Freelancing and flexible working can help promote a good work/life balance, and its popularity has skyrocketed this year with 1.4 million British freelancers on record as we speak.
We caught up with Keri Hudson, an experienced Bristol-based freelance Social Media Consultant, about her journey so far.
Keri uses her extensive knowledge and valuable insights to teach businesses how to reach customers, drive awareness and smash their sales goals using social media. She’s worked with all sorts, including some of the UK’s best-loved big brands, innovative start-up’s and small businesses.
In addition to that, she also runs Glug Bristol, a talks and networking event for the city’s creatives.
Moxie & Mettle: Why did you want to become a freelancer?
Keri: Let’s start at the beginning. Back in 2008, I moved to university in Bournemouth and studied Interactive Media Production, which was a mixture of content production, web design and research into online social communities – all entirely out of date now by the way! I didn’t know what to do with my course, so I deferred my final year and headed to London to gain some experience. I interned at 33 Digital, Rubber Republic, 1000heads and Wunderman and worked with some big clients including Pringles, Land Rover, Nokia and Canon.
Moxie & Mettle How did you get these opportunities?
Keri: I emailed around 60 companies and was very fortunate with the ones that responded.
Moxie & Mettle: Did you ever go back to Uni after that?
Keri: Yes, I went back to complete my final year, and then headed back to London.
Moxie & Mettle: What was next?
Keri: I was advised to follow recruiters on social media to look out for job opportunities, and I came across a recruiter’s post about a fantastic job that had just landed on their desk: a Social Media Exec role at Premier Comms; an entertainment PR company in London. The dream, basically. After my initial interview, I was invited back and was tasked to create a social media plan for a documentary about UFOs created by Shaun Ryder. I needed to do something memorable, so I created a press pack which included photographs from a UFO crash landing scene I created in the woods, a piece of metal engraved with a made-up language, and a key to help journalist decipher it and find out the date the documentary would air.
I really wanted the job, so went above about beyond to try and nail it. Which I did! I ran social media campaigns for TV shows and films, helped out with PR stunts and lots of other crazy things, for example, I pretended to be a dog on Twitter for six weeks ahead of a film launch. It was a great job, but it also came with super long hours, tight pitch deadlines and a fairly stressful working culture. After a year and a half, I decided I wanted a change, so I looked for something completely different, which led me Cancer Research UK. I worked at the charity as a Social Media Manager for its fundraising events, such as Race for Life. The job gave me a lot more purpose, for example, I worked the #NoMakeUpSelfie, which become a massive viral campaign that raised £8million in a few days. It was nice to know I was making an impact on the campaigns I was working on.
Following on from that, I decided it was time to move back to Bristol. I found it tricky to find a job that specialised in Social Media; quite often companies look for a broader marketing skillset. After searching for a few months, I interviewed for and accepted the role of Social Media Manager at Digital Visitor, a local social media agency. During my time there, I led a lovely team of content creators and worked on all sorts of campaigns for our travel and tourism clients. Unfortunately, I was made redundant after a couple of years, so I thought to myself ‘why not try freelancing?’
And that’s how it all started!
Moxie & Mettle: What do you need to get started as a freelancer?
Keri: Firstly, it’s super important to set up a website – but don’t spend too much time on it; just get a simple site set up and worry about the rest (like branding etc) later. Then you have to start finding work! If you’re lucky you may gain a few referrals from people you know, but it’s essential to network and research your industry. I went one step further and decided to run my own networking event called Glug, which features talks from people in the creative industry. Running it has taught me loads and allowed me to meet tons of new people. I’ve also spoken at various events including Social Media Week Bristol and Rules of Engagement.
Moxie & Mettle: How do you find freelance work?
Keri: Most of my work is from repeat referrals and clients. I run a lot of events and workshops which helps me build a pipeline, and also gives me the opportunity to get my name out there.
Moxie & Mettle: Do you need courage to go freelance?
Keri: I got made redundant, so I didn’t have a choice, so for me, I think you need courage to carry it on. I felt like I’d got to a point where I knew enough to be a consultant. I’d already spent many years working in agencies, and if my seniority increased, the job would change to management rather than creativity, and it wasn’t what I wanted.
I also had a tiny pot of savings, which helped me start. The rest was just hard work and hustling.
Moxie & Mettle: What are the benefits?
Keri: The most significant benefit for me is being able to work when I’m most productive. I like to bang out work in the early morning or late at night and love not being chained to a 9-5 desk. I enjoy the freedom you get when you freelance; you can follow the work you want, have the choice to say no, and you have more time to learn on your own. I’m currently studying to qualify as an accredited social media trainer; not many agencies would pay me to do that.
I’ve also met so many new people at co-working spaces and events. My network is far broader now than it was when I was employed.
Moxie & Mettle: Are there any downsides?
Keri: I think it’s the unpredictability of each month. I rarely work on a retainer basis, so forecasting my income can be tricky. I also struggle with selling myself – there’s something very British about thinking we come across as arrogant when we promote ourselves. It feels icky but is something we all need to get over.
Moxie & Mettle: What advice could you give to other freelancers?
Keri: Be FLEXIBLE – you can’t predict it you have to flex to it.
CHASE opportunities – they don’t come to you, so get out there.
Be PASSIONATE & keep LEARNING and INNOVATING.
And lastly, make sure people see you as an expert and that you love what you do. At the end of the day, people hire people, so making sure they see your most creative and energetic self.
W: Keri Social
Interview conducted and written by Isabelle Peters