How I made it: Amirah Kolia
Tell us a little bit about why you decided to embark on a freelance career!
After a break from the world of consulting to test the waters at a tech start up, I quickly realised that what I was really looking for was a happy medium between the two. I missed the fast pace, problem solving, travel and even the long hours of consulting. What I appreciated, working in a start-up, was having time for the things I cared about, shaping the direction of my work and seeing the real-time impact of my outputs. It was quite clear then that the happy medium was freelancing. I get to decide on my engagements, have down time between them and still enjoy the perks of consulting.
What do you wish you knew when you first started out that would have helped you?
The first area where I wish I had more of an understanding was definitely professional indemnity insurance – I ended up making uninformed decisions at short notice. The second would be the various factors to consider when negotiating a rate – I initially went in with what I was after, with little to no consideration about the market or how I will baseline my rate in the future; now I have a ‘check list’ that helps me price my role on engagements.
What are some pros and cons with freelancing that you don’t think people realise?
- Freedom to choose your engagements
- Higher income
- The perks of being part of an organisation without having to navigate the corporate politics as intently
- Uncertainty/ Instability
- Always having to market yourself
- Not getting paid on time
What is it you still struggle with as a freelancer, if anything?
Connecting with other freelancers. I imagine there is huge potential for collaboration and knowledge share if I found the right network.
What resources have you found useful as a freelancer?
Well, I’ve relied mostly on guidance from a handful of colleagues.
Any other top tips to people thinking about going into freelancing?
1. Lose the fear about whether you will be able to sell or always find work. Once you have your first engagement, your brand will sell itself and you will build a network quite quickly.
2. Your network is your pipeline, don’t underestimate the importance of building relationships.
What would you do differently from Day 1 if you could time travel?
A wider network of experienced consultants in my field and geographic would have been helpful. I was quite fortunate to get support from a colleague who had started freelancing as well although there were some differences based on business in our respective geographies that I had to work out (the hard way) for myself.
Finally, do you see freelancing as a long-term career path?
Absolutely. The flexibility and earning potential are otherwise hard to match, in hindsight my initial apprehension was unwarranted.