Over the years I’ve read many tips on freelancing, such as which tools to use, how to get new customers, etc. Bournemouth-based, Elizabeth Harmon, sums this all up together perfectly when she writes “You’re in charge of everything and so it’s important you’re organised.” Her other tips, like all our Featured Freelancers, come from her own experiences of freelancing over the last 3 years. The following is a snapshot of those experiences. Enjoy!
What is your name and what do you do?
My name is Elizabeth Harmon and I am a Freelance Social Media Consultant. I provide a complete range of social media services to clients, from providing advice and creating a social media strategy, to writing content (e.g. social posts, blogs), managing social media accounts, reporting and training.
How long have you been freelancing and why did you decide to become a freelancer?
I initially worked as a Social Media Executive in the hospitality industry, which I absolutely loved. However, I wanted to develop my skills further so I moved to a Social Media Agency for a short time. As well as having a crazy commute, it just wasn’t the right fit for me. I wasn’t initially sure what I wanted to do, but I had done some freelance work previously in my spare time and this helped me to make the decision to go it alone. It was the best decision I made and I have now been a full-time freelancer for over 3 years.
What support did you have from family and friends? Did anyone advise you against becoming freelance?
I already had some basic experience with freelancing which helped. This also meant that I knew other freelancers, which was great for support. Friends and family were also happy to support me, as they could see that it was something I was passionate about doing and would be determined enough to make it happen.
Did you use any professional support resources in starting your freelance business?
Initially, I attended a lot of local events and networking groups, to help build up connections. However, I’ve also found sites like LinkedIn and Twitter to be invaluable. Unfortunately, I didn’t know about the Freelance Hero’s Facebook Group until much more recently, but I now love dipping into this each day. As you work alone, it’s comforting to meet and hear from other people who are in the same position as you.
How would you describe your clients or customers?
I have a good mix of clients, from small SMBs to large multinational corporations, both B2C and B2B, in a range of different industries and countries. No one day is ever the same, which is why I really love my job and enjoy working with each of my clients.
Why do your clients/customers select you over your competitors?
A number of my clients have come to me as they worked with me when I was employed. I’ve also found that some of my clients who switch jobs themselves, get back in touch with me at their new company. It’s always lovely to hear from someone again who has worked with me in the past or recommended me to someone they know or work with.
I also believe that having hands on experience working inside a business helps. It means that I’m not just advising clients on something because I’ve read it in a book, but because I’ve actually experienced it first hand. It also means that I can relate to clients when they face challenges, or have difficulties (e.g. persuading top level management that social media is important). Although I understand that results are important, I also feel that doing a good job is more than just ticking a box. When I was working in-house, I was dedicated to the brand and genuinely cared about its success and ensuring customers were happy. I therefore try to drive this attitude through to all of my work as a freelancer too.
Is being a freelancer what you expected? Do you work more hours (or less) than you had first anticipated?
If I’m honest, I’m not quite sure what I expected. There are so many misconceptions of freelancing that I went into it with a very open mind. However, I suppose the main reason I considered freelancing was for a better work-life balance. Whilst I probably work longer hours now than ever before, and it can be difficult taking time off completely, I do enjoy the flexibility freelancing brings. And no more commuting! Plus, I’m not someone who likes sitting around and doing nothing, so it suits me that freelancing keeps me so busy.
What app or website could you not run your business without, and why?
I don’t think I could live without Twitter. And I’m not just saying that because I’m a Social Media Consultant! As someone who works alone most of the time, Twitter can help you stay up-to-date and feel part of a conversation. I use it to monitor trends, competitors, clients and much more.
If I can add a 2nd tool, I would say Google Drive. I like everything organised and got frustrated having different versions of documents and carrying things around on a USB stick. Google Drive is a lifesaver as I can access documents whilst on the go, I don’t have to worry about version control and I can work at it whether I’m on my PC in my office, or tablet whilst I’m on the go.
What advice would you give to anyone who wants to start a freelance business, specifically in your field?
There are lots of misconceptions about becoming a freelancer. It’s really not a job where you wake up every day at 12 noon and sit around for the rest of the day in your PJs watching TV. The advice I would give to someone considering becoming a freelancer is to think about what you’ll be giving up (and whether you’re happy with that). Yes, you might not have a boss looking over your shoulder all day every day, but that means you need to have the drive to motivate yourself, to get work done. You will not need to travel to the office, but that means you need to be committed to your work, rather than getting distracted by other things. You’re in charge of everything and so it’s important you’re organised. Plus, you’ll miss out on holiday pay, sick leave, other company benefits and you won’t always have a team of people around you to support you, or to talk about your weekend with. If you’re happy with all this, then it can be an extremely rewarding thing to do.
What are the most notable things you have learnt since starting your business; either about running a business or about yourself?
When I worked in an agency, I was always quite quiet and so I kept my head down and got on with my work. As a freelancer, you’ve got to put yourself out there more. Not only are you in the background doing the work, but you also have to be in the forefront, meeting clients, pitching to them and relaying information to them. By becoming a freelancer, I’ve realised that I can communicate with clients and am much more confident that I realised.
What is it about being a freelancer that you most enjoy?
I have a good mix of clients and I enjoy working with all of them. There’s nothing better than seeing them happy with the results, or getting positive feedback from them (or even their clients/customers)!
I have had some very positive recommendations on LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/elizabethharmon/
What do you enjoy the least about being a freelancer?
This probably sounds silly, but working in the hospitality industry, it was important to always look very smart. I do miss putting on a suit because when you work from home, it doesn’t really matter what you wear, so you just live in jeans and t-shirts.
I also find Christmas time quite hard. Everyone around you seems to be doing festive things with colleagues, decorating the office, listening to Christmas tunes, sharing chocolate treats, going out for drinks together and enjoying a lively Christmas party. It’s not quite the same having a Christmas party on your own…
What is your ultimate professional goal as a freelancer?
If my clients are happy, then I’m happy. I know that social media is constantly changing though and so I can never stand still. I constantly need to make sure I stay relevant and provide the best advice and service that I can.
What one thing do you wish you had known before you became a freelancer?
When becoming a freelancer, I was very focused on wanting to help clients with their social media activities. However, I don’t think I fully contemplated that you also need to wear lots of different hats. Not only do I provide social media services, I need to run my own marketing, keep my website up-to-date, manage my accounts, file my taxes, send invoices, order office supplies etc… Luckily I have a good support network to help me and I also feel proud that I’ve managed to learn a lot as I go.
You can find out more and connect with Elizabeth at the following places:
Social Media Accounts