Before becoming a freelancer I worked for a European Public Affairs consultancy in Brussels for 9 years and specialised in sustainability and environmental issues. One of the campaigns I worked for was a waste legislation campaign for Coke where the public affairs strategy reflected on their CSR approach to waste and pollution.
I quickly realised that in order to influence legislation and gain credibility on a specific sector or topic, your CSR and Public Affairs strategies must go hand in hand. I then decided I should focus my energy streamlining the lobby campaigns altogether with CSR strategies to ensure there is a coherent and integrative approach to both. I wanted to lobby the European institutions and help companies reflect what they do internally with what they communicate to decision-makers. So I took the leap into freelancing to do exactly that.
How do you manage your freelance career and personal life?
My work life balance is I think as good as it can get. I do not work any less, but because I set my own schedule I can now work when, where and how I choose. I can choose the type of clients I work for and select the projects I am interested in so that I can fully invest myself on them.
How has freelancing enabled you to follow other passions?
Freelancing has allowed me to focus on the area of Public Affairs that really interests me – sustainability – and combine it with Corporate Social Responsibility.
What challenges have you faced?
Starting is a challenge and I am still in this stage. It has only been a few months since I became a freelancer.
Getting your name out there is very hard. You have leads but then chasing them up becomes a lot of effort and time you should be working. It is not secure or stable. You have to look very long term and plan ahead. You need to constantly be marketing yourself – networking, talking to lots of people. I try and go to lots of networking events; sustainability conferences, meet up groups... This is why being part of a community like The Work Crowd is great as they find projects for you so you can focus on working.
I have also started hot desking at WeWork which is another great community. They organise at least 3 events a week to which all the members are invited.
Another big challenge is getting the financials right with clients. This was another one of the reasons I joined The Work Crowd as they take care of the financials for both the freelancer and the client by taking the money upfront and releasing it once the work has been signed off. Hence both parties can feel secure and comfortable with the transaction.
What advice would you give to other freelancers?
Don't be afraid. You have to give freelancing a try. The worse thing is to live with regrets. The advice that I have been given by other freelancers is that it doesn't matter if it doesn’t work out but it does matter if you don’t try it. If you have an idea materialise it, it might be hard at the beginning but definitely worthwhile. I’m really excited about this new adventure and I know I won’t regret it.