We’re asking members of Crunch Chorus (our free-to-join community for the self-employed) to share their experiences of being self-employed. This week, Vicki Jakes – a freelance digital project and marketing consultant – opens up about going it alone, the challenges she’s faced, and her goals for the future.
Tell us about your business!
I provide consultancy services to small businesses, startups, entrepreneurs (and even some bigger businesses if required) on how to deliver better digital projects and execute better digital marketing strategies. I’m often working on a website build or an ad campaign, but also provide a lot of free advice.
What prompted you to go self-employed?
I was looking to spend more time with my small children and not pay out so much cash for childcare and I just couldn’t find that with an employer. I didn’t really know what I was going to do to make money when I left my last job but I knew 100% that I wanted more time with my kids and to help people.
What were the biggest challenges you had to overcome when starting out?
Making my money last long enough to give me a chance to find paying clients and getting paid a good enough run. I had enough cash to last two months in the end to pay my way at home, and it was just enough before I got paid work.
What do you like most about working for yourself? And what do you dislike?
I love working the hours I want to so that I can spend more time with the kids. I also love the ability to pick and choose my clients.
I don’t love the long hours I have to work to have close to a full-time salary for myself because it means I’m up at 6am with the kids each day and then in bed 12am after working all evening. It’s a long day. However I know that if I can just get through my first year then this won’t feel so hard in the future. I love what I do, so it makes it easier!
I also love my home office and all the new people I have met. I feel like I have met so many more people in Brighton since going self-employed.
Looking back, is there anything you would have done differently when starting up?
I spent time in the first few weeks interviewing for jobs because I was nervous about committing to running a business. I regret that now. I wish I had used that time to focus 100% on finding new clients.
I also tried out freelancer job sites for work and although the practice was good, I think I had undervalued my services by trying to compete with overseas rates.
What would be your top tip to anyone thinking about going self-employed?
Have two to three months of cash to rely on and definitely think about getting a business coach for the first few months if you can afford it. I paid for a pay-as-you-go coach who was able to help me create my business plan and act as an accountability partner, so I got on with things knowing I had a meeting with her to tell her about my next steps.
What’s your biggest success story from your time being self-employed?
I have won three speaking gigs since going self-employed which is a career goal of mine and ironically I never got to do it when I was working for big agencies. It’s resulted in big leads, which is a great side effect.
Do you have any pro tips on how to find new clients?
Use social media. It’s your friend. Find Facebook groups where people are looking for service or products that you offer and keep an eye on them daily so that you can respond or just give good advice.
Use LinkedIn to join in discussions. Direct message people on Instagram (that’s still quite novel!) and use the search in Twitter. All the conversations are happening, you just need to find them and then (gulp) join in, which is hard and nerve-racking but if you don’t, someone else will.
How do you find managing your cash flow?
It’s been hard. As my costs are low because I am a service/hours business, I only spend money on subscriptions or my phone bill. However I also had to ask the bank for an overdraft so that I can cover my costs when clients pay late (which they do). I keep my payment terms at 14 days too.
What did you consider when calculating your rates?
When working out my hourly rate, I based it on the equivalent of the salary I want to earn.
Do you work from home or in a co-working space? How do you find that work environment?
At present at home, but there are some great co-working spaces in Brighton that I would like to spend a day at once I have more cash flow to pay for nursery for the day, as I find I am 1,000 times more productive when working from 8am-3pm.
How did you find the transition to self-employment?
It took me about two months to say “I have a business” to people. I didn’t really believe it for a while. I have (paying) clients and some projects under my belt it’s much easier and now I cannot imagine going back and working for anyone else right now.
If you want to share your experiences of being self-employed, give us a shout at firstname.lastname@example.org, or why not join our supportive Facebook group to chat to friendly freelancers.