AFTER OUR Get Fit for Freelancing workshop recently (targeted at young members and new entrants), I found myself wondering, of all the tips and advice offered, what was the single most useful recommendation I could make? How could I distil a two and a half hour workshop down into one great tip?

I thought about the session and all the issues we discussed. It was hard to focus on one being more important than another, especially as every topic had a quite different impact on each member of the group.

Get organised

For example, we covered being organised. There were some who rolled their eyes in horror at the thought of keeping tidy records, and using their diary to make all their tasks happen, as if I’d just asked them to eat a cockroach. On the other hand, others couldn’t imagine running their lives any other way.

Develop resilience

We discussed the whole issue of rejection, an occupational hazard for creative freelances, and had a long discussion about how not to take it personally. Then one of the group casually shrugged, and said, “Lots of people are going to say no to you, but some will say yes. It’s not personal, it’s a numbers game.” A completely different take, that took the sting out of ‘no’ for them.

Set boundaries

We spoke about setting boundaries between home and work, and the group had lots of suggestions how this could be achieved. We laid out what good goals were, and how it’s necessary to monitor your progress while staying flexible. We talked about assertiveness, resilience and motivation, all really important topics.

So what’s my number one tip?

But where could I find this top tip, this overriding piece of advice that could really make the difference for someone starting out? Then it hit me. On pretty much every topic we covered, there was someone in the room for whom this wasn’t so much of a problem.

This added so much to the session. It’s all very well me as the tutor saying, “you need to be organised,” or, “don’t take things personally,” but when someone else in the group leans forward with a genuine, works for them solution, it reinforces the point beautifully, and makes that advice much more accessible and possible for the rest of the group.

It’s to get out there and meet other people in the same or similar businesses. I’m trying not to use the word networking, because so many people have attached negative connotations to this word, but really, that’s what I’m talking about. However, in my definition of networking it’s just about putting a face to a name anyway. In my experience, these sorts of connections can often lead to work, but the emphasis for me is meeting interesting people, and maybe staying in touch with them.

Mixing regularly with other creative freelances helps you to understand that many of the pressures and stresses that may be getting you down, are often just a normal part of this world you have entered. The great thing is, that different people will not all find the same problems difficult that you do, so you all have the opportunity to support and learn from each other.

If someone does something easily that you find hard, ask them how they do it? Quiz them about how they think about this, and what steps they take to make themselves get on with it? You will be amazed at some of the answers you will get. Maybe not all of their strategies will suit you, but give the ones that do a go, and see what happens.

Where can I meet like-minded people?

There are lots of places to meet peers. The FEU Training events are special because there you can meet and work with actors, musicians and writers. Cross discipline collaborations have been born at our workshops, when people have met, shared ideas, and identified ways to combine their skills and interests.

Your union meetings and events are a great way to connect with people who share your passion, and who will have a wealth of knowledge and experience. There really aren’t many new problems out there, whatever you are worried about, other people will have solved. Find out how they did it, till you find a method you are happy to apply.

Use your creativity to find ways to link with other like-minded individuals. Create groups on Facebook, or whatever platform you prefer to work with. Keep up with people you trained with, or that you’ve met along the way. Make sure that this is a two way process. As well as looking for support, know that what you have learned, and what you do easily, will also be useful to others in the group.

So what’s my one piece of advice from this workshop? It’s to get connected, and stay connected, and learn from all the people you meet.

More info

  • You find a range of straightforward e-courses at our digital learning centre from an overview of the business skills you’ll need to support your creative career to financial management. All you have to do is register on the website if you haven’t done so already.
  • You’ll also find a range of quick tips including networking and confidence building.

Business skills training
for creative freelances