Building up the confidence to go freelance after working years agency-side in marketing roles took a lot of courage from freelance Marketing Manager Charlie Price, who recognises;
You have to acquire a certain amount of experience before going freelance to get the skillset in the first place.
We spoke to Charlie about the lessons he’d learned from his freelance journey so far, what advice he’d give someone considering going freelance and what clients need to remember when working with Marketers to make projects run smoothly. During our interview, Charlie shares some of his own experiences working on campaigns and why he sets expectations with clients who may be looking to solve a much bigger issue using only marketing;
It's important clients remember that hiring a freelance marketer doesn’t automatically create marketing output and the freelancer budget is not the marketing budget. The freelance budget just enables the client to hand off marketing responsibility to someone else. Like hiring a Doctor, a Doctor is only useful if they have the right diagnostic equipment, medicine, facilities, and tools. They could tell you what was wrong, but they wouldn’t necessarily be able to solve the problem.
Having decided to go freelance in 2020 during a pandemic, Charlie stepped out from the security of a full-time role after in his own words;
Building up a career in the agency world. It wasn’t great timing and 2020 was a very tough year to be freelance, but I still managed to carve out some decent experience taking me into 2021, where things really started to take off with clients. I joined YJ as soon as I went freelance. It’s been an invaluable channel to gaining and maintaining work ever since.
When it comes to establishing boundaries as a freelancer with clients, Charlie shares his own advice from simply answering emails to using up billable hours outside of a project;
There’s a line between sharing some thoughts over an email, taking a quick call, and then working half a day on a project. If clients overstep into time that isn’t theirs, and a freelancer feels it crosses a line, the client needs to be made aware immediately. They wouldn’t want someone else stealing their freelancer’s time away from them, so why should they do it to someone else? Most clients I’ve worked with are naturally very respectful of this relationship. And most also understand the work-life road freelancers choose to go down. No one goes freelance to work 24/7 for someone else and I think most clients get that.
Charlie is also keen to highlight that going freelance changes the dynamic when it comes to being available to clients;
Freelancers are not robots, and a good freelancer will find a way to be as emotionally invested in their client’s success as and when required. Personally, I never approach what I do as a “clock-in, clock-out” situation and aim to make myself as flexible as possible.
Flexibility is a key part of going freelance, as Charlie points out, and establishing a good way of working for freelance marketers can only really happen if you’re clear at the start of any working relationship. We then asked Charlie what advice he’d give to anyone considering a freelance marketing career;
My advice for new freelancers is to just be straight with people. Honesty is the best policy. That, and showing 100% commitment to the job when required will do 99% of the work in setting boundaries. Success breeds confidence, and confidence breeds autonomy. Be good at what you do, and those boundaries will be nice and set.
Also send out feelers before leaving your current job, just to see if that initial transition could be easier. Have some savings (ideally) just in case there are a few initial bumps in the road. Don’t burn your bridges with employers or recruiters you’ve worked with, there may come a moment when you clamour for the old life! Of course, register with YJ immediately! Lastly, if you can work with multiple clients simultaneously then do so as this creates stability. Not putting all of your eggs in the same basket and so on! Of course, if you’re on a full-time contract, then try and land a new gig a month before your contract runs out, or nag your current client for a renewal chat. Don’t be left high and dry!
When it comes to investing in marketing and working with freelance marketers, Charlie feels there is just one element clients need to have established;
Work out the brief first. If the client knows exactly what they want from a freelancer, they’ll be in a good place. If this needs some further discussion, then they should have conversations with freelancers they’re interested in working with and share their plan.
Being involved from the start is one of the key parts of a successful marketing project, in Charlie’s own experience as he shares;
Get that freelancer’s feedback during an interview. They’re the experts after all. A freelancer may tell a client that goals or targets are unrealistic. But, in this conversational period, both parties will solidify the plan even further and arrive at a decent starting point. The worst scenario is the opposite when a company hires a freelancer thinking they’re going to deliver one particular thing, and then they get something else.
And whilst it’s easy to highlight where clients could do the right thing, sometimes projects don’t quite go according to plan. We then asked Charlie if he’d ever received push-back from teams;
It’s not uncommon to have to make a compelling argument and win-over clients to new ideas or strategies when there's push-back. The key in my experience is to back up why you feel those strategies are justified. Why does it need to have a certain budget? What’s the potential payout? Alongside this, it’s important not to over-sell the idea and illustrate the pitfalls of the plan. Recalling previous successes with those same strategies has usually been the deciding factor when building a case.
Focusing on strategies and solid briefs when considering a new marketing project, we asked Charlie to share some of the key features he looks for before applying to briefs;
The number one priority is skillset. I mostly look for briefs that stick well inside my wheelhouse, which would give me the confidence in knowing I could come in, hit the ground running, and smash whatever job I needed to do. The second priority is time, and ensuring this fits with availability. The third is day rate and ensuring that checks out with the client’s budget. I would say location is the last point, but most gigs these days are fully or part-remote, and is, therefore, less of a consideration.
And when it comes to the best advice he’s been told since going freelance, Charlie shares a short but important gem;
Let sub-contractors come to you with prices before you go to them with budgets!
Finally, we asked Charlie how he felt after finding out he was a finalist in the Freelancer Awards 2021;
After a hellish 2020 and wondering at times whether I’d be able to remain freelance, it was a huge moment when I found out about being shortlisted. The vindication factor was real! It’s given me a lot of confidence to remain in the freelance world and continue to grow my network of clients, and of course, lean on YJ to do so!
If you're looking for an experienced Marketing Manager, check out Charlie's profile here.