And if you want to find out more about Steve he’s name dropped Being Freelance in a very subtle way several times. The name of your other podcasts though, the one with the parenting can even remind us of the name of that one?
Steve: Yeah, that’s called doing it for the kids. So there’s a community online of freelancing parents called doing it for the kids, run by Frankie. And so she and I, it’s more like a Q&A thing. So we take questions from the community and then we do our best to answer them, each week in and that’s doing it for the kids.
Speaker 1: Well I will include links to all Steve’s various bits and bobs, his freelance Being Freelance podcast and all these other things. All his socials as well he’s definitely fun to follow in the vlog as well as is great to watch. So thanks very much Steve.
Steve: Thank you.
The post E104: 10 Biggest Lessons I’ve learned as a Freelancer with Steve Folland appeared first on A copywriting podcast for copywriters.