In a quest to identify the top UK freelancers across the creative industries, The Drum asked its readers to nominate their top three freelancers. We then whittled down the list and caught up with some of our recommended freelancers to find out what drives them, what challenges they’ve faced and what advice they’d give to others considering the career.
What would ever drive someone to become a freelancer… other than the whole working from home, choosing your own hours, being your own boss thing? Okay, so maybe there are some benefits, but for most of us it conjures up images of a life not knowing where your next pay cheque is coming from, endless filling out of tax forms and chasing people for payment. But there must be more to it than that. Surely.
Well, recent research by recruitment company Major Players found that freedom of choice is much more important to freelancers than greater financial reward. 44% of integrated freelancers and 35% in creative & design, it found, rate greater choice over projects as the most appealing aspect of freelancing, while 29% of integrated and 31% of creative & design freelancers were chiefly motivated by gaining greater creative experience and opportunity.
The research also found that the least appealing aspect was periods of inactivity between assignments, with 39% of design & creative and 37% of integrated stating this reason, followed by 22% most concerned with the comparative insecurity of freelancing.
Major Players’ survey also noted that freelancers expressed opinions that the everyday life of a freelancer was among their motivations, with “flexible working times around children” and “freedom from the stink of internal politics” given as reasons.
In a series of online articles, we talk to a few of our 2012 recommended freelancers to find out why they ditched the nine-to-five and some of the challenges they've faced. We start off here by asking:
What are the benefits of being a creative freelancer?
I love being my own boss. It does sometimes lead to me working crazy hours, but being able to organise your own schedule is great. A diverse mix of clients means I don’t get bored or complacent. I also get some free time to work on a number of treasured personal projects.
You never know what you’re going to be doing, or where. Different agencies, clients, media, problems and, of course, creative solutions. It’s like a Smörgåsbord of briefs. So you never get bored. It keeps you on your (creative) toes too. One day you might be in a digital hot shop, the next, old school above-the-line and the weekend, in your pyjamas, working from home.
You get to work on the specialisms that interest you most – and find out what you really enjoy. Back in 2002, my employer wasn’t really interested in offering web copywriting as a service. And the idea of training people to write web copy hadn’t crossed their minds. I went my own way.
You can work longer on rainy days and work less on sunny days. So living in Scotland, you have plenty of potential hours to work.
Ultimately, not having to worry about company politics leaves room for creative freedom. The only person you are cheating by not producing your best work is yourself. The huge variety in briefs, working environments and people makes every booking and every day an adventure.
Schmaltzy as it sounds, the thing I love most about freelancing is having the opportunity to work with a diverse range of charities, voluntary groups and social enterprises who make a real difference to their community.
The day-to-day activity you must undertake to become successful are so varied, no day is the same. You undertake an array of tasks from meeting with clients and managing there needs, right down to sorting out your accounts but most of all it’s the creativity and freedom you gain.
The benefit of being a creative freelancer is having the ability to manage your own schedule and work/life balance. Some days it can be hard to be creative, whereas on others the creative energy is in abundance and being able to apply the right mood to the work on hand makes for a happier and more creative experience. Also being your own boss allows you to cut out the Account Handlers, Managing Directors and office politics that generate a negative energy, enabling you to be more creative.
Focus and Flexibility. The ability to take a look at both the bigger picture as well as the finite detail of the marketing issues affecting an organisation, without having a day-to-day employee role to fulfil. This can involve anything from interior décor to data as well as strategy, implementation and measurement of results.
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