Many young adults are stepping away from the nine-to-five job market because what they want from a career is more than just a pay check. They’re looking for a challenge, self-empowerment and, essentially, a career with flexibility and room for creative expansion and growth.
Reuben Kieswetter, a 26-year-old brand and graphic designer, notices that most people tend to become bored of their jobs after their first year of work. “They [people] often master a single craft and nothing challenges them anymore,” he says.
Similarly, Renier Lombard who left his job as a brand manager and turned to freelancing, reckons that traditional nine-to-five jobs are, in fact, decreasing because people simply don’t like it.
But breaking into freelancing, and making it a financially sustainable career, is a continual process of network-building, self-marketing and developing your skills.
We spoke to a few young creatives who are moving into the freelance working space, building their own brands, and becoming successful entrepreneurs. Here’s what you can learn from them:
• Go online
Those looking to break into freelancing should not shy away from who they know and the various channels the internet provides. We’re in a continuing prime time of technological advancements and there is an increasing amount of online help for freelancers, especially networking opportunities and organisations outsourcing freelancers.
• Let go of what might be holding you back
Freelance photographer Laikan Adams recently quit her eight-to-five job doing admin for a beverage company and decided to continue building her brand, Laikin photography, full time.
“I thought getting this job would help me build my brand, help me save money and do better in my photography. On the contrary, it made me want to do photography more,” Laikin explains, “I had no time to do personal projects, to create an online presence and respond to queries quick enough to book.”
Often, fragmenting your time in such a way can be counterproductive. Rather go full on freelance to the best of your ability. If you are able to juggle both working full time and freelancing, then be sure to be extremely organised.
• Pick the right field for you
While slowly working your way into freelancing, you’ll most likely still need a full-time job to get by financially. Be sure to get into a field that is still closely related to the one you plan to freelance in. Laikin agrees: “When looking for an extra income, I would recommend finding a job in the field you want to be in. Even if you don't want to have your own company/little business. Work in an industry that makes you burn with excitement and only fuels the passion in your work.”
So if you want to be a freelance writer, work as a content producer for a publishing company. If you want to be a photographer, try to land a job as a picture editor at a magazine. Not only will you be earning money, you’ll also be developing your skill and building a network within the publication among your colleagues, as well as the contacts that you might meet along the way.
• Social media is your business partner
John LeRoy successfully tested and developed his brand John LeRoy photography using social media. “My social media accounts would be my brand representative, but the best part is that you can achieve maximum reach for free.”
Through this kind of self-marketing, John began gaining a big following. He then interacts with his following and keeps up the relationship with those who he’s worked with.
He suggests this as both the most difficult, but also the most important part. “Everyone has influence,” he says, “I started marketing myself by building a relationship with my small following and then building a relationship with other brands with a larger following.”
John says he contacts these brands to ask about future collaborations on projects. “I got to shoot at rooftop parties that only a select few would know about. I networked with people like (local artist and music producer) Cassper. I also went to larger events like the J&B Met where I was able to get media passes. This all happened through building my brand and keeping a relationship with other like-minded brands.”
John LeRoy has since moved to San Diego to internationally broaden his market.
• Client satisfaction and feedback is key
Reuben further explains just how important it is to maintain a relationship with your client. “Client satisfaction is key, he says, “Each client I work with may become potential client again or they become a doorway to more clients.
“Another factor that helps is feedback. Once a client receives his/her product then it’s your job to find out what did or didn’t work for her/him. This also gives the client the idea that you care about them even after the work is complete. This, especially, could lead to business streaming,” encourages Reuben. Keep those clients happy and pull out all the stops to ensure this.
Image: Reuben Kieswetter
• Always be up to date and in the know
Laikin advises that one should always keep your online profiles up-to-date, that means your social media profiles/bios, website and any other relevant online sites like LinkedIn.
“If I don't keep updating my photography page and keep posting events I have photographed, I can see fewer enquiries come in. Word of mouth from previous clients bring majority of my work. So I try to keep trying new things so that returning clients can see my work has grown and that they don't stop talking about my photography.”