Brighton Lives

So You’re Thinking Of Becoming Freelance? Here’s 9 Crucial Tips For Going It Alone

Going freelance sounds idyllic, right? Working 24/7 on your passion. Clocking-in wearing your PJs. No 9.30pm emails from your boss. Long holidays and living the digital nomad life from a beachside cafe in Thailand. But that’s not the reality (for most freelancers) is it?

Going out on your own can be incredibly rewarding but being successful takes dedication, desire, bloody-mindedness, and a hefty sprinkling of talent. According to The Association of Independent Workers and the Self-Employed (IPSE) there’s over 2 million freelancers in the UK, and they contribute £119 billion to the UK economy. If you’re thinking about becoming joining the gang this year, here’s some advice.

Find someone to (ap)praise you

Everyone loves being praised for good work but appraisals are something most employees dread. Once you’re fending for yourself in the big bad world of freelance, the idea of someone taking the time (a whole hour!) to sit down and tell you relatively objectively how you’ve performed that year will feel like luxury.

One idea could be to find some similar-minded pals and set up an appraisal day where you take it in turns to discuss your successes, failures and roadblocks from the past year. Check out You’re Doing Great! for guidance on this.

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Network makes the dream work

As a freelancer, you’re going to live and work by the relationships you build. “You're going to need to get your name out there,” says Matthew Beck, Managing Director of Lightspeed Digital and member of Brighton digital networking group, The Farm.

“Meeting as many people as possible and making sure they know what you’ve got to offer will do wonders for your workload. Brighton is saturated with networking events, there's often multiple happening on any given day. Be open to meeting everyone, you never know who might hire you or refer you on!”

You’ll have to become a jack-of-literally-all-the-trades

One of the most most-cited reasons for going freelance is focusing on what you love. But it’s not as simple as that! “It’s certainly true that you’ll be able to steer your business in any way you choose,” says Martine Warburton, co-founder of Huskii Studio in a blog for Brighton Digital Women. “But keep in mind that along with doing the bit you love you’ll need to provide you own IT support, accounts department, office cleaner, legal, business strategy and marketing. So, you may spend more time each day doing things which are not your forte.

Once you are established you can (and should) pay other experts to do some of this stuff, freeing you up to focus (again) on what you love!”


Get to know your apps

Without the various (and often maddening) systems that companies put in place, you’re going to have to learn to manage your diary, juggle your clients and generally maintain a professional demeanour. There’s a whole world of apps and tools that will help you. Use Toggl to track – to the second – how much time you’re spending on each client. Trello is perfect for step-by-step project management. Shake will help speed up your professional contract-making skills and Wunderlist will help you create the ultimate, anxiety-beating cross-device to-do list.

Don’t overthink it!

Much of the guidance out there suggests freelancers should save a financial wedge – maybe six months of outgoings – before making the leap. This is wrong, according to Toby Moore, Co-Founder and Director of Content Club.

“If you want a successful start at freelancing, get some clients. Side hustle for three months, six months, a year… whatever it takes. Find your time; whether it’s on the train, after dinner, or on the weekends. Go to people that know you and know that your good and tell them you have a dream, you want them to be your first client and you are going to prove you can do a great job before you make the commitment to go full-time.

People that like you and want your skills, will support you and say yes. And that’s all you need. For now.”


Know your limits!

The temptation when starting out is to take every job going. There be danger, according to Noor from Freelance UK:

“When it comes to freelancing, you must make sure that you know your limits. This will be a trial and error game and you will earn with time. However, it's essential you only take on work that you have the skills and the time to do. If you produce work of low quality due to time, then this may cause more damage than if you were to reject the project. Therefore, knowing your ability and limits is key.”


Get. Out. Of. The. House

We say that humans are social animals and, though the internet perpetuates the notion that we can nurture real relationships from behind our laptop screens, nothing makes up for being in the room with people. Even if you’re still working out of your bedroom, make time to be with like-minded folk: meet clients in coffee shops; go on a walkshop (a cross between a meeting and a workshop); go to dinner with your freelance pals and moan about the travails of invoice chasing. Better still! Join a coworking space and live amongst your bredren.

Don’t be afraid of going pro-bono….for the right project

Should you ever work for free? It is a question that raises the temperature of freelancers like no other. There are some that say you should never offer your finely honed skills for nothing, and that by doing so you validate bad business habits and create a working environment that increasingly excludes those from lower income backgrounds.

However, there are plenty of deserving people and organisations for whom your pro-bono work could lift them into another dimension. Emma Betty Lewis-Griffiths from The Social Club says, “I’ve also started working on a few pro bono projects with charities and it’s great to be able to channel my skills into a greater cause than just my own. As a freelancer, you can be very inward-facing and sometimes you have to be. But there’s also more to life than making your next buck. Honest.”


Good Rebels and PLATF9RM’s Most Influential Of 2018

How do you measure influence?

Many rely on metrics like followers or engagement when quantifying the effectiveness of an online Influencer. But Good Rebels, the PLATF9RM-based digital and creative agency, take a simpler view.

“True influence is trust. The way you trust a friend telling you something at the kitchen table. That trust can then be used to drive action,” says Mark Ralphs, Partner at Good Rebels. “Think of each online person as a node; the bigger the node, the bigger their ability to connect people and make things happen.”

Take a popular music blogger. They can be the bridge between a community that includes fan, artist, record store, record label and venue, all of which leads to the music.

Brighton is blessed with an abundance of talented and trustworthy Influencers, so Good Rebels and PLATF9RM wanted to hail the city’s best. Here’s Brighton’s Most Influential for 2018. Follow them!

Food and drink

Foodie Eshé

Eshé is a food blogger, graphic designer and photographer, who’s been featured by Hairy Bikers. Her food blog is an insider's guide on where to eat across Brighton & Hove, with a focus on independent restaurants. If there’s a new joint opening in town, Eshé’s on the list.


The Graphic Foodie

The Graphic Foodie was launched in 2008 by Fran, a branding designer and freelance writer. Fran’s blog lists frequently updated Brighton restaurant reviews and news, along with family recipes from her Abruzzo region of Italy. Check out her ‘Best Of Brighton’ page for everything that’s good in town.




Rachel Finch

Rachel Finch is a director – along with PLATF9RM members Lana Burgess and Allegra Chapman – of Brighton Digital Women. They connect Brighton’s female digital workers and provide a nurturing, collaborative community. Rachel works at local agency Site Visibility and is an all-round champion of local ladies in those digital businesses that are still – for the moment – guy-dominated.


Tom Bourlet

Tom is a Brighton-based blogger and author of the e-book, The Spaghetti Traveller Guide On How To Blog: From Blogger To Brand. He started his Spaghetti Traveller blog five years ago and has been featured everywhere from Forbes to The Daily Mail. When Tom’s not chatting about his many travels he’s also the co-owner of DrinksPal: an app that lets users find the perfect bar, restaurant, coffee shop, or events venue.


Local politics

Caroline Lucas

No introduction necessary. Caroline Lucas, MP for Brighton Pavilion, is the UK’s only Green Party MP and the perfect manifestation of our city’s progressive, caring attitude. A mum to two sons and general advocate of human and environmental rights, she’s a true local hero.


Peter Kyle

Peter Kyle is the Labour MP for Hove and Portslade and beloved by his constituents. With a past that includes a doctorate in community development to a spell working as an aid worker in the Balkans, he brings an unbiased social conscience to everything he does.


Artists and Makers

Lois O’Hara

Lois O’Hara is an artist and designer well-known for her fluorescent, wave-inspired artwork. You can see her designs and murals all over the city, from the seafront, to the venue Patterns, to an entire basketball court in Saunders Park.


Natalie Edge

Liverpool-born Natalie Edge is a Brighton-based blogger, artist and event designer. Her blog Nat’s Life gives a peek into the nuts and bolts of her life, whilst she’s also a vocal supporter of LGBTQ+ rights and mental health issues.

Company of the Week - Pass the Keys

Meet Nadege, die-hard Harry Potter fan and Susie, proud mum of Mia the chihuahua. Together they work for Pass The Keys, a one stop, fully managed, short-let property service.


Welcome both of you to your Company of the Week, could you talk us through the process of using your service at Pass The Keys?

Basically we do short let holiday management, we’ve got properties mainly on Airbnb, Home Away and many others. People give us the keys and we make sure the properties booked, generate revenue for them and then manage all their operations; cleaning, linen and other issues that might arise. If something happens in the middle of the night, we’re here, so customers have a hassle free experience.

I'm guessing you have quite the roster of handy people at your disposal?

We’ve got an extensive list of local suppliers, cleaning providers, electricians, plumbers, handymen. We also work with freelance marketers etc. There are many other offices around the UK and we work with them on a daily basis. We started in London and now we’re trying to localise the process more, because it’s how we work the best and how we can deliver the best service.

Susie, you are relatively new to the team, right? How’ve you found joining PLATF9RM?

Susie: I joined back at the beginning of September and it’s been good, Nadege has been really helpful. A lot of training has been involved as my background is actually in PR; so learning about property was completely new. But it’s been really good, I’ve picked it up really quickly.

Nadege: It’s been great having Susie here, sharing with someone else is wonderful. There are often issues that arise during the day, so it’s been good to have someone to have a chat with and share ideas on how to solve them.

How do you both find the coworking experience at PLATF9RM?


It’s cool to see many different companies in the same place. I know a lot of spaces have a niche, like tech based or something, so it’s nice to have a mixture. Seeing different faces every day is brilliant. It’s also really useful that we can go between Brighton and Hove, with our roles we travel around quite often, so to be able to pop into whichever office we’re nearest to works really well. You also have Bird & Blend tea which is great.

You guys are based mainly in Hove, is there anything that drew you to this particular location?

Nadege: When I looked for an office at the start, I wanted a space close, as I have a little girl and I live in Hove, so it was convenient. I love having access to both spaces; it was what made PLATF9RM so appealing. So, when we started it was because of convenience, now we couldn’t go anywhere else.

Have you guys been attending any PLATF9RM events?

Nadege: I would like to, we missed the PLATF9RM Birthday unfortunately. Now that Susie’s finished her training we might be able to attend some. I’ve done several Cereal* Fillers, but I look forward to attending an evening event.

Susie: I’d love to attend the new yoga sessions in the morning at Hove Town Hall.

What cartoon character do you both most heavily identify with?

Susie: I don’t identify with her, but I love Betty Boop, I aspire to be like her, she’s very confident.

Nadege: Chihiro Ogino from Spirited away.

Favourite film you’ve watched this year?

Susie: I watched Wreck it Ralph because my sisters an animator for the game, it was really cute and funny.

Nadege: I’ve not been to the cinema since last year, but I’m a huge Harry Potter fan, so nothing will beat a Harry Potter film.

Money’s no object, what’s your ideal Christmas gift for yourself?

Nadege: Delicious food and wine. That’s all I want. Cool decorations and I’m good.

Susie: I would buy Mia a new friend, which would be a blonde cocker spaniel.


Cheers Pass the Keys!

If you want to be a member at our space, get in touch for a tour and trial.

9 Tips To Be A Freelance Writer And Stay Zen

Freelance writing is a tough gig that, whilst #incredibly #rewarding at times, can be fraught with introspection and anxious times. To try and assuage the doubts of the scribes out there on Planet Content, I’ve compiled this rather haphazard list about how to stay happy whilst doing this job that lends itself to the odd dark night (and morning) of the soul.

To be clear: this isn’t a guide about how to be a freelance writer or journalist per se, but more a cheat sheet for staying zen when the money’s dried up, no-one’s answering your pitches, and you’re sitting in your pants staring at a blank screen and wondering where the next idea will come from. So good luck, Godspeed, and put on some proper clothes and shoes: there, that’s my first tip…

Writing is a small part of writing

I used to struggle with the concept of what actually counts as work. When I started out, I considered an hour not actually pouring words into a computer file as peripheral. Wasted even. But writing – whether it’s writing a profile for The New Yorker or a pro bono charity pamphlet – is, at most, 50% about the actual writing. Research is work. Reading is work. Preparing for interviews is work. Transcribing is work. Emailing is work. Writing pitches is work. Invoice-filing is work. Invoice-chasing is work (sadly). Get to grips with this and you’ll feel much better about a day where you feel that you’ve not moved a project on.


Don’t let Editor feedback get you down

We’ve all got tender egos that can be challenged by having an Editor you admire leaving a tirade of Google Docs comments like, “Seriously?” or “This doesn’t feel right” or “Hmm, yeah, can we please turn up the lolz?” You have to develop a thick skin. Stop being romantic about it. If you’re really struggling with their takedowns, you can always lean on Hemingway’s old adage: “The first draft of anything is shit.”

Get a niche and be proud of it

People talk about finding your voice as a writer and that’s vital. But tangled up in this is your niche and, if you find the latter, you’ll have a hill to shout from. That niche could be anything. Weird is good! It could be Brutalist architecture, or Central American politics, or clogs.

Let your niche define you and be proud of it. Other weirdos who admire the culture and complicated and sometimes painful past of the lowly clog will arise from the sewers. These are your friends now and they will give you strength and maybe – if you’re freakishly lucky – one day commission you for that clogs longread you’ve been planning since university.


Learn to say no!

Saying no to a job isn’t easy, especially when you’re starting out and desperate for names or clients on your CV. But taking on a commission or job that you’re not suited for can be fraught with freelance wildfire: you’ll stress about it loads, possibly turn in something substandard, and risk burning your bridges with that person in the future.

Find a gang

I have never been good at networking that didn’t involve cheap tequila and a sheepish “last night got a bit out of hand” text the next morning. It probably slowed down my career, so don’t follow my lead and go to all the meet-ups and networking events you can.

Whatever your approach, you need to find people to bounce ideas off and vent and maybe even cry. Over the years I’ve accrued a few freelancer pals who I email for advice, meet up with occasionally and talk about the frankly sectionable things we’d like to do to clients who are late with their payment. I would very strongly advise joining these groups on Facebook – Journo Answers and Freelance Journalists UK. Whether you’re looking for an expert quote or ideas for a pitch, they’re invaluable sources of info and there’ll be literally thousands of people on there who have been in your shoes/sliders.


You don’t have to always be working

It’s the freelancer curse to think you always have to be working but this is exhausting and, at least in my case, has led to burnout on a few occasions.

If you have an unexpected two days gap in your calendar – and there’s food in the fridge – don’t always feel like you need to be pitching on something to fill that time. Turn on the OOO. Start Infinite Jest. Read 30 pages of Infinite Jest and put it back on the shelf for “another time”. People will respect you more if you are the sort of person that takes a Tuesday off to take a really long bath than take a job you’re too mentally exhausted to do and turn in a bad job.


The whole social media thing

I gave Twitter up a couple years ago because I found myself constantly comparing myself to other seemingly more successful people in my industry. It’s a poisonous, dispiriting, habit but surprisingly easy to fall into, especially when you’re having a bad month.

I started using it again because, personally, I think you need to have a social media presence. There are writers and journalists who don’t. But very few I know. In terms of seeing what’s going on in the world, reading the latest articles, finding sources, and (God I’m so sorry for this but it’s true) amplifying your personal brand, Twitter is key. Honestly I hope this changes because I basically hate it.

My tip? Delete the app. It broke the spell and I now just check it three (okay, five) times a day.

Take your time with pitches

There are times when a pitch is urgent and it’s necessary for you to drop it in an Editor’s inbox ASAP. But nothing will eat you like the thought that you ballsed up a potential dream commission/client because of a spelling error or poorly constructed pitch.

Write a pitch. Let the idea percolate for a day. Go for a long walk or a swim or climb something. Come back to it the next morning. Send it to yourself a few times. Send it first thing – ideally not a Friday – so it’s in the Editor’s inbox when they arrive. Please don’t have spelling mistakes in your pitch.


Find some nice clients and treasure them

Clients who persistently default on payments should, in my opinion, be trialled for hate crimes. Remove a hefty wedge of freelance rage by getting a lovely regular client (or two) who pays you on time, without being prompted by a series of passive aggressive emails. (Also, in case you didn’t know, the better bucks are rarely in editorial.)

I have some people that I do copy stuff for – it would be remiss to not say that one of them is publishing this blog – and knowing there is steady money coming in makes my life better in every way. So my advice is simple: find a nice, reliable client and work hard for them. Not rocket science, tbh.

Get a dog

Yes, officially this is 10 but we needed a way to shoehorn some doggy pictures into this. So get a dog. Or a cat. Or something that is sentient and furry and will distract you when you’re stressed and won’t judge you when you get an email from a client saying you wrote “you’re” rather than “your” in a sub-head. Or when you turn up to work – the lounge, their bedroom – in just a shirt. It’s not really okay though, is it?

Photo by  Emma Croman

Photo by Emma Croman

Written by David Hillier