Going Freelance: Getting Started

Getting started is the big question both for me writing this post and for the month. Hopefully you've read my introduction to Going Freelance which explains about my background and how I got to the position I'm in now. Let me go a little further though and explain why I want to become self employed.

What Leads me to Self Employment?

I've always struggled in how I promote myself when applying for jobs because I've never truly been this or that, I'm a bit of this, some of that and a sprinkling of extra on top. I studied Internet Technology at university which should have seen me firmly fit into a development role, but that never happened. I took on a varied role that had me flexing my development skills when necessary but I quickly picked up design and marketing skills too.

Since then, in a few interviews I've been asked if I'm "a jack-of-all-trades, master of none". This annoys me because there's no reason why you can't be a professional in more than one field, as long as you are a dedicated person, it can be done. I've been involved with the web for around 10 years, whether that involvement be hobby, study or work, I've always tried to soak up as much of what the web is capable of as possible.

Getting Turned into Toast

In my experience of working for a few agencies and seeing competitors in my local area and the UK, I'd say 90% of people working on the web shouldn't actually be doing so. Why? Because quite simply, they are terrible. We're in this big period of customers -- a huge amount of which, don't understand the web -- paying for something that upfront seems alright, but to a professional is shockingly awful and simply doesn't work for the customer. It's like a dodgy plumber being capable of getting water to your taps, that's good, but what happens when I touch the pipe? I get turned into toast. A bad website may not turn your potential customers into toast, but it will simply turn them away.

I'm not saying I'm the greatest at the areas I mentioned, I'm simply saying the majority of what's out there needs to be better. That's where I feel I fit in. I have a wide 'all round' knowledge of creating for the web and a burning passion for offering a service that will truly be effective and work.

Further to that little rant, web related jobs in Devon at the moment are almost non existent. Thing's don't look too good. Both of the companies I worked for previously didn't survive. I also feel that personally, I will be most happy working for myself.

What I've been Doing this Month

Taking Advice

Most important this month was obviously taking advice regarding self employment. The Job Centre recommended Business Link to me that offer workshops regarding self employment. Down here in the South West of England, the workshops are free, it's possible you'll have to pay elsewhere (that may also be the case in the future for the South West too if the Government continue with cut backs).

The workshop was titled "Is Self Employment Right for You?". It lasted half a day and was basically a chance to meet other people considering becoming self employed as well as get some good advice from the speaker. You didn't even need to have an idea of what you wanted to do as a self employed person at this point. The workshop simply covered topics such as funding, vision/goals, expenditure, registering as self employed, insurance, getting clients and what was necessary in a business plan.

The course was rather general so I felt I didn't learn a huge amount although I left feeling more like I was actually "doing it" and it was good to meet like-minded people. In fact, the biggest thought I left the workshop with was: "there's a room full of people all wanting to start up new businesses and will probably need websites. I should have brought business cards!" I don't have business cards yet as I'm not officially self employed but speaking to some of these people was definitely a good thing. The next day, I booked for the follow up workshop, "Getting it Right the First Time". This will go into much more detail about starting up and will really get me on the track to becoming self employed. I'll cover that workshop in my next diary entry.

Building Brand and Exposing Myself

Building Brand and Exposing Myself

Put away your raincoat, it's not that type of exposure. I think if you're planning to become a self employed web professional, you should feel kind of lucky. If you've got a computer and Internet connection, the opportunity to build brand and gain exposure is enormous - it's pretty much free too!

Straight off the bat this month, I redesigned my website. I felt the previous version -- whilst it showed off my graphic capabilities -- was inaccessible and not in keeping with how I wanted to be "seen". Furthermore, the content was tightly knit into the design so I couldn't really update anything -- bad thing to do I know. Still proud of the lighting effect when the slider moved though.

Honestly, I struggle with personal sites every time. Usually with client work there's some sort of guidelines and restrictions you have to go by so the sites seem to just build themselves. I spent quite a while designing a completely different site than you one see now, but I eventually went with this one. Not 100% sure if I'm happy with it yet, but the content I'm producing to build my brand is more important at the moment.

I also implemented this blog on the website to post...well, posts like this one! This diary category in particular I feel is something that hasn't really been done before. So, as much as I hope writing it will psychologically help me (as diaries apparently do), I also hope it will eventually get noticed by people in similar situations and gain some exposure of it's own.

I've also been a lot more active on Twitter as well as signing up to various other social media sites (including Facebook, as much as I hate it).

Free Wordpress Theme - GRUB
Free Wordpress Theme - GRUB

So aside from my new site and social media activity, I also designed a WordPress3 theme that I will be making available for free some time next month when the blog officially gets under way.

Research and Planning

I've been following many freelance web professionals over the years so this already puts me in good stead for how to go about self employment.

My biggest concern is getting work when I'm self employed. The key seems to be exposure, not just being active amongst the web community, but producing great content and getting your knowledge and name out there. Acting as an authoritative figure on the subject you're talking about doesn't just show you're capable of producing something, it shows there's thought and process behind it too.

I'm currently following over 100 web professionals on Twitter, a big portion of which, are producing content for this reason. If not for that content, then it's worth following people in your field just to see how they're doing things and how you can apply a similar approach yourself.

As I feel this month, my research into self employment is something that has been in the process for years, I won't specifically point out sources that have helped. I shall do so in further entries though. The great thing about the web is that you won't have to research as such, sources of information will come to you when you start following the community. Several times this month I've thought: "I'll have to find that out", then 2 minutes later someone has posted a link to an article about it on Twitter.

Further to keeping up to date with the web community, I've also been planning out my blog schedule. I have a rough idea of what I will post and when. I'll polish the schedule next month when I plan to launch the blog.

Gary Vaynerchuk

I also invested in a book called "Crush It: Why Now is the Time to Cash in on Your Passion" by Gary Vaynerchuk. If you're involved in the web, you've probably heard of this guy. If you haven't, well either way, I recommend you get his book. He discusses how you can harness the web to become successful doing the thing you love. I felt as someone who has a good amount of experience in social media marketing and knows what it can offer, Gary was covering a lot of things I already knew, but he does it with such enthusiasm it's infectious. In fact, this guy has so much enthusiasm, he sweats it. The book really made me feel confident and ready to go out and "Crush It".


Only big regret this month was quoting on a project for a friend when I am ready to take on work. I know the rule: "don't quote too little", but I still did! It was a friend so I was obviously going to give "mates rates" but as soon as I got a chance to think about it, it was too low a quote and I regretted it. I think it's important I don't make this mistake in the future. I've been calculated about my "brand" this month, carefully planning how I want to come across, charging too little instantly conveys "cheap" and that's the last thing I want.

What I've Learnt

Don't charge too little! Never quote too low. Firstly, it suggests your "cheap". I also learnt on the Business Link workshop that being the lowest priced quote means you have no room to go lower to try and win a project. Apparently, people tend to go for mid-range, "value" quotes.

A lesson isn't learnt until it's lived Rule #1 is don't charge too little. I've read it hundreds of times but I still did it.

Friends/family should hate your business Another tip I liked from the Business Link workshop. If your friends/family hate your business it's because you are dedicated to it.

Plans for the following month

  • Finalize blog schedule
  • Write blog posts (trying to keep two weeks ahead of posting schedule)
  • Look at new ways to increase exposure (I have a little idea at the moment regarding a novelty Twitter App - more to come)
  • Look at ways of creating some cash flow using affiliate schemes (another idea in the works although this is time dependent and would be more experimental than anything)
  • Attend self employment workshop
  • Continue and grow activity on social media platforms
  • Consider how to get initial clients (if the door isn't knocking)

Resources I found helpful

You get Your Say too!

Remember, you get your say too! Whilst my diary is purely about what I've been doing to become a successful freelance web consultant, I'd like to hear your experiences too. Maybe you've been in a similar situation to myself but took a slightly different path or made a different decision. Let me know! I'd also like to hear your comments and questions that I may feature in future entries too.

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Ian Lunn is a Front-end Developer with 12 years commercial experience, author of CSS3 Foundations, and graduate of Internet Technology. He creates successful websites that are fast, easy to use, and built with best practices.