Freelancing & Self-Employment in the Creative Industries

Freelancing &
in the Creative
This guide has been created for students and graduates from Edinburgh Napier
University’s School of Arts and Creative Industries who may be considering
freelancing or self-employment as a career option. The leaflet aims to answer
questions such as ‘What is freelancing?’ ‘How do I know if freelancing would
suit me?’ ‘How do I market myself as a freelancer?’ ‘How do I set up as a
freelancer?’ and ‘Where can I find more information?’ If you want to find out
the answers to these questions and more then this leaflet is essential reading
for you.
What is freelancing?
A freelancer is an individual who is self-employed and not committed to an
employer over a long term. Freelancers offer a particular product, skill or
service and are often employed for set lengths of time to work on specific
projects, and may charge by the hour, day or job. As a freelancer, you can
choose to work independently and source work for yourself or you may prefer
to work for an agency that will sell your skills on your behalf. Freelancing is a
very common career option within the creative sector and something that is
likely to be of interest to students and graduates of courses in areas such as
Design, TV and Film, Music, Journalism and Publishing as well as English and
Is freelancing for me?
There are many benefits to working as a freelancer including the freedom and
independence of being your own boss, the flexibility of your work schedule
as well as the variety of interesting projects you can work on. It can also
provide you with the opportunity to work in an area you are passionate about.
However, deciding to go freelance is not something to rush into. It requires a
lot of effort and self-motivation to successfully gain work, build your network
of clients or employers, manage your time and organise the many essential
practicalities including tax, insurance and many more. This often has to be
done, at least initially, whilst working at another job for financial security until
being self-employed is financially viable as a full-time career choice.
For anyone considering freelancing as a career option, take time to assess
whether or not you are best suited to working on a self-employed basis.
Below are four areas you may want to think about initially. Read through the
information below and answer the questions honestly and you should get a
good idea of whether freelancing is for you or not.
1. Self-motivation
Working as a freelancer can be incredibly rewarding – you can choose when
and how you work. However, it requires initiative and self-motivation to
ensure you are successful in achieving your goals. Finding and building your
client base, marketing, networking, administration and much more has to be
managed on an ongoing basis. Take a look at the questions below – the more
you can answer ‘yes’ to the better:
•• Are you good at motivating yourself?
•• Are you passionate about the work you do?
•• Do you keep up-to-date with new developments in your chosen industry?
•• Are you good at achieving personal goals?
•• If a project is not going to plan, are you able to think positively and use your initiative to move forward?
•• Are you good at maintaining a healthy work/life balance?
•• Are you able to stay focused on a task?
•• Do you always do your best within your work?
•• Do you view freelancing as an exciting challenge rather than an uphill struggle?
2. Personality
Finding a career or job that you love doing is what everyone wants. Taking
time to think about your interests, values, strengths and weaknesses will help
you to identify what you’re looking for from your work. You can then use this
information to assess whether or not various career options are well suited to
you. Answering the questions below may help you assess whether freelancing
is a good career option for you:
Are you comfortable working on your own? Working on a freelance basis
might require a lot of independent working, without the ability to share ideas or
questions with others.
Are you organised and able to meet set deadlines? Freelancers need to be
highly organised to ensure all tasks are completed on time.
Are you good at listening? It is really important to have the ability to listen to
others so that you fully understand the client brief before starting your work. If
you are unclear on anything do not be afraid to ask further questions.
Do you have high levels of commitment and perseverance? There will
undoubtedly be times when things do not run smoothly or you encounter
unexpected issues within a project. It is essential you have the ability to see
projects through to the end and use your initiative to solve problems. Being
committed means you will also put time aside to undertake tasks that will help
your business be a success whether that’s updating your portfolio regularly or
attending relevant training courses to widen or develop your skills.
Are you focused? If you are easily distracted it is likely this will affect your
project and profits.
Are you confident networking and pitching for business? To be successful you
need to work continually on growing your network of contacts to open up new
avenues of work. To do this, you have to be comfortable meeting new people,
attending networking events and communicating clearly and confidently with
others. This last skill is essential when pitching for work as you will need to
demonstrate you have the skills required by the client.
Are you open to new opportunities? Being open to new ideas and
opportunities will enable you to shape your business offerings around current
needs/trends (for example making use of new technologies).
Can you accept feedback? Working to clients’ specifications will mean you have
to be comfortable receiving feedback to meet client needs.
Are you open to taking risks? Freelancing always involves an element of risk
as gaining work depends on many factors including both you and the economic
Are you happy juggling roles? As a freelancer you will have to think about your
accounts, marketing, planning and networking alongside your creative work.
You need to be flexible and organised in order to be successful. Being freelance
allows you set your own hours; however, you can still add structure to your
work time to ensure you put enough time towards the various elements of your
3. Finance
Although initial expenses can be low (depending on the type of work) it is very
important to be aware of any initial and regular costs that may be involved.
Many successful freelancers start on a part-time basis, allowing them to
‘test the water’ and potentially build up a client base whilst also bringing in
more secure income from other work that may or may not be related to their
freelance work. There is no need to jump straight into freelancing full-time,
but instead it can be seen as a transition phase. If this is done for a significant
period then it is easier to decide whether to freelance on a full-time basis.
When you are freelancing it is likely you will not be paid regularly but instead
earn more in some months than in others. It is, therefore, essential that
finances are managed well. Some questions that should be asked at this point
How much money do I need to start up my freelancing business?
Do I have all the equipment and expertise I need?
Have I got savings or part-time work to help?
Can I undertake freelance work on a part-time basis initially?
Have I researched the funding options available to me?
4. Self-belief
Having a belief in yourself and your abilities is essential if you want to work as
a freelancer. If you do not feel you have the skills, confidence and/or experience
needed to freelance then you could think about getting a relevant job that
allows you to gain these skills and then begin your freelance career on a parttime basis as the more experience you have the more confident you will be in
your work. Ask yourself the following questions to determine whether you
have enough self-belief to give freelancing a go.
Do you feel your skills offer value?
When you face a challenge do you feel positive and energised?
Do you believe that if you work hard you will achieve your goals?
Do you believe that if you work hard to solve problems you will come up with a solution?
Do you feel confident gaining work?
Do you recognise when you have produced good work?