5 steps to freelancing with Amy Gardner

Freelancing is a dream that many people have. Being able to work for yourself, on your own terms to suit your needs is something creatives dream of, and Amy Gardner has made it a reality. 

Amy is a freelance tourism communications consultant, and she tells us that her days rarely look the same, dabbling in everything from digital marketing to content creation and social media management. We had a chat with Amy to get the lowdown on transitioning to freelance work and the 5 steps you can take to make the change yourself. 

1. Test out the lifestyle first

The road to freelancing for Amy wasn’t one she started on her own. “I had a dream job opportunity come up, and they wanted a contractor instead of an employee. That was the first time I really considered not being an employee and what that meant,” She tells us. “I got the job, and it’s been amazing. I haven’t looked back.” 

While she hadn’t imagined this life for herself before the opportunity arose, Amy appreciates the doors that freelancing has opened up for her. Still, it hasn’t been all rainbows and butterflies. 

“There are lots of pros and cons in comparison to being an employee, but the flexibility and freedom that it affords you, and having a good work-life balance, has been really beneficial for me.”

Taking the leap from stable employment into the unknown of freelancing can be scary, but as Amy says, “You can always go back to being an employee if you find that it’s not working with your lifestyle.” 

2. Say yes, expand your skillset, and network

Being your own boss oftentimes means taking initiative, and for a freelancer, doing so can be make or break. Amy spoke to us about the importance of putting yourself out there, using the connections you already have and welcoming new ones. 

“Don’t be afraid of challenges, they are always an opportunity for growth. A lot of the jobs I’ve come across have been through networking. You can reach out to someone that you’ve known for years. Even just having quick coffee catch-ups can be potentially really beneficial. They may know someone else in the industry who needs [your services] or is looking for someone [themselves],” she says. 

If you’re struggling to leverage your existing networks, joining an industry group such as the Young Tourism Network can help you connect with other business professionals.    

“The Young Tourism Network has given me so many opportunities to learn from new people and new areas in the industry. The amount of opportunities for networking, and connecting with like-minded people is so valuable,” Amy tells us.

Another way to discover opportunities for work as a freelancer include reaching out to businesses directly.

“There are lots of different roles that you may not know about. Lots of businesses outsource things like marketing, campaigns and social media, content creation – so reach out and explore the various options.” 

Amy explains that this is something she placed a lot of focus on in the early days, and values the time she got to grow her knowledge throughout the tourism industry. “For the last decade or so I’ve worked across sales, marketing, events, business development, content creation, hotel management, digital communications, SEO optimisation, blog writing, influencer marketing, the list goes on and on,” she tells us. “There are so many facets to this wonderful industry and I just love the variety in terms of destinations, businesses, and connections that you can make.”

3. Know your worth, needs and boundaries 

So let’s say you’ve done it. You’ve made the transition to freelancing and are ready to make a start – now what? While it’s natural to want to jump into the first opportunity that arises, Amy highlights the importance of knowing what you’re looking for and staying true to yourself. “Find something that fits you and don’t be afraid to ask for more flexibility,” she says. 

“I had grown to understand my own value, my time, and my work ethic. I gained a lot of confidence, and I’m really lucky to be working with two wonderful, women-led business owners, Christina Koullas at CK PR and Joyce Watts at Bright Smart, where I really feel valued. They are both mums themselves, and phenomenal business women who accommodate a completely supportive workplace environment for me. Above all, they understand my needs, and they appreciate my work and my commitment.” 

Finding any work while freelancing is exciting, but you need to ensure it works for you and your needs – after all, it’s one of the perks of being a freelancer. Amy knows all too well how flexibility is vital to juggling life and work, and recounts times when she has needed to put work on hold for herself or her kids. 

“I’m often told by the two wonderful women I work for that that’s no problem, ‘Let’s put a pause on your work for this week’, and that sort of flexibility is really valuable. I wouldn’t settle for anything less.”

4. Use tools to streamline your work

Being a freelancer comes with the responsibility of juggling many things at a time. Between various work projects, personal projects, and life in general, sometimes it can be too much to remember. This is why Amy has a list of tools she uses to stay on track, taking off some of the mental load so she can dedicate more time to the important stuff. 

“Keeping on top of all the various clients and jobs that I have, as well as my family life, I really have to make use of project management tools and digital apps that are out there. Things like asana and Trello help me keep on top of all the different tasks so I can work away at each of my different jobs.

“Whether I’m answering emails, phone calls or Zoom meetings, [these apps are] really useful in freelance work. I also have an app that helps track my hours, so I clock on and clock off. I can really easily keep track of my hours on each task and job.”

It’s not only new tools that can help with your organisation, Amy shares how her use of calendars is key to knowing where her work and family are at. 

“I use my Google calendar to sync all of the activities across different jobs, my family, and my husband’s roster so that I can keep on top of it all. I also recently started using a physical planner to help keep organised on all these tasks.”

5. Invest in yourself 

Having the flexibility to work when you want can be exciting, but sometimes it’s hard to draw the line between work and your own interests. Making time for the things you enjoy is important to a sustainable lifestyle, and you never know, those out-of-work projects might be your next business venture, like Amy!

“I’ve been really excited to be able to branch out and create my own website and blog. It’s called Seniors in Melbourne, and it’s a visitor website for Melbourne that’s targeting the senior demographic. Each week I go out with my retired parents to explore the city, and we’re writing about things to do in Melbourne that are great for seniors.”

The skills Amy learnt across her time freelancing built the foundation for her to be able to start this blog, and now the blog furthers her skills for future freelancing opportunities. It is a cycle of growth and learning that benefits all projects, both work and personal. 

“Being a freelancer has allowed me to follow my entrepreneurial goals as well. Going in and starting my own small business has been a dream of mine, and freelance work has really helped.” 

Overall, freelancing can open your life up to a range of opportunities that you can’t get while being an employee. It’s important to look at the pros and cons to decide if it suits you and your lifestyle, but if you’re anything like Amy, it might be just what you’re looking for.

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