The idea of freelancing promised so much. A shackle-free lifestyle without boundaries. A pursuit of a life long passion. The freedom to work with who you want when you want… The reality hit home pretty quickly.
Photography was my weapon of choice and whilst overstaying my rent free welcome at my aunt’s place it became clear I had to make some money. Without a plan or idea of what I was doing, I dusted off my camera and began to shoot anything and everything that paid. Weddings, bar mitzvahs, factory interiors, hen parties, nightclubbers, it was up for grabs so long as it paid the rent.
Imagine my delight when an online fashion retailer came knocking and offered me a regular gig to shoot their collections with extra to post produce the images for their site — bonus. All other clients where put on hold and eventually left by the wayside as the bank account gradually bloated and my sugar daddy feed me regular work week on week. Like so many relationships, the blissful early months filled me with a sense of security. A year in and we hit our first snag.
“Just an accounting error Sir, we’ll have it fixed in no time.”
What a relief — nothing to worry about. I’ll keep shooting for them and everything will be fine. Month two rolled by and still no payment. Another enquiry confirmed the accounting department were back to full fitness and just getting through the backlog. Phew! No need to rock the boat. I’ll play nice and they’ll sort it out.
Month’s four and five were tough. Rent was due. Bills were getting dodged and the romance had definitely faded. By chance I had a friend who worked in the same building as their head office so I paid my top client a visit. Thoughts of what to say were crystallising in my mind. Be assertive but calm — you don’t want to lose the client.
I opened the double doors of the office only to be met by a wasteland of tired printers and empty chairs. The printout on the wall informed me that they had done bankrupt.
Numerous calls, emails and a chat with a lawyer resulted in zero.
£11,000 owed with no chance of recovering it.
Add a few hundred quid to the bill for legal fees and the time spent to find a solution and you’re left with a real problem.
Flights were booked to go back home with my tail between my legs when I received a call from a national paper who had heard about the story. They wanted to write a piece on businesses taking advantage of freelancers in the midst of a recession. The piece was published and within 24 hours I had received emails from fellow freelancers who had suffered the same plight. The response was so overwhelming I set up an online group for freelance misfits so we had a place to chat, console one another and vent our frustrations.
Not long after, the group began asking questions about copyright, freelance rights, running a business and the law. I had no idea but as the poster boy for the trampled upon, I embraced the burden of responsibility and made it my mission to find out. Question by question, I’d research, make calls, borrow books and deliver my findings to the group. As satisfying as this was, I was still broke and about to move back in with my parents.
The turning point came at the eleventh hour when a course leader who had read about my situation asked me to give a talk to his budding freelance students on the pitfalls of business — my area of expertise! The talk led to another, I cancelled my flight and started to rebuild my career.
Not long after it become strikingly evident that I was not the only one who didn’t have a clue about running a business, freelancer’s rights or what one should be doing to succeed. It was at this very point that the first thoughts of The Freelancer Club were conceived.
Cut scene a few years, The Freelancer Club has helped develop over 10,000 creative freelancers and facilitated over 100,000 paid jobs. Our core objective has always been to support freelancers through connections, development and work not just from the professional side but with personal support too. It’s free to join the club as a freelancer and free to attend our freelancer networking events. We also host Masterclass events in London with top industry speakers, post paid jobs on the board on a daily basis and provide members with a glut of benefits to help avoid the mistakes I made whilst navigating the business world.
The lesson: Don’t be shy to ask for help.