How to be a successful freelancer for beginners...

Have a showstopping portfolio and up to date CV

Always keep your Portfolio, CV and LinkedIn page up to date. If a last-minute role comes through the door and you or your recruiter doesn’t have an up to date CV on hand it’s going to reduce your chances and other people will no doubt get there first. If your job is portfolio led - no one wants to see your work from 10 years ago, it needs to be relevant and engaging. Put your best, most recent pieces in there so you can really show off your skill set. A portfolio isn’t just a platform to collate your past work, it is a representation of you! It gives clarity regarding what you can bring to that table right now and ultimately why it would benefit them to have you in their agency.

Keep your CV and Portfolio clean, to the point and easy to read – both should not be too long (a CV one page and Portfolio approx. 12 pages)

Good communication and organisation

Whether you are already working for a client or in process of being put forward for a role by your recruiter, always keep them updated on your availability.  It is important to let them know if there are specific days and times you can’t do as this makes the process much more streamlined. It can look unprofessional if you are put forward and confirmed for a role only to find out that you are unable to work at that time or there’s a particular day you can’t work. Likewise, if you get booked up elsewhere whilst you are waiting to hear back just keep people in the loop.

The best strategy is always to be open and up front with any recruiter you are working with.


We all know that life as a freelancer can be challenging. Often it’s not just a 9-5 job where you go in, do your work and leave. Freelancing can be unpredictable and stressful at times but it can also very exciting and rewarding. Something to always bear in mind; the client is using a freelancer because they are extremely busy and need your help. This can be due to a pitch, last minute project, or simply an increased work load. They need people that act like their permanent members of staff who are committed, motivated to build relationships yet reliable. Yes unfortunately this does mean occasionally staying late. It’s also very useful to be mindful of Agencies’ overtime rates as they all vary – if you are too demanding about what you want and don’t respect their policies, it doesn’t look great and let’s face it, they are much more likely to get another freelancer in next time. Obviously if the client has unreasonable expectations then that’s a different story! Flexibility can also relate to day rates – obviously you want to be paid as much as possible and as recruiters we want that for you too. The fact is that clients sometimes just don’t have that budget that you want.

Work is better than no work and if it gets your foot in the door then great!

Be likeable

Be a nice person. They want to have people in their agency that not only work hard and are great at what they do, but also feel part of the team, get on with other members of staff and integrate. They are much less likely to get you back in if you keep yourself to yourself and keep your earphones in for the day.

Think back to the places you have worked and why any of them stick out as your favourite. I’m sure they made you feel welcome and liked…

Know your niche

Define what you are best at and focus on this. Being good at everything just isn’t appealing to clients trying to get in a freelancer, they need a specialist not a Jack of all trades. It can be confusing for recruiters trying to help you and figure out what you do and then what roles to put you forward for if you are claiming to do absolutely everything.

Find your focus and own it!

Finances and admin

Yes we all know this can be an extremely testing element of freelancing but it definitely doesn’t override the flexible lifestyle, great money, work variation and unlimited leave. Make sure you get your timesheets in on time so people aren’t having to chase you and you actually get paid on time. If you are unsure on timeframes and how to do something – just ask. Also keep your invoices up to date (ensuring they match your timesheets) so there is no confusion at the end of the tax year as this will end up being more time consuming down the line. 

Organisation is key with your finances. A lot of freelancers come unstuck here so it’s important to stay organised.


Don’t say you can do something if in fact you can’t, it will just make you look bad and can ruin relationships. This industry is surprisingly small sometimes and often people talk. You want to go in and know you are going to do a great job and smash whatever task they give you. Also, if you are working with a number of recruiters keep track of anywhere you have worked. This way if you are called about a role and you have already worked there or been put forward for a role there you can clarify. If you lie just to get the job the chances are it will make everyone look bad, ruin relationships and come back to bite you in the bum in the future.

Be straightforward and honest, it’s better to say you can’t than embarrass yourself on a project.

Have a laptop

If you’re job title is a Creative, Designer, Retoucher or Artworker etc, A lot clients expect freelancers to bring in their own laptops to work from. Therefore it’s import that you have one that works, isn’t too old to function and has all the relevant software on that you will need to use. This won’t be the case for every single booking as they sometimes do have spare machine, however you wouldn’t want to miss out on your dream role for not having one would you? It is also important to remember that the agency could be getting you in over an extremely busy period and may not have a machine available for you to work from. This isn’t an unreasonable request as they are paying for you to come in to their place of work so it’s not unusual that they should need you to bring your work tools with you.

 Would you expect a builder to turn up to your house without their tools?

Previous | Next

News Search

Related articles

Bereavement: How would you deal with it in the workplace?

Senior Consultant Rachel talks about bereavement in the workplace and the different ways employers support their employees

Why is gaming still disregarded as an education tool?

Consultant Charlotte Cook explores the world of gaming as a valuable learning tool and asks why so many still view it as a negative practice

What are you doing about mental health in your workplace?

Consultant Stella Shkreli talks to Diana Milone, Paul Wood and Lorraine Jennings about mental health in the workplace and what you can be doing to to support your employees

Who's winning the war for awareness, brands or charities?

Our Freelance Account Management Specialist Tom Gee talks about the influence of purposeful advertising on consumer purchasing

The Digital Hybrid and what this means for your agency

Holley Potts talks the 'Unicorns' of the advertising world and why they're in such high demand