What I've learned in five years of freelancing

Wow. Five. That’s a bit mad. I never imagined how long I’d freelance for, or where it might take me, but here I am, celebrating (what is now) Ella St Communications being five years old the only way you can celebrate anything in January – with leftover Quality Street.

My freelance business couldn’t be more different than when I started out in 2015. I can’t get my head around how much more I know now, and how I ever really began without that knowledge that exists today.


Here are my biggest lessons I’ve learned over the last five years:


- It’s always best to follow your gut feeling, but occasionally, pushing yourself out of your comfort zone is good for you. Just know when it’s not right.


- A sole trader doesn’t have to be a sole worker. There are endless brilliant online communities to support freelancers now that didn’t exist half a decade ago. Beyond this, listening to podcasts and reading others’ blogs is a great way to create the feeling of colleagues around you.


Working when you feel part of a community, even if you work alone, makes a big difference

- It’s vital to engage with that community. If there’s a Facebook group you’ve joined, blog you read, etc, leave a comment now and again, and follow people across social media. Once you build up your own freelance social circle online, the difficult days feel a lot easier.


- You will say yes to a lot of things you should say no to, because the idea of turning money away is scary. This is especially true in the first year or so, and I’m glad I’m better at recognising the potential in an opportunity now. Saying yes to everything at first can get you off the ground and help you meet clients, but they might not be the right people long term, and it’s worth keeping that in mind.


- Know your purpose. Purpose is a bit of a buzz word now, but aside from the business trend, it will keep you going in moments of self-doubt. On a pessimistic day, or during a low mental health period, I can easily find myself questioning what I do. Look beyond the basics of ‘I fulfil this service’, and ask yourself why, and what you create as a result. I’m proud not to just be putting more consumer businesses into the world, but helping businesses gain visibility that challenge the corporate problems we have, and provide people with ethical alternatives.


- When tackling a big piece of content, it’s a good idea to get the main part of it done, then leave it for a day to come back to read with a fresh mind. Most of the time you’ll be pleasantly surprised at how well you actually did something.


I could go on, to be honest. Five years provides a lot of learning opportunities, but my firm favourite has to be that first one – go with your gut. If you can do that, you’ll know right from wrong and know that the path you carve has been the one you were meant to be on, even with a few unexpected curves along the way. Because that’s what makes it scenic, right?


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