You may remember a few weeks ago I posted a question from a reader on how to kick-start a flagging freelance career and you all went bananas with some brilliant suggestions.
Last week I was contacted by Lisa Unwin and Deb Khan, who are the authors of She’s Back: Your Guide to Returning to Work , described by Arianna Huffington as “ a must-have guide to get more women back into the workplace”. And the Lord only knows that when Arianna says anything I jump to. Would I like a piece for The Spike about this subject?
Take it away…
8 tips to help you reclaim that career
“Going freelance” seemed so appealing when you couldn’t work out how to juggle career and toddlers. An instagram is full of images of people making it work, right? How hard could it be?
In truth, it’s tough. You have to find your own clients, every piece of work needs to be won, there is no such thing as holiday pay, no-one gives you any positive feedback, you can find yourself with little in the way of adult conversation and, worst of all, the juggling doesn’t go away.
So how do you get your career back on track after time working as a freelancer? And how can you use that experience to your advantage?
- Know where to begin. And that isn’t “I’ve got two kids and I’m looking for part time work.” The jobs market is a competitive place. Be clear on where you’re going to add value and where you can compete.
If you worked as a business journalist, for example, you might now have a much wider network of contacts who could provide insights into the world of freelancing, the gig economy and the trials and tribulations of running a small business. This is valuable to an editor who wants to employ someone who can be relied upon to create great copy, quickly.
- Get your story straight . “Your brand is what people say about you when you’re not in the room” Who are you, what value will you add to an employer?
“I’m an expert in branding with a background in financial services and am now looking to take that expertise and apply it in a small business context” was how Lucy (who appears in our book) presented herself, before landing a role at the British Chambers of Commerce. The fact that she wanted to work 2 ½ days was a secondary conversation.
- Re-engage your network. You are five times more likely to find work through your network than through a recruiter. Talk to people, think about how you can help them. Don’t be shy about asking for help – most people will be flattered.
The good news is that all that time working as a freelancer means your network is wider than ever: and clunky as LinkedIn is, it is a tremendous tool for reconnecting with old colleagues.
- It’s a job getting a job. Welcome to your first job. You are a recruiter. You have one candidate: you. Figure out who is hiring people for the sort of role you want. Follow them, look for connections, ask for introductions.
- Present yourself as a solution first. No-one wants to hear about your complicated childcare arrangements. Don’t talk about the hours you can or can’t work, talk about what value you will add. Employers are looking for solutions to their problems. Be the solution, not yet another problem.
- Know your value. Women don’t negotiate enough. We’d much rather be seen as nice than being tough.
Do your research on who is charging what for the work that you do. Make it easier for yourself by having a rate card. At She’s Back, we’ve (eventually) landed on a set price for a half day workshop, a price for a 1 – 1 ½ hour breakfast meeting-type event and a £9.99 version of our advice. Clients can also follow us for free on social media of course.
When it comes to selling – practise in the mirror. Name your price then shut up. You’d be surprised at how clients actually take comfort from believing they are buying from someone who is confident in their own worth.
- You’re ALL OVER this. You set up your own business, set up a website, figured out whether Twitter or Insta was best for you, won work, raised invoices, chased the cash, hustled for new clients, paid the bills. All on your own, whilst those in paid employment could rely on others do do all this.
- Be at the net. Have your childcare sorted and work out contingency plans. Be able to answer the “Could you start on Monday?” question with an enthusiastic “Love to”.
And make sure those contingency plans include your partner, if appropriate. Why should you be the first port of call if anything goes wrong at nursery or school? Have a specific discussion about how everyone’s life is going to change so that you can make the transition back to paid employment a success.
The authors also tell me that LinkUp London are hosting an event to provide hints, tips and practical advice to anyone ready to kick start their career on Monday 8th Oct.
At the risk of overloading you with Eventbrite links, here is another one to this LinkUp London event – they are not, happily, on the same day as The Spike Live because obviously I would make you choose.