How to kickstart a freelance career 101

Esther Coleman Hawkins and Denise Eriksen from Media Mentors.

When starting out as a freelancer, it’s essential to know how to sell yourself. If you missed the memo, here are the top tips from the Launceston Freelance Festival to get your career on track.

The first and biggest mistake you can make as a freelancer: You don’t think of yourself as a business, say journalists Esther Coleman Hawkins and Denise Eriksen from Media Mentors. “You just scrabble from week to week, from project to project. But you need to know how to sell yourself”

Freelance writers Ms Coleman Hawkins and Ms Eriksen offer a whole list of points to figure it out. Here’s where the main journalistic skill – asking questions – comes in.

  • Know who you are

You need to be aware of what you can offer.  Start by asking yourself uncomfortable questions, like what’s your key skill? That’s your speciality, something that most people don’t have. Look at your history – what are your insights that most people usually don’t have?

What are your satellite skills? These are all the small bits of expertise that feed your core skill. Google people with the same job title and how they sell themselves if you can’t think of any.

  • Find new stories

What is your main interest, your speciality? That’s your starting point. Keep in touch with publicists and personal contacts, because stories will keep coming to you.

  • Find new markets

In order to attract new customers, a professional online presence is key. Separate your personal and private online pages, like Facebook. Take advantage of Linkedin – find profiles you enjoy and see what works for them.

  • Know how to pitch

Cut to the chase. It’s a pitch, not a thesis. Too much is always too much. What’s your idea, why should anyone buy it, why should you do it instead of a staff writer? If you can’t tell the story in one sentence, it won’t happen. Again, confidence is key.

“Don’t forget, you’re selling yourself and you have to be confident. What hooks you in? That’s what you have to offer,” emphasise Ms Coleman Hawkins and Ms Eriksen

  • Set your goals

It’s crucial to financially survive in the long run. “If you don’t know what to do, you’ll simply go mad at home,” say both writers. It will also sharpen your focus. To not be overwhelmed, divide your goals in short term, long term, and that one overall big goal. A good structure helps you figure out the small steps in between.