9 Things

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!”

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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.”

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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.”

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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.”

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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

9 Benefits Of Flexible Working Hours

We are living in the era of flexible working hours and co-working. A recent study by HSBC reported that 89% of employees believed flexible working was key for boosting productivity, whilst 54% of those surveyed by research firm Clutch said they’re more productive outside of a traditional office environment.

Here’s nine reasons why a flexible hours membership is both present and future. (And, yes, we know we’re biased but hear us out.)


Reduced costs and commitments

Whether you’re the owner of a small agency or solopreneur, flexible hours co-working memberships keep the costs down and your financial commitments limited. You can go month-to-month and not be wed to long-term office costs that can be such a drain in those early days. Sleepful nights are made of this.

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You can exercise more

The benefits of exercise are well-reported and the NHS itself calls it the the “miracle cure we've all been waiting for”. Having a flexible hours arrangement – either as a freelancer making your own timetable or with an employer – enables you to make your working hours fit in around the exercise, rather than vice versa. No more 6am slogs to the gym, no more 9pm runs in the rain. Do the exercise you want, your way, and see how it changes every aspect of your life.

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Perfect for the night workers

Obviously this wouldn’t work for all industries but for some people – looking at you writers and graphic designers – inspiration only comes with a setting sun. A flexible hours membership gets you out of your bedroom and into the real world.

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Life admin, be gone!

Whether its food shopping or the doctor’s, life admin is a responsibility we all have to face. Flexible working hours means you don’t have to spend your Saturday afternoon’s traipsing round Sainos or asking your boss for a Tuesday morning off to finally get that rash checked.

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You keep work at work

One commonly cited problem with a remote working culture is that the lines between the office and home are not just becoming blurred, but actively erased. As a result our overstimulated brains never get the downtime they so desperately need. Make a flexible hours membership work for you. Leave your computer at the office and stop trawling spreadsheets during The Great British Bake Off.

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Decrease child healthcare costs

The average cost of sending a child under two to nursery is £122.46 a week part time and £232.84 a week full time. Scale these costs up for multiple children and they can be debilitating. Flexible working hours enable you to work around your children’s needs, from nursery all the way to university. (Or at least high school.)

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Keep your own hours

Everyone works to a different beat. Some of us are morning dwellers, many (many) aren’t. Working to someone else’s hours is a major cause of stress. Imagine, for instance, arriving for work at 10.30 on a Monday rather than 8.30. Sayonara, Sunday Fear.

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Decreasing stress

Decreasing our exposure to stress is one of the greatest challenges facing our modern working culture. A recent survey by the Mental Health Foundation saw 28% of millennials state that working through stress was expected in their job whist 34% said this stress made them less productive. By taking ownership of your working hours – vis-a-vis your life – you’ll be able to march to your own beat and feel better with every step.

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You are now the boss

In the UK, 4.8million people are self-employed or freelance, representing 15% of the population. This is a lot of people who are now the queens and kings of their work castle. A flexible hours working membership will truly give your ownership of your empire. Arise!

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For more information on PLATF9RM memberships click here

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A Beginner’s Guide To Safe Sea-Swimming

Sea-swimming is one of the great benefits of coastal living but the ocean can be deadly. The National Water Safety Forum states that 255 people died last year from accidental drowning in the UK, whilst any Brightoner will be familiar with the Argus headlines that arrive sporadically throughout the year about a person – often tragically young – who has died swimming off Brighton beach

Andy White is an open water swimming coach, lifeguard, and one of the founders of Sea Lanes who – we hope – will open a 25m open air pool and national open water swimming centre on Madeira Terrace in 2019. He’s a veteran who’ll regularly swim from the Palace Pier to Hove Lagoon, so well placed to give his ultimate tips for staying safe in the waves.

 

Respect the Water and Respect Your Ability

This is the most important thing! People will dive in and swim far out without knowing enough about currents, riptides, coldness of the water or their ability in open water swimming. If you’re not sure about your ability, always err on the side of caution.

 

The Lifeguards Are There To Help. Speak To Them!

Lifeguards are dotted along the beach and on-hand to answer any questions. It’s always worth getting guidance about how the sea is behaving before you go in. Also, tell them if you’re going to do a longer swim around the buoys. Their job is to keep you safe so don’t be shy of helping them do that.

 

If You Get In Trouble, Roll Onto Your Back

If you get into trouble roll  onto your back and put your hand in the air. If you’re close to shore don’t wave as the lifeguard may think you're just waving to someone on the shore. If you’re further out, wave: you need to raise attention.

 

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The buoys are further out than you think

The swimming area buoys might look very close from the shore but they’re further away than you think! The closest are around 100m. If you’re not a confident swimmer it can be easy to get out there, panic at the distance and get into trouble. If you’re not sure swim out with someone else, or on a paddleboard.

 

Get To Know The Tides

Tides just don’t go in and out to shore, but also left to right and right to left.  You could find yourself 200m to the left of where you thought you were. Download these apps to get up-to-date information on the tides: My Tide Times and Magic Seaweed.

 

Get Wise To Your Warmth

The endorphin rush you get from a sea-swim in cold water is incredible but get to know your warmth limit. The sea can go from 20°C in September, then slowly starting decreasing. December it will be around 12°C degrees and once you get to March it’’s 6°C"or 7°C". If your fingers or toes start getting cold, that’s the start of mild hypothermia and you need to get out immediately.

 

Go Swim Against The Rip Current

Brighton beach is famous for its rip current and it can be hugely dangerous. When you’re stuck in a rip current you’ll feel like you’re just treading water and not moving towards the shore. People get into trouble when they keep fighting against a rip current, panic and tire themselves out,


To get out the rip current, swim horizontally against it: parallel to the shore, towards the marina or lagoon. This will take you out of the current that’s pulling you towards the sea and back towards the shore.

 

Novices - Swim When It's Low Tide

The best time to swim for novice swimmers is lower tide. (When the tide is pushing in.) With a low tide it will be shallower for longer and you can walk out maybe 50m til you are chest deep.

 

Don't Drink and Dip

This is so important, especially in Brighton where intoxicated people die every year in the sea Drinking alcohol will impair your decision-making and could lead to you getting into trouble. Don’t do it.