Top Freelancing Women Share Their Tips for Success
There are currently 2 million freelancers in the UK who contribute £150 bn to the economy across a wide variety of sectors including marketing. This growing cohort of freelancers is made up 46% women (920,000). And of those women 300,000 are mums. We spoke to 3 of the top UK female freelancers on Traktion to understand what attracts them to freelancing, what types of projects they enjoy, and what advice would they have to other women thinking of getting into freelancing
Sara is Senior Marketing professional with over 15 years’ experience leading international teams on both the agency and client-side. She has extensive experience in marketing strategy, operations and delivery in B2B & B2C. Sara has worked with brands like Dr Martens, J G Thomson and Canvas Holidays.
Nicola has worked in digital marketing for the past twelve years, and specialises in e-commerce management, specifically for the fashion retail sector. She has worked with brands like - Mademoiselle Macaron, Achilles Heel and Ecco shoes.
Neha is a growth marketing expert with 13+ years of experience in customer acquisition and retention through paid social, search and SEO. She has worked with brands like Smol, Learnexus, and Spic and Span.
Motivation for freelancing?
9-5 office jobs are clearly not working for many women, especially those with kids. Juggling school run pickups with office based or even hybrid jobs is often a real challenge or impossible. While the corporate world has been forced to become more accommodating of remote working during COVID there now seems to be a wave of ‘return to the office’ mandates.
“I enjoyed my full time work (the actual tasks) but I didn’t enjoy the demands it placed on my life and my family; the stresses of full time work come from things like commuting, and managing the day to day tasks of being a parent, and I needed more flexibility” Sara
Both Sara and Neha, who are parents, highlight that being a freelancer enables them to spend more time with the family without compromising on quality or quantity of work. This in turn drives healthier work-life balance for them.
“In my last full time role I was head of digital at a $3bn global company. I was flying between NY, UK, India. When I became pregnant with my first child I realised that this kind of work was not really compatible with the kind of family life I wanted. That was a personal choice. It’s not necessarily a female thing ( we could have split responsibilities between my husband and I), but we decided that I could move to freelance work and as a result spend more time with our growing family” Neha
Being able to choose your clients is a key upside for our interviewees. Sometimes this is about the vertical people enjoy working in e.g eCommerce, fashion retail, but it can also be about the type of people they want to work with and culture of the business also.
"I enjoy the fact I get to choose who I work with. I’m very selective about that. I chose to work with smaller brands where I can make a real difference. And I choose fashion eCommerce, sustainable brands to work with run by people who are passionate about what they do." Nicola
Self Guided Learning
Self guided learning is often a key challenge for freelancers. In a 9-5 role you may have all manner of training laid on for you but when you work for yourself the learning responsibility falls to you. And this is often seen as a negative. However for our interviewees self guided learning was a plus not a negative.
"I enjoyed the steep learning curve. Not just the craft that came with going freelance in terms of the day to day work, but also learning how to juggling between different roles and clients." Nicola
Ways of Working
Ways of working was highlighted by our interviewees as a potential banana skin when it comes to freelancing, with some really interesting observations and insights.
All three talked about the importance of communication when you are a female freelancer. In a corporate environment often information is shared either broadcast (one to many) or in smaller confines, briefings and organised milestones. When freelancing you often have to work much harder to get access to the right information. For some this doesn’t come naturally, but you will find that if you don’t push and ask for the key information it may not be forthcoming and you will invariably come a cropper later as a result.
“When you are an employee and part of a team, information is made readily available to you whereas when you freelance you have to actively go get it. When you are an employee you usually have ‘onboarding’ which gives you all the information but when freelancing you have to effectively ‘reverse onboard’ and go get all the information you need out of the client” . Sara
A common refrain from our female freelancers is the need to be really clear about objectives, scope, deliverables and boundaries. For some it doesn’t come naturally but as a freelancer you have to become good at getting on the front foot and being clear right from the off.
“I’ve found I have to set really clear objectives, deliverables and boundaries at the beginning of any project. Though it can feel uncomfortable at first it’s important to maintain clear communication and set expectations from the beginning”. Nicola
Meeting management for freelancers is a must have skill because time is money. This means that if you have a meeting you have to know exactly what the purpose of the meeting is,who needs to attend, and what you need to come out of it.
As Neha points out: “Meetings with my clients tend to be much more efficient than in my corporate life. I have specific timeframes and deadlines, so I focus on getting maximum value and information out of a single call.”
What’s your dream client ?
One of the key upsides to freelancing is the ability to be selective about what clients you work on. There are always the occasional bad apples but you get good at spotting these, and the longer you freelance the earlier you are able to spot the red flags it seems: poor brief, lack of clarity on objectives, endless haggling on fees are all warning signs. But aside from the odd bad experience there are also some pleasing similarities in what makes a great client.
In our conversations we covered three traits of a great freelance client:
Good clients are those that want to move at pace. Pace is critical to a freelancer because projects and deliverables are often time bound. Delays in project milestones or lack of urgency can have a significant knock on impact to a freelancer’s ability to close that project and win, keep or grow other clients. For Neha though pace is also about speed of marketing implementation.
“Being a growth marketing consultant, I like to help companies grow quickly. One of the most important success factors is to work with someone who is data-driven like me. Having a like minded data driven founder or a CMO client helps me launch test campaigns quicker, analyse the results and iterate faster. Ultimately leading to quicker growth” Neha
Our female freelancers like to see the fruits of their labour. It seems that impact is more important for freelancers than 9-5 office workers. And this may come down to the simple issue of feedback loops. When you work in a 9-5 job you have a boss, OKRs and reviews where your boss will give feedback on how good (or bad) you’ve been. While some freelance clients do naturally give feedback it is less forthcoming generally. This means that reward can be more closely tied to impact and outcome rather than client feedback.
Purpose in its many forms is a major draw for our freelancers. Purpose can be as simple as clarity about business objectives but it can also, more commonly, apply to the values and passion of the business and its founder.
“I enjoy working with brands that match my own passion and align with my values”. Nicola
And Finally - 3 Top Tips For Success From Our Female Freelancers
1. Be clear about the goals of each project.
2. Be structured about your processes.
3. Be flexible to get the most out of the relationship.
1. Small is beautiful and the agility it brings can yield outsized results
2. Set clear parameters for every assignment.
3. Communicate clearly and frequently.
1. Don’t be afraid to ask for clarity - your success depends on it.
2. Don’t oversell just over deliver. Word of mouth travels fast for freelancers.
3. Work on projects where you believe in the product or service. It’s much more rewarding.
If you are interested in hiring one of our top female freelancers, or indeed any of our other experts on platform you can submit a brief here