Deciding what you want to do after school can be daunting. Finding a degree or a job that is flexible and leaves space for you to explore everything else that you might be keen on can sometimes be impossible. However, in the age of social media and teenagers kicking goals every damn day, becoming a freelancer in whatever field you choose is so much easier than you think, you just need to know where to start.
1. Figure out what you can sell
Are you a budding writer? A photographer? Make-up artist? Videographer? You need to find your niche and make sure you’re pretty bloody good at it.
This means you’ll probably have to work for free to get your foot in the door but once your portfolio starts stacking up, you can use it to legitimise your work and start getting paid for it.
However, working for free is only a means to an end; eventually you should expect to be paid, especially if who you’re working for has the money.
You also need to think about if you want your work to be personal, where you go to someone and pitch an idea to get their backing to do it. Or do you want your work to be more of a trade, where you offer to fit someone else’s brief rather than your own vision (creative photography vs. advertising photography).
Both are solid options! And you might find yourself doing a mix to keep cash flowing.
2. Learn the art of emailing/DM’ing
90% of my writing jobs have come about by me emailing a pitch to an editor of a publication. The other 10% have come through Twitter and Instagram DMs.
Networking with potential employers is integral to scoring gigs, so you have to know how to handle it.
Be aware that your email is a front for you and your brand, so sell yourself well and professionally. Just like you wouldn't put your shitty email you made in Year 7 on your resume, don't pitch to editors with it.
Learn how to pitch and master it. There's plenty of helpful tips and guides online, you can join groups on Facebook that share advice or ask someone you know in the industry what the best way to go about it is.
In terms of DM’ing, same goes. Stay polite, don't be creepy and respect people's right to say no to you. Be persistent but avoid crossing the line and hounding editors or potential clients. You'll learn the balance with experience.
The most important thing is that you need to put yourself out there! Your Instagram/Twitter is now your resume, so remember that. Don’t strip away your personality in any respect but remember to always show your absolute best work.
3. Come to terms with selling yourself
Especially if you’re a writer, you need to know what makes you stands out from the crowd. My first ever published article was a deeply personal piece about me being closeted and gay, which meant it was genuine and something I felt strongly about.
On top of that, and more importantly, the piece was socially current, being written during the marriage equality debate of 2017. This meant it was a viable enough article to pitch to publishers/websites and gave a unique perspective on a current event.
I consider myself lucky that I wrote this piece during this particular time because it got my foot in the door in an authentic way but, even if you're not sure a topic is fitting the news cycle of the time, try looking at it from a new angle. Examine who you are, your experiences, your priviliges and be aware of how you fit within the conversation. You'll learn when your voice is relevant and when you should be pushing hard on a piece of writing and when you need to step back.
While this is all particularly skewed towards writers, the same goes for any sort of freelancing. You need to convince people why they should pay you for your work so figure out what all your selling points are–maybe you can do braids that stay in for an entire festival, take photos that put Instagram influencers to shame or can bang out a social media campaign that gets thousands of likes–and sell it hard.
4. Get used to managing your finances
While being a freelancer is extremely flexible, you also have to be completely self-sufficient. This means learning how to write up and send an invoice, applying for an Australian Business Number (ABN) and following up payments (which happens more often than it should). You're constantly going to be checking your bank account; both to see if someone has finally paid you, as well as making sure you can actually afford the coffee you're swiping your card for.
Financial security isn't a gurantee with freelancing and because you're working for yourself, it's up to you to hustle hard, do the work and manage all the admin behind it (if you think that being a creative freelancer means never having to deal with maths again, think again). It's tough but if it's what you're passionate about you'll find a way to get through all the shitty aspects of chasing up accounts and tracking your spending so that you can flex your creative muscles in whatever way you want. Plus, there's no shame in working a regular gig and doing the freelancing stuff on the side until you find your feet.
The best piece of advice I can give you is to get yourself a good accountant, keep track of everything and don't let the admin grind you down.
5. Remember to always learn
While I'm now technically considered a 'writer' I still think there's a lot of learning and work to be done before I reach my full potential (if I ever get there).
The most important thing to remember is that you should never devalue how much you can learn and grow from the people around you. Everyone can teach you something, even if it's not in the way you think.
Consume your chosen creative medium aggresively. If you're a writer, read! If you're a photographer, watch behind the scenes videos of shoots or find inspo on Insta. To excel in your creative field, you need to know your creative field.
Take on feedback and ask questions. Your first project might get knocked back but figure out why and then make the next one better. Rejection is a part of learning and growing; don't take it to heart and don't let it stop you chasing your passion.
Always stay open to learning, keep at it and eventually you'll realise that you're exactly where you'd always imagined you would be.