Amy Downes’ freelancer story

As part of our freelance celebration we’re sharing the experiences of female freelancers. Here’s Amy Downes’ story.

What do you do?

I am a social media manager. I create content for clients and share this on their accounts. This includes Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and LinkedIn; whichever are the most suitable for their business.

Importantly, I have a heavy focus on building engagement with their audiences – I want their ideal clients to know, like and trust them, rather than simply have a message broadcast to them which they will scroll past. 

How long have you been a freelancer?

I’ve been working as a freelancer for two years now, since returning to work after having my first child. It’s scary how quickly that time has passed!

Why did you go freelance?

Unfortunately, I was made redundant when I was 10 weeks pregnant and so returning to work with a job that would suit my family life was a challenge. I’d been out of work for over a year too, so freelancing was – at the time – a great way to earn experience and build contacts.

By the end of last year, I had become frustrated with attending interviews for full-time jobs that I wasn’t fully invested in and I had a bit of a Eureka moment – why was I going for jobs I didn’t really want, when I could be putting everything I have into one I already knew I loved?

So I committed completely to working freelance and have never looked back.

What do you love about being a freelancer?

The freedom to do what I can do best. I’ve had experience of working for some really big, corporate companies and – while it was a valuable time for me in terms of developing skills – I found it soul-destroying being ‘a number’ and working towards making someone else’s business a success. I was very tired of doing all the jobs no-one else wanted to do!

As a freelancer, I can focus on using my talents to produce results and I really care about making a difference for my clients. I also adore working from home and the flexibility of the hours – I work on my own time, under my own rules, not someone else’s.

And what do you hate about being a freelancer?

So far, the only real drawback I’ve found is that when you have any technical issues it is entirely up to you to fix it, I’ve threatened to throw my laptop out of the window several times!

I know some people find this lifestyle lonely, but I like the independence of being able to work on your own and focus on your work. Others are nervous about the instability and, while it is heartbreaking when a client chooses to end a contract, it also allows so much variety – you can start on a new project. 

How long did it take to earn an income you were happy with?

I’m not quite there with that one, yet, but I am earning what we need for the time being. These past two years have been about buildling contacts and being able to earn enough to contribute something to the household bills.

I’m about to have my second child so will be taking a break for the latter part of this year, but next year I feel confident I’ll be able to build this work up to a full-time wage. I’ve been on a ‘trial run’ really to prove to myself it can work – and it’s all going well so far!

And how long to get a good client rota?

My first two jobs were with two agencies and through them I have worked with a stable line of clients. At the moment, I work with three clients via agency and, since the end of last year, I’ve added three more clients to my rota whom I work with directly.

I have quite a good routine going which allows me to spend the time needed on each one and work closely with the client by hitting deadlines.  

Have you ever turned a client down? And if so, why?

I did, yes. It was someone I vaguely knew through Facebook and I was really excited she’d approached me for possible work. When I confirmed my prices to her she seemed to back off a bit, which I understand – some small businesses aren’t able to invest too much in things like marketing – but she kept me waiting for a response.

In the meantime I learned a little more about her, about her demeanor and the way she spoke to people and I started to feel like she wasn’t the right fit for me. So I explained this, as kindly as I could.

I’m really glad I backed away from that one and, actually, having the courage to do so at a time when I really needed to be working with more clients really gave me a lot of confidence in myself. I wasn’t going to be treated badly again like I was when I was made redundant.  

If you could offer any advice to yourself starting out as a freelancer what would it be?

Have more faith. I spent 18 months worrying I’d made the wrong decision and I was going to have to give up and go back to a ‘normal’, 9-5 job. But here I am, over two years later and I’m the happiest I’ve ever been at work.

Find out more about Amy