Blending work and wanderlust: the journey to being a freelance creative

Lilia Alexander

Tourism Content Creator

A passion for travel has led Lilia Alexander to her career as a tourism content creator, capturing photo and video content for social media and websites. Lilia recently moved into freelancing from full-time employment.

Transition to freelance mode

Shifting from full-time employment to freelancing Lilia understands she has some unknowns to face, despite previous experience in both freelancing as a side hustle and her own business.

“There are times when I’ve stressed out with the realisation that I’m not going to have a consistent income, and that if I don’t put in the effort, there will be no income.”

Lilia says that while it’s challenging to work out the market size for her services, there’s always more opportunity if you look for it. “You have to evolve and offer what people are interested in. There’s always a place for you; it’s about being good at pitching yourself and building relationships. When you start working for yourself you have to put in a lot of effort—and it can take years to build up a reputation. 

The relationships Lilia has built over the years are invaluable in her transition to full-time freelancing. “People will work with who they know or perhaps who they are friends with. So I build up relationships with a lot of different people and places.”

Lilia uses LinkedIn to connect with people from companies she may wish to work with in the future. This way, they’re able to see her posts and appreciate the type of work she does. “It’s like a strategy to build out my reputation with people and places over the long term, not just spontaneously. It’s not such a good idea to connect with people on LinkedIn and then send them a message straight away with a request. If you do want to ask for something or share your services, it’s a much more human approach to build a relationship first or at least wait for some time.”

The next step for Lilia is to map out categories across the tourism industry and build relationships within them to generate a more sustainable income channel.

Communicate your value

It can be a challenge to demonstrate what you offer, especially when you’re starting out. Lilia says one way to overcome this is to show what you’re capable of. “People can see on my Instagram that I’ve done a lot of work, and on my website there are linked folders to show 100 plus images, again adding to the transparency of what I can achieve for a client.”

Sometimes clients are happy to enter a contra deal. For Lilia, this could mean working for a BnB, and in exchange for content and posting, she receives a night’s accommodation. This work can then be added to her portfolio.

“My other advice would be to just go out and shoot the content that you want to be paid for. That’s what convinces people to say yes, because they can see what you’ve done. Create the type of content you want clients to request. It’s one way to prove yourself.”

Build a roadmap

Lilia is working to get her business to the point where it brings in a reliable and sustainable income and is based on long-term relationships.

Lilia already has an enviable list of clients she’s worked with. She lists Jetstar as one of her favourites; it’s a consistent, long-term relationship based on building its brand awareness. Hutt City Council is another, where she works on its social media channels. “I love the freedom clients give me to create content for different businesses, like videos of business owners chatting about who they are and what their business is.”

Depending on the market’s feedback, there’s also the option to change up her offerings. “You need to listen to your customers, otherwise you’ll just be like everyone else.”

Be transparent on pricing

Lilia’s pricing strategy is based on years of experience. “The tricky thing about freelancing is when you compare it to what you could get in a ‘normal’ job. I have been trying to navigate so that I don’t end up doing seven days’ worth of work and not getting paid as much as I would in a permanent role.”

While many freelancers do not show prices on their websites, Lilia intentionally makes hers transparent. If potential clients have to ask for pricing, she says there’s the risk they could look elsewhere. “I don’t want there to be a barrier to knowing how much work might cost. I want them to know whether or not it’s within what they can afford. I think it also makes me more approachable. They can then let me know what they think about the pricing and see if there’s room for flexibility.”

Part of learning the business of freelancing is also understanding contractual obligations. “It’s important when you’re starting out to read all the clauses. Often there are non-competes, so you need to consider if it’s worth being exclusive with one company. Or perhaps payment isn’t made until all work is completed. If I was to give any advice it would be to look at the contracts you sign closely.”

To be creative, be organised

Lilia works with tight timeframes, with early starts and late finishes to get the best lighting, while also travelling with limited time at each destination. This means she needs to be organised to consistently remain productive.

Lilia finds one solution is to accept work where there’s a minimum of two nights stay; another is to be upfront about challenges that impact her photography such as the weather and lighting situation.

Looking after herself and eating properly is also key to remaining at peak creativity. Being on the road often leads to more petrol station food than usual and healthy eating can be a struggle.

“I need to figure out what I should be eating every day when I’m travelling, and sticking to that is a work in progress. Having a quieter week after travelling also helps me catch up on everything, complete admin, and plan my next trips. I’ve found the importance of downtime; if I keep continually travelling I get overwhelmed.”

Staying on top of admin tasks is also key to leading a healthy life and business. Lilia uses a notes app to make a task list, and then drags and drops based on priority. “Having a task list also gives me the satisfaction of ticking things off—I can wipe them and see a smaller list.”

The calendar is next on Lilia’s list to optimise to improve her productivity. She’s trialling blocking out time for tasks so they are completed more sustainably and not forgotten, versus everything piling up and rushing to meet deadlines. 

Success and growth are about learning to manage work, and also how to remain focused on creativity, says Lilia. “I feel like the one thing that crushes creative capability is putting restrictions on people. If I have to follow a ton of guidelines and rules, then the creative thing in my head just switches off. There needs to be the scope to be creative and to test things about, otherwise you’ll never get to move forward and have all the cool growth.”

Work with your passion

Everyone starts somewhere, says Lilia. “I want to spend my life doing the things that I’m passionate about. Because why wouldn’t I? Why would I be in a job that isn’t fun?”

To find out in what direction you could be heading, Lilia says to think about your hobby or passion—what it is that you already do for enjoyment, that you don’t get paid for? And then find a way to turn that into a business.

“What I love about life is that you never know what is around the corner. I don’t want just another job, I want something that I want to spend my time doing. It’s all about doing whatever gives you energy.”

You can find Lilia at Lilia Alexander.

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