Main image by Distant Cloud Photography
If you’ve often wondered how other people structure their freelancing lives and what on earth got them into running their own business in the first place, you are in the right place for a good old snoop.
This Friday, Karen Cann of Karen Cann Video gives us her insight into the wonderful world of freelancing and shares her thoughts on the past 20 years within her industry. Please do read on and get to know this weeks’ Freelancer Friday interviewee, she’s a truly talented lady!
So, first of all, give us a mini bio and tell us something we won’t know about you!
I’m a freelance video editor and love all things creative! I’m based in St Ives in Cambridgeshire, where I live with my lovely husband, two cheeky children and two grumpy old cats.
I also enjoy making profile videos for small businesses and freelancers which they can embed on their website or share on social media. I’ve had 20 years’ (yikes!) experience in video and audio post production and was lucky enough to begin my career in Soho working on Kylie and U2 videos.
Something you don’t know? I haven’t got a sense of smell, which probably accounts for my rubbish cooking skills!
How long have you been running your business and what got you started?
I started in 2010 after the company I was working for closed during the recession: I walked into the office one day and was told I didn’t have a job anymore. I’d had no notice and the next couple of days were a blur, buying a Mac and frantically getting myself set up with all the necessary software. Back then my main job was being a DVD author and there was still a high demand for that service, particularly music DVDs. My business has evolved since then and I now also create a variety of different web videos – music, corporate, profile, sport, viral – anything to meet my client’s brief.
Are you freelancing full time or part time? Do you have a second or even third means of income to keep you moving forward?
I freelance part time around my children, but with all the extra hours I put in during the evenings and at weekends I think I might as well be working full time. I never switch off. I don’t have a second income – I wouldn’t have time to do anything else. I’m looking forward to more regular business hours very soon when both children will be in school! However, I’m glad that I’ve managed to work flexibly in the early years of their lives.
Did you launch straight into your business idea or did you spend time planning, training or even worrying before you got kicking?
I dived straight in without thinking, really. I had spent 15 years building up my skills and knowledge in video post production and knew that if I wanted to continue working in this field around my daughter I’d have to become freelance, otherwise it would probably mean a commute into London every day.
Tell us about your typical working day – Are you an early bird or do you tend to work throughout the night?
I prefer to work during the day, and mornings are best for me. My days are varied, I could be out early attending a networking meeting or meeting with a client to do some filming. Other days I’m ‘at one’ with my Mac, busy editing or authoring and fuelled by builder’s tea!
What’s your biggest challenge as a freelancer?
Switching off, I need to be more strict with myself about when to stop checking my email. I have so much responsibility, though, and no else will do it for me.
And what’s the best element of being your own boss?
Being flexible – definitely. I can go to medical appointments, for example, attend school plays, or look after my children when they are off school sick, without having to consider an employer.
How do you manage a good work/life balance (or do you struggle with this at all)?
I think my work/life balance is working out so far. I am very strict with myself, so when I’m meant to be working, I work hard, and that leaves me free to spend time with my children when they aren’t at school. Some periods get very busy so I’ll just work in the evenings and at weekends when I can. The thing I struggle with is that my head rarely switches off from the business.
Where do you work from and do you co-work at all?
I work from home with my two cats for company, Guinness and Scrumpy (I’m not an alcoholic, honest!). I’ve found that I get so much more done working by myself than I did working for a company as there are less distractions and I’m very strict. I also have a network of freelancers around me, and I collaborate with them from time to time. I plan to do more co-working once my youngest is in school. I plan to try out some of the local co-working spaces, as it’s nice to work with others sometimes to have that social contact and bounce ideas of each other.
Do you allow yourself a regular break for coffee, exercise or lunch?
Time is too precious. I usually eat my lunch at my desk. I sometimes will take five minutes to do something quite dull like hang the washing out! I’m constantly juggling… I’ve decided to go swimming a couple of times a week once I have more time without my youngest.
Are there any apps/tools/gadgets/people that you just couldn’t work without?
I couldn’t live without my iPhone for email, calendar, social media, Vimeo, YouTube and so on. Final Cut X and Photoshop are the most important apps on my Mac. My DSLR camera is also a must to film my profile videos. I guess when it comes to people – I couldn’t work without my husband giving me emotional support and professional advice.
Is there anything you really don’t enjoy as a freelancer? Perhaps something would persuade you to go back to a “regular” job?…
A guaranteed pay cheque, clocking in and out and less worry.
We would love to hear your thoughts on “networking” – do you go to any regular events or meet ups to meet other freelancers?
I’m not a fan of formal networking. I want people to talk to me because they want to, not because they are pressured to. I want to know about the person I’m meeting and I’m not interested in endless facts and statistics about business. I need to get a sense of what people are like as I may be working with them in the future. I think the world of business is getting more personal now, particularly with the rise of social media.
I like the Cambourne Network, St Ives Business Lounge and St Ives A14 Coffee Morning as they are very relaxed and friendly groups. It’s nice meeting lovely people from all different areas of business and having a chat over coffee. It’s one area of being a freelancer that I love, meeting new people that I wouldn’t necessarily come into contact with in a regular job.
I think some freelancers don’t appreciate how important face-to-face contact is. It’s easy to do everything with a phone, email and social media, but nothing beats face-to-face contact, and it’s healthy to do!
I also like the creative groups like Creative Ely and CamCreatives. They have really interesting talks, and when you work for yourself you need these sort of events so you can find out what is going on in the business, technology and creative world around you.
What essential advice would you give to anyone thinking of becoming a freelancer?
Be prepared to work harder than you have ever in your life, it is by no means “cushty”, and there can be highs and very bad lows. You need to be very strict with yourself and dedicated but you also need to look after yourself (which I’m extremely bad at) and give yourself breaks so you don’t burn out. Definitely get yourself out of the house to network too!
Try to connect with other freelancers too, to collaborate with. They are also great for help and support and you could make some fantastic new friends.
There is no guaranteed income so make sure you are ready to take the leap!
Anything else you would like to add or share?
Thanks Jo for letting me share my experiences.
I would also like to say how much I value the freelancers and small businesses I’ve met over the last five years – I’ve not only enjoyed working with them but it’s great having their support and being able to share the highs and lows of freelancer life.
The world of freelancing is up and down for me. I do feel that I have been on a very steep learning curve over the last few years. I have learnt so much more about all areas of business and the community around me than I ever would having had just one role with an employer. It is a huge challenge and an adventure.
Please feel to get in touch if you ever need a hand with anything video related, or would like to know more about having your own profile video.
How can we find you online (and off)?
Thanks so much Karen for taking part in my Freelancer Friday interview.
If you would like to read the other Freelancer Friday interviews in this series, click here.
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