The Public Affairs Leadership Series, in partnership with Women in Public Affairs, recently looked at what it means to be freelance; what to think about when making the jump, the options available to you and how to sustain your career – and your sanity – when going it alone.
On the panel were our very own Head of Interim Jules Shelley, freelancing institution Jane Bowles, newbie Jo Field and Women in Public Affairs’ Soniya Ganvir, who has been interim for 18 months. Discussions on the day covered off the why, the how and the key to sustaining success, if you want to pursue a freelance career.
is freelancing for you?
Freelancing often seems an appealing option for women in the public affairs industry who have families, as it can offer flexibility around childcare, school holidays etc. It also allows for the pursuit of other interests such as political commitments, hobbies or commercial opportunities. Panelist Soniya also runs a Latin American supper club (Sobremesa London) and a beauty brand (Splash&Glow).
Freelancing can be lonely and you have to be prepared for some instability in your working pattern, but the positives can override the negatives if it is an option that suits you.
making the jump
- Get your finances in order
Be prepared that winning your first client or getting your first interim contract could take time. Make sure you can cover your rent / mortgage and bills for a couple of months, whether through savings, part time work or other income sources.
- Think about logistics
If you’re planning interim work, you could be paid via payroll but you’ll more than likely need to notify HMRC. You’ll have to decide whether to set up as a limited company or operate as self-employed. There is support and resources available from IPSE to help you get started, or go to Gov.uk to kick-start the process.
- Be clear about your USP
Are you a sector specialist? A generalist? Public affairs supremo or communications guru? Women tend to sell themselves short, so be clear about your achievements and expertise.
Also make sure that you check out the competition; you need to ensure that you get noticed above your fellow freelancers, with a unique selling point that stands you apart from the rest.
making it work
- Get the price right
Remember that as a freelancer you’ll have to get your National Insurance in order. We suggest adding 30% to your salary and dividing it by the 220 working days to give a rough estimate of your hourly rate.
- Keep your contacts hot
Make sure you get out and network as often as you can. This can open new doors and is good for your sanity, if you’re working alone. Industry sites such as PRCA and CIPR promote event listings where you can talk shop with communications professionals, and keep an ear out for prospective business opportunities.
- What goes around comes around
The freelancing community is relatively small so we suggest that, if you find you aren’t available to take on extra work, you recommend your peers to build relationships. You’ll be helping out a client and a colleague, which will pay dividends in future.
If you want to find out more information on freelancing, interim or contract work, then get in touch with Jules Shelley, Deputy Managing Director, Head of Interim at Ellwood Atfield for a confidential chat. Alternatively, you can give these articles a quick read or do a quick Google search for additional tips: