Sophie Sabin + 5
Copy Editor, Copywriter

FREELANCERS TALK MONEY, RATES & PRESSURE

This week, we’re hosting the next in our series of Freelancer Breakfast Club discussion meetups. These groups are intimate forums for members to discuss the real challenges that face them in their freelance lives. This time the topic on the table is ‘Money Talk’. 
Like many tricky subjects, our individual relationships with money can be complicated, and being a freelancer adds an extra layer to this. How do you manage your money, negotiate rates and plan whilst producing quality work that fulfills you creatively – the reason many of us got into freelancing in the first place?
To get the conversation started, we caught up with some of our members on the subject of managing money as a freelancer. Here’s what they had to say. 

Time To Learn

All of our freelancers were very aware that getting to a comfortable place in earning a living as a freelancer can potentially be a slow process. “Success doesn’t happen overnight,” says Penelope Bailey, a makeup artist based in London. “I took a gradual approach,” she adds.  
This is interesting, not only in that our freelancers felt cautious about money, but in understanding that the practical transition itself could be difficult. Penelope took the time to develop her portfolio and learn from others alongside regular work before fully shifting to a full-time freelance career.
The need for security is a common theme. Nevin Xavier is a photographer and videographer who’s very early in his journey, having come to freelancing in the last year. He admits it’s scary to think about quiet periods and the idea that you could be without work.
London-based makeup artist Jo Ascenso built these factors into her planning. She made sure she had savings both before she made the move to freelancing and ongoing with each job “to keep [her] afloat in case things become slow”. Thinking ahead and being aware that it takes constant maintenance were essentials for those we spoke to.

Business Case

Having to take time to get used to managing money introduces the next common theme for our members: thinking of yourself as a business. Penelope asserts that many creative people “want to do business, yet fail to identify as a service provider”. As we’ve said, especially for creative freelancers, indulging a passion and doing what you love is the reason lots of us start freelancing, but for it to be a career the business side has to be on a par.
The extent to which this side of things informs the work and finding the balance that’s right will be the ongoing journey for most freelancers. This has been makeup artist Gemma Waugh’s experience. She ensures “the client gets what they want,” and sees it as her job to “get inside their head and see their vision”. Using her creativity as the driving force to maintain business relationships means that she “never feel[s] [her] creativity is jeopardised by clients’ requests”. 
Another photographer and videographer, Ny, is in agreement. “Freelancers should be able to be ‘all rounders’,” he says, and should “balance the business until they find their niche”. It seems that while finding your feet as a freelancer, business management has to be a constant in order to get that solid ground and security. 

Give and Take

But how much of this ground should we give? For our members it depends on the potential benefits. Penelope admits to “working hard for no income” in the beginning, seeing building her portfolio and experience as worth it. Meanwhile, Jo acknowledges some concessions too: “most of the jobs I take that pay my bills are not particularly creative”. However, supporting herself allows her the freedom to work on passion projects in her spare time, even though finding that time is a challenge too.
Part of understanding the long-term lessons and gains might mean that you’re making compromises, but all our freelancers agreed that these decisions must always have a creative or business end. Don’t sacrifice or trade off without a clear vision one way or the other.

Know Your Work and Worth

The way to keep the common thread of fulfilling, paid work is knowing what you do and what it means to you. 
Penelope encourages freelancers to know their market and the value of their work, as well as actually delivering it of course. The commitment goes both ways and you’ll only build up a reputation and respect by “showing up on time, working hard and having a positive attitude”.
This is Ny’s bottom line as well. “Understand [your] self worth and price yourself accordingly,” he says. Gemma agrees but notes that while she does have a set price, “there is movement there though, I’m always open to discussion about it”. She goes by what she feels comfortable with.
It seems that this experience is perhaps the universal one: going with what works for you. Finding this comfort level is indeed a challenge and it’s easy to find yourself compromising on some element of your freelance life.
However, the advice from our members is that by always staying aware of your worth and goals, you’ll be able to steer it back if you go off course. By having a flexible attitude based on solid principles, you can start to unlock the freedoms of working for yourself and avoid the pitfalls.
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