Sophie Cross, Editor of Freelancer Magazine and Author of marketing & mindset courses for ambitious freelancers and creatives conducted the session "Setting up as a self-employed person" as part of the Facework Ukraine training. She told us how she came up with the idea of creating a magazine and also gave advice to those who want to start their own business.
I started freelancing 10 years ago.
At first, I worked for a long time in hospitality as a waitress, then I was a personal trainer at a Hilton Hotel, and then I moved into a marketing role in that hotel. Before that, I worked freelance as a marketing manager.
I always wanted to have my own business and work for myself. I wanted to have a restaurant, I wanted to do anything, I don’t care really. I used to write a business plan, I used to think about a business plan for a cafe and I realized maybe it’s a stupid idea.
One day I was driving a car and I thought: "Wow, I know what business I can set up!" I can be a freelancer in marketing because it’s a very low cost. If you set up a business as a restaurant it’s a lot of costs, but if you set up a business as a marketer, I already have knowledge or some of the knowledge, and network, it’s really low cost. I took a leap.
I was lucky enough to call ex-employers or people I used to work with, ex-colleagues and ask to give me some work in marketing - writing work. I was always enjoying making hotel brochures. I didn’t think about myself as a writer. But people used to give me a lot of writing based work - blogs, and websites.
And over 10 years… I started working for different clients because I thought I don’t want to just work only in hospitality and for hotels. I actually came around full circle and realized that was my niche, my specialism.
Mini sob story
My husband and I used to live in London, and we decided to go traveling and we moved to the countryside about 7 years ago. We didn’t mean to live there for a long, for example, 5 years, and we were still workings for clients in London which was actually really nice.
Maybe it was a bit quiet in the countryside it was really craving back to the city, so 3 years ago we moved back to London. I was thinking I am going to really get involved in meeting people, maybe get involved in the hospitality industry again, and maybe set up my own hospitality marketing event that people can come to. It was in January 2020 and in March 2020 I lost all of my clients. I had no clients at all because of COVID and the hospitality industry was obviously stopped.
Start from a blank canvas
I do find the same when I left my employer's job to go freelance. Sometimes you have like a blank canvas. It can be the most exciting time because almost easier to make a decision because you have nothing to lose. If you have a job and you try to decide, you know. If nothing has to lose and that point…
Product or service
I always considered can I have a product. I always offered a service - marketing as a service or writing as a service. But also I was interested in having a product because it’s scalable. If you selling your time you can only sell one hour of your time in one hour… If you have a product you can sell it unlimited maybe.
From online courses to magazine
So I started making online courses. Online marketing courses for small businesses and for freelancers. I have been making courses and I have thought about a magazine, basically about the reasons for the freelance magazine. I spotted it was a gap in the market, there wasn’t any freelance magazine. So I came back about the magazine.
And now I am the editor of Freelancer Magazine.
10 key tips on launching your own business from Sophie Cross
Learning you become a teacher
First I started using LinkedIn to promote my other courses and I realized very quickly, in about three months, that I was seeing really good results from LinkedIn. So I decided to make a course about how I used LinkedIn. So as you learn you can become a teacher as well.
You don’t need to be an expert
You think you do not have enough but actually, people almost prefer to learn from somebody that just learned themselves. If you are really bad at cooking you don’t want to learn how to cook from a Michelin star chef you want to learn from Joe Wicks he is like a PE teacher for kid stuff he is a cooking writer, and from his bestselling cookbook. People want to learn how to cook from Joe Wicks, they don’t want to learn how to cook from Raymond Blanc because it’s so far away from them. As you learn you know enough to teach the next person. People would rather learn from you. You don’t need to be a complete expert you don’t need to know full of the answers.
Start before you are ready
So start as early as you can. Do this when you're employed, don't wait until you leave to start your own thing.
Treat it like a business
I like to compare. You should pretend that your freelance is like a restaurant. Had a restaurant you would decide what exactly you are going to offer, how you market yourself, what you are going to do if need help from other people, you would have suppliers, you would have employees. You need to think all about these things. As a freelancer as well you also think about yourself as a business. It can have to be separate from a business. Otherwise, it’s easy to take things very personally. Decide as a restaurant when you are going to open. It’s important as a freelancer what hours you are going to work, you can’t work 18 hours per day. It’s not accepting every single piece of work and offertory. I guess, see yourself as a business.
People work with people they like
Also, I am going to say people work with people they like. So actually you don’t need to be the best writer in the world, you don’t need be the best designer in the world, you don’t need to be the best anything. You have to be a nice person is more important to be friendly, be reliable and build relationship.
Have a niche
Specialize! If it’s not going well maybe you do too many things to many people. I would say it’s much easier to get work if you narrow it down. Have a niche. Actually, your specialism can come from your weaknesses.
Turn weakness into strength
If you think you have a weakness maybe you turn it into a specialism.
Turn your weakness into your strength. Speaking Ukrainian in London - is it a weakness or strength? Your specialization can be based on Ukrainian. It might be translation work for people, maybe you don’t very good in English but you are a little bit ahead of them. Or create an English language course. Other people in Ukraine would love to visit the Museum of London. You can create a guide like a Londoners for Ukrainians.
What to do
If you want to start a business you need to search for what other people do. List of freelance jobs. New google search and find a big list. Start brainstorming and then make a decision. The best decision will be on High and Right by the scale "What do I want to do?" & "Likely is to work?"
You don’t have to have a unique idea but you should make it a little bit different and better than someone else.
Tell everybody you know. Connecting with people using LinkedIn. You are in London, you definitely start to meet people and try to involve them in conversation.