Top lessons learnt from the Freelancer Academy

By Miranda Bishop

Upon graduating from Cardiff University in 2010 I was at a common juncture for plenty of graduates. I’d graduated with a degree I’d enjoyed and valued, with a good amount of extracurriculars to my name, but with really no idea on where I wanted to go from there. With a degree in English Literature there were plenty of avenues for me to explore but for now I simply stayed in my part-time retail job feeling immeasurably lost at where and when my career would materialise. The only thing I was sure about was not wanting to start a career that I might get stuck in forever and hate for the duration of my working life.

E4's Drifters

E4’s Drifters

I’d applied for one or two sales jobs and ‘events marketing’ jobs, a common disguise for pyramid schemes or door-to-door sales when finally I ended up hired as a PA to a director of a start-up student-marketing firm.

Promo Life - me as an Irish Leprechaun on St. Patrick's Day...

Promo Life – me as an Irish Leprechaun on St. Patrick’s Day…

If you’ve seen E4’s new show Drifters it pretty much sums up the six months after university for me – dodgy costumes and flyering included. In addition to this the firm I worked for had no PAYE system and so I was hired on a freelance basis for £6 per hour.  Not exactly the £20k+ wage I’d hoped for. As time went on however, I pushed myself to begin running my own accounts and focusing on Social Media for our growing clients.

When I saw the GO Wales Freelancer Academy advertised therefore, I jumped at the chance to learn more about how to make the most of the situation I’d found myself in.

The Freelancer Academy

GO Wales for anyone unaware of them, are a fantastic organisation for graduates and employers set-up to offer high quality work placements, jobs, work experience and training academies. The course itself lasts for 5 days and was a great way of taking me out of my ‘must find a traditional graduate job’ mentality. Instead I realised that a lot of my skills lend themselves to self-employment or start-up companies really well. I’m a naturally confident person and always push myself to learn, meet people and better my skills, but often I’ve found myself unchallenged or lacking development in standard office environments. Start-ups and self-employment can force you to work at a higher pressure and faster pace which suits me far better.

The course covered all the basics of business plans, marketing, networking and getting yourself out there. I’d never studied Business during my education so this was a fantastic crash-course in basic accounts, time management and entrepreneurship. It was also a great way of meeting like-minded individuals all with a different skill-set to my own, and it was all local, held at the time in Cardiff Metropolitan. It even provided me with the ILM Institute of Leadership and Management Qualification in: Starting your own Enterprise. Best of all? It’s completely funded for you by Welsh Government as long as you live in Wales.

Three years down the line…

After working freelance and full-time in a few different jobs in and out of Cardiff and Wales, I was working at another start-up in Caerphilly when I started being approached for Social Media advice – something I’d established skills in way back when selling club tickets on Facebook.

Love a good business card!

Love a good business card!

The more and more I thought about it, the more it made sense to finally make the leap and set-up independently. There was an obvious market for Social Media training and consultancy, that much had been established purely from networking and talking to other companies based in Welsh ICEFinally it was having the GO Wales Freelancer Academy course under my belt along with some freelance experience already that really sparked my decision and made me take the plunge to quit my job for good.

For all the latest on the journey, you can visit the website www.mirandabishop.com or join me on Twitter @Miranda_Bishop

Freelance

Thinking of going freelance after uni or generally? Here are a few things to remember:

1. Never let your accounts get the better of you! There’s plenty of cheap or free advice out there and don’t wait until you get penalised by HMRC to do your tax return!

2. Utilise Social Media – of course I’d say this but it’s a fantastic way of connecting with new people and getting known! Sites like LinkedIn or PeoplePerHour are also a great way to get new clients or research the market in a short period of time.

3. Don’t always work from home – take advantage of the fantastic collaborative working spaces available in your area. In Cardiff/South Wales for example there’s Welsh ICEIndycube and the new FoundersHub. Go and meet like-minded people, you never know what they’ll be able to do for you.

4. Living in Wales? Make sure you take a look at amazing funding options through people like Business in Focus. I myself am currently waiting to hear on a £6000 ‘Young Entrepreneurs Bursary’ from the Jobs Growth Wales Fund. Fingers Crossed!

 

Have you started your own business after graduating? Please comment and share your top tips for success!