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Six lessons from six months as a Comms freelancer

What is it like to work as a freelance Comms Consultant? If you’ve been toying with the idea but unsure if it’s for you, this article may help you make up your mind.

Ben Capper has written for the All Things IC blog to share the highs, lows and everything in-between of life as a Comms freelancer over the past six months.

If you want to explore the idea of being a Consultant, come and join me at my Exploration Masterclasses, or if you’re already working as a Consultant, join me at a Momentum Masterclass.

Ben is a freelance Communications and Marketing Consultant, and the founder of Grey Fox Communications and Marketing Ltd.

Based in Liverpool, Ben works with clients across the UK and beyond to help them to improve people’s lives through communicating more effectively.

With 18 years’ worth of experience in marketing and communications, he specialises in strategy, messaging, public engagement and insight, content creation and management, and campaign development and management.

I’ll hand you over…

Six lessons from six months as a Comms freelancer

Six months ago, I become a freelance Comms Consultant. It sounds scary doesn’t it? And, there’s no getting away from it: it was a bit.

So scary, in fact, that I recorded a podcast about it…

But for me, it has absolutely been a risk worth taking.

There are tons of blog posts out there about the important nuts and bolts of setting up on your own: finance, limited companies vs sole traders, VAT and all that stuff. All that is critically important of course.

But I have some particular reflections from my first six months running Grey Fox Communications and Marketing Ltd that have helped get me through, that I’d share with anyone thinking of making the leap themselves. 

1. Be Good

Above all: this.

Whatever you’re choosing to offer to clients; make sure you’re excellent at it.

When I did “marketing” in-house, I lost count of the amount of times I had to answer a media call or “knock up a flier”. No more.

If a client needs PR, I’ll refer them to a proper PR consultant. Likewise, graphic design. If they need strategy consultation, content management and delivery, campaign, brand strategy, public engagement or any of that fun stuff; then I can help with that.

But whatever you do; make sure that you do it well. If you don’t do it well, don’t do it at all.  Whatever you’re not brilliant at, someone out there will do it better than you. Get to know them instead. 

2. Be Nice

I always thought I was “too nice” to run a business.

Before I did this, my idea of a “successful business person” was of a high-flying perma-tanned alpha male / female, shouting into their bluetooth headset, banging on and flipping on about being “ruthless” and having “killer instinct”.

Fair to say, that this is not an image I’d really associate with myself. But thankfully, this is not an approach that would work particularly well in my line of work anyway.

The overwhelming majority of the work I’ve secured has come from having a strong, mutually supportive network; and having colleagues in previous jobs that genuinely enjoyed working with me.

Without blowing my own trumpet too much (see Point 4), I think I’ve done OK so far because I’m good at what I do, and people like working with me. In this line of work, that’s a winning combination.

You’ll be surprised how far just being a nice, genuine person will get you.

3. Be Reliable

One of my other freelancer friends summed his approach up as: “turn up on time, and don’t annoy anyone”.

This is actually something I swear by now. Doing what you say you’re going to, to the standard you’ve told someone you’re going to do it, and in a way that is professional and enhances your client’s reputation, is what it’s all about. 

At the end of the day, your clients are paying for outputs and outcomes. So while being good and being nice will get you hired; being reliable will get you re-hired.

And on a personal level, my time keeping has improved exponentially since I went freelance…. 

4. Be confident

If you’re reading this, it’s a fair shout to imagine that you’re considering or have had the passing thought of becoming a freelancer at some point.

That means that you believe that you’re so good at something that someone would be happy to pay you to do it. So you already have the basic level of confidence necessary to make the first tentative steps.

Having belief in your abilities, and your way of doing things is an essential ingredient. It’s what gives you credibility with clients, and helps you to put yourself forward as an expert. 

5 …but not complacent

Never become blasé or complacent about what you’re doing. When you’ve got a string of good clients who enjoy working with you and value your work, it’s a fantastic feeling.

But mistakes do happen. And it’s really important to make sure they don’t happen as a result of sloppiness or not taking care of the details. It’s not about paranoia, but about a healthy hunger to learn, keep growing, and do better.

6. Enjoy it

What is it exactly that’s attracting you to freelancing? Better work life balance? Working on more interesting projects? Working at home more? Broadening your horizons? What ever it is, make sure you always keep that in mind; and that your work is delivering it for you.

And whilst taking care to be aware of Point 5, you are still allowed the occasional wry smile and celebratory high-five with the dog (or whoever shares your home working space). 

For me, the moment that has given me the greatest sense of pride in my work so far was buying my three-year old son a new Liverpool kit for his birthday, paid for with money from my first big client invoice. That was a sweet moment.

Hopefully there’ll be more to come. 

Post author: Ben Capper. 

Thank you Ben, congratulations on your six-month anniversary. The first year is definitely the hardest, I remember looking at a huge blank calendar on my office wall and wondering how on earth I would fill it. Thank you for sharing your experiences with my readers and for your excellent advice.

Do look him up online his website is greyfoxcomms.co.ukFollow Ben on Twitter and connect on LinkedIn.

Further reading: Diary of a freelancer, six months in – by Ellie Buckingam.

Learn how to be a Comms Consultant

All Things IC turns six-years-old this month. To mark my five-year anniversary, I published a series of articles about the realties of becoming a Comms Consultant, I answered lots of your questions and gave an honest account of life as a Consultant.

You can find them here:

Last year I introduced two new How to be a Comms Consultant Masterclasses – Exploration and Momentum.

If you want to explore the idea of being a Consultant, come and join me at my Exploration Masterclasses, or if you’re already working as a Consultant, join me at a Momentum Masterclass.

They are both confidential, I don’t share photographs of attendees online, and they’ve been designed to allow Comms pros to ask questions, test ideas, have Mastermind sessions and leave with pages of ideas and actions.

I use this model I’ve created as the structure of the courses:

 

Further reading on the All Things IC blog: How to be an Internal Comms Consultant in 2019.

Thank you for stopping by. If you are thinking about being a Consultant, I hope this article has helped.

As ever, I love hearing from you, do comment below or Tweet me @AllthingsIC with any thoughts on this topic.

Rachel

First published on the All Things IC blog 9 January 2019.

 

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