My path as a freelancer gives me the opportunity to meet and get to know so many amazing people! I’m eager to share with you their stories – each and one of them unique and inspiring – and that’s why I started the ‘Freelance Tips With…’ series.
As some of you know, I’m part of a Dutch marketing agency called ‘Creatie Maakt Alles‘. It has built an amazing team of freelancers from various fields. One of my colleagues – the content marketer and graphic designer Jeanette van Horssen – has already given her best freelance tips. Today I’d like to introduce another successful freelancer whom I met there – Jochem Palubski from ‘Vrij Scherp‘. Read his full of useful tips story now!
Why did you decide to become a freelancer?
That’s a rather long story. I’ve always had the idea that working as a freelancer was something for me. But I never knew what I wanted to be or how to begin. Let alone that I didn’t have any idea when would be the right time to start.
During my education, I learned that the marketing and communications business was my thing. When I just graduated I thought it would be wise to gain more knowledge and experience before getting started as a freelancer and entrepreneur.
I’ve worked for 5 years in several marketing and communication roles. At my last job prior to my entrepreneurship, I met Hanneke, the mastermind behind ‘Creatie Maakt Alles’. When I told her I wanted to quit my job because I was searching for a new challenge and opportunity, she offered me the chance to start as a freelancer and help her with ‘Creatie Maakt Alles’.
At that point, everything came together. All the dots got connected. I realized that this was the right time to start, I had enough experience and this was one of those rare opportunities that come once in a lifetime.
There are two reasons why I wanted to work as a freelancer:
One: It offers me the freedom that I long for. I’m not the type of person that can work from 9 till 5 at the same office for the same brand. I need diversity in clients and the ability to plan my own schedule. A funny fact, since I work as a freelancer I make a lot more hours than the 40 hours that I needed to make for my boss. Because working as a freelancer doesn’t feel like working at all. It is my passion and it goes naturally.
Two: At large companies, you’ve got to work in a team with several management layers. This means that there’s a lot of debate because everyone has his own opinion. When you have an original idea, in the end, it becomes an average idea because at a large company people are quite conservative and it takes a long time before changes are implemented. It’s nice to help other companies with their marketing and communication and to build on their success. And also, small and medium-sized companies get things done much quicker.
What was your job before that?
I finished my education in 2012 and at that point, it was hard to find a job in the Netherlands. Especially for someone new to the job market. So within the next 5 years, I worked for several companies in different communication jobs. At the beginning of my career, I thought it was smart to work for a big corporation with a large marketing team. So I worked for two years as a Communication Advisor at Essent, a large energy company.
That turned out to be a good choice, I’ve learned so much from my experienced colleagues! I knew that this wasn’t my future and that there were other things in store for me, but I didn’t really know what it was going to be at that point.
What’s the biggest challenge you face as a freelancer?
For me, it’s important to keep the right balance in life in order to perform well. I always work by setting goals for myself, and these goals are always challenging to achieve. But if you just go for it, eventually you’ll always achieve these goals and succeed in your challenges. Especially when you try to learn from the process.
How did you come up with the name and the concept behind your company and website?
Initially, I started ‘Vrij Scherp’ as a freelance concept, meaning that I work with other freelancers and for companies to help them with their communication. I’m a communication professional and a copywriter. That’s still the idea behind Vrij Scherp. But at this point, I work in several teams with other freelancers to help small and medium-sized companies with their strategy, marketing and communication.
The name ‘Vrij Scherp’ is Dutch and stand for several things. ‘Vrij’ means free and symbols the freedom that I get being a freelancer. ‘Scherp’ means sharp, which states that I use sharply defined terms in my texts. But not only in my texts; in general, I’m like that.
Should every freelance writer have a website?
Most definitely! To work without a website in this time and age is such a waste. Your website is your online business card. It gives people the chance to do some research about your company, to take a look at your portfolio and to get the right impression.
Also, these days you’ve got a lot of opportunities to attract new customers through social media, email marketing, and online advertisement.
What’s the best advice you can give to the people who’re making their first freelancing steps?
Just go for it! Set realistic goals for yourself. Try to be humble and try to learn from everything you do, especially the mistakes you’ll make. Because the mistakes will always come, and that’s a good thing. Self-discipline and a positive attitude are two important qualities.
What would you say to the people who hate being trapped in their office from 9 to 5 but don’t see another option to make a living?
Don’t try to live according to other people’s expectations. Set yourself free and start living your own life. Nothing is certain in the short amount of time that we’re here, on this planet, so you’d better try to live the life in the way you want it.
What’s the best part of being a freelancer according to you?
The diversity. Sometimes I work for five different companies per day. I like to dive into a company, get to know it and then translate their values, targets, and strategy to content. I just love the fact that I can work for a construction company, a ski web shop, a wine trade and accountancy firm on the same day.
But also the freedom to choose the people I want to work with. Either customers or colleague freelancers. It’s nice to determine your own pace and workload.
The fact that I can easily get things done without being stuck in internal politics and negative vibes in a company is also quite positive.
What advice would you give to the freelancers who’re struggling to find clients? What’s your secret to finding clients?
I find 90% of my projects via my network. The strength of a good network is priceless. If people see your discipline, hard work ethic and positive attitude they eventually when the time is right, will award you with work.
Which of your personal traits contributed the most to your professional success?
In my opinion, there are several important aspects of my life that I recognize as being helpful.
The fact that I’ve got self-discipline and a positive attitude. Every day I’ll go in full force to make the best out of it.
Also, the ability to always put things in perspective. That helps me to stay fresh and not to worry when the setbacks arrive.
If I look at my professional traits, I can connect the dots to work out a strategy. I can make the translation from the idea in the head of the customer to a concept and eventually to the kind of words on paper that get the right message across in an effective manner.
When are you the most productive: when working from home, from a coworking space or from a cafe?
For me, it’s a combination of different environments. I can’t work for too long in the same space. After several hours, I feel my energy and concentrations levels declining. My solution, pack your things and move to a different spot. It can be the office, at home, a client or some public place. But in general, I like to work at home
How do you stay focused?
At the end of every day, I make a short to-do list with my most important tasks for the next day. I also like to set certain goals for myself – short- but also long-term.
If I recognize a loss of concentration, I take a short walk outside, watch a video or just talk with some people about ordinary stuff. I need some distraction to stay focused.
Read also: 6 Simple Tricks to Ditch the Freelance Guilt
What are your best time management practices?
In school, I had some issues with time management. After I realized that, I looked for solutions to this problem. I’ve trained myself and now time management and working in a structured manner are my strengths.
Here the to-do lists also help – writing down my tasks helps me keep track of them. Sometimes I use Google Calendar to block a certain period of time for each task or project. This way I can track my time but also set my borders.
How does one of your best days look like?
I consider each day a good day. For the simple reason that I’m happy with my life and that I do the kind of work that I love under the conditions that I prefer.
If I have to describe my best day, workwise, then it would be a day where I can work on a strategic project – for example, developing a corporate or marketing strategy; interview a customer and write an article about them; create some social media posts for various clients.
How do you stay zen?
It’s important to find the right balance and to keep it that way. I use several ways to stay zen.
Doing sports is a big factor in my life, it’s a way to blow off steam. It’s also important to get enough rest and to start each day with the right kind of energy.
I also need structure in my work life – that’s why time management is so important for me. Without having the right structure, I’ll end up in chaos which affects my creativity and focus in a very negative way.
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