Freelancer interview: Rachael van Oudheusden, Big Old House

Who are you and what do you do?

I’m Rachael van Oudheusden, from Big Old House [www.bigoldhouse.com]. I’m a freelance Marketing and PR Consultant and Copywriter. I help businesses talk to existing and potential customers through B2B marketing, PR and copywriting.

It’s pretty varied. It can involve creating marketing plans, coordinating advertising, writing brochures, websites, editorials, planning and creating social media campaigns or connecting clients with their target media to raise brand awareness.

What led you to start freelancing?

Having spent almost 20 years in marketing communications roles, covering PR, project management, campaign planning and messaging for mainly B2B clients and owner managed businesses, I realised I wanted a bit more freedom and flexibility.

I had a senior role in an agency, which was becoming more operational than creative. My days were more HR than PR. I realised that I couldn’t remember the last time I had written something, or even had the headspace to think about writing something.

I felt that I wasn’t delivering for my team or my existing clients well enough. It was time to redress the balance. It was time to look after myself, enjoy work again and choose the types of work I wanted to do and be proud of.

What three things do you wish you’d known before starting out?

  • Accountancy is more complicated than anyone tells you, especially when you become limited or VAT registered. Pay for help if this is not your strength. 
  • It is very lonely, unless you make sure it isn’t. Spending too much time on your own is bad for you. Turns out I quite like being around people. Find a co-working space that is right for you, such as Works Social [https://www.workssocial.co]
  • You will waste your time and money going to soul destroying networking events until you figure what is right for you. And you will. Then it will be worthwhile. 

What three issues have you had since starting up?

Not really issues, more things I didn’t factor in or found harder than expected. 

  • Saying no to business that is not true my original core focus (ideally building, construction property and industrial sectors). When you first start, you daren’t say no to any work in case nothing ever comes along again…it will. 
  • Taking on too much at once and not allowing for ‘thinking time’. Having too many projects and deadlines on at once means that everyone loses – you get stressed, your clients don’t get the best of you and your business suffers longer term (not to mention your sleep). 
  • Business developing faster than expected and not knowing how to manage it all. Delegating to just yourself is a tough prospect when your to do list is longer than a roll of wallpaper. Finding a network of other suppliers and co-freelancers has helped take the pressure off at times. Being freelance means I can give clients the flexibility they need and if I can’t help them, I have built a network of super talented people who can.

What’s the best thing about freelancing?

So many good things – variety, opportunities, fun, creativity, sense of achievement. Definitely being your own boss has to top the lot. 

Being freelance means I can give people the flexibility they need and if I can’t help them, I have built a network of super talented people who can.

How would you like to develop your freelance career in the future?

Three years in I am at a fork in the road. Do I want to remain ‘just a freelancer’ or do I want to be ‘Managing Director of Big Old House’? I don’t know yet. I’ve given myself five years to decide and I’m in no rush. I’ve proved what I needed to to myself and the rest is down to the opportunities that might present themselves and if they feel like the right thing to do at the time. 

Anything else you’d like to tell anyone thinking of or currently freelancing? 

  • Decide what is most important to you – family, money, time, ethics, work-life balance, flexibility, growth, industry sector, personal development and let that lead your decisions.
  • Reassess where you are every six months and make sure you the things you are doing are either what you set out to do, or even better than that. If not, readjust. 
  • Grow your networks and be generous with your contacts. Be helpful, connect people. It’s nice to be nice. 
  • Track your time. (Harvest [https://www.getharvest.com] is great) What are you doing all day? Helps with assessing profitability, understanding how to manage your time and with quoting new projects. 
  • Have a plan and some key goals, no matter how small or seemingly unimportant. One of mine was to visit Japan for a month when I had enough steady work, good enough cash flow and could still pay my mortgage without working for a few weeks. I’m going soon (and not taking my lap top). #proudofmyself
  • Your gut instinct is more important than anything in coming to the right decisions. Ignore it at your peril.
  • Work hard (but smart) and be kind.

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