Top tips for starting out as a freelancer

Top tips for starting out as a freelancer

"It’s easy to blow four hours of your time on Facebook when you haven’t got a boss breathing down your neck,” claims Jason Powell, chief executive at CMME, a specialist mortgage provider for independent professionals.

Diving head-first into your career as a full-time freelancer can be daunting, especially when you have been in employment for so long.

Nisha Haq, IPSE’s Aspire Freelancer of the Year, recently took that plunge to become a full-time freelanc photographer. The 23-year-old met up with the CMME boss, who offered some advice about becoming a successful freelancer.

Jason has been in business for more than 20 years and has held a number of C-level positions in the past 15 years. He spoke to Nisha about some of the lessons he learned from his experiences.

One piece of advice Jason offered was the importance of establishing a routine. Nisha said: “As a freelancer I often spend a large amount of time working on my own, which can be isolating. Jason suggested that I should establish a routine for the morning, to help focus my mind and achieve my goals for the day and for the business.  

“Jason gets up at 5am every day, has a workout and breakfast with his family before he starts work and this all serves to prepare him for the day.”

Nisha added: “We also discussed the importance of goal-setting and a yearly plan, and how I can get to that point. My main goal this year was to go full-time as a freelancer, which I have now achieved, but I wasn’t sure what my next step was.  

“Since meeting Jason and talking it through with him, I am now more focused. I plan to shoot at least 25 weddings, 10 commercial shoots, as well as launch my new boudoir photography service this year. 

“He also suggested I give myself sales targets and focus on some personal goals too so that I can establish a good work/life balance. I am also planning to set up a new home office and studio.”

Jason, who has been with CMME since September last year, also advised Nisha on marketing and the best ways to reach new audiences. He suggested developing a “network of referrals” in the local area to help Nisha build up her reputation.

“He is confident that this will have a snowball effect on my business and said you cannot underestimate the importance of word of mouth testimonials,” Nisha said. 

“I had a wedding fair to attend just after my meeting with Jason and I felt much more confident going along to that, and came away with some strong leads to follow up.”

Maintaining motivation and positivity on a daily basis can often be a challenge for freelancers who work on their own. So, Jason suggested Nisha should keep a journal and write down key milestones she has achieved and the things that have made her “happy” since she began freelancing.

Nisha was also advised to tune into the TED talk by Shawn Achor, which focuses on The happy secret to better work, which she says has been “very insightful”.

“Jason also recommended Tim Ferriss’ Tools of Titans book, which is about the habits and routines of ‘highly effective people’. And Simon Sinek’s Start with why, which looks at the importance of being clear about what you’re doing and why you are doing it,” added the Somerset-born photographer, who now lives in Southampton.

After speaking to the CEO, Nisha said: “The time I spent with Jason was invaluable; I picked up some extremely useful tips.”

Reflecting on his meeting with Nisha, Jason said: “I am not surprised that Nisha picked up IPSE’s Freelancer of the Year award in June. Having met her I am confident that she will be super successful.  

“She is focused, motivated and tenacious and that combination of skills will help to get her where she wants to go. Meeting her made me realise it is easy to forget how big a deal it is to take the plunge and go freelance.  

“If I had one key piece of advice to share, it is the importance of creating structure when you haven’t got an employer providing it. Structure will provide a framework to help freelancers to achieve their goals and establish priorities.”

By Michele Bayliss, PR consultant for CMME – a specialist mortgage broker for independent professionals. Details:, 01273 475672