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Working as a freelancer in France is one way of securing an income. Especially in the world of writing, it is considered a dream job. You can also teach English on your own. How can you get started with this? It’s a question, many people who are preparing to come to France have. Here is a list of vital tips to help you start your freelancing business.
For some, working as a freelancer in France is their preferred career choice. It’s not a rigid 9:00 am – 5:00 pm job. You don’t have to commute on the Metro daily, and no boss tells you what to do. Best of all, you can spend more time with your family if you have one.
For others, it’s often the only way to start out in France. For someone who doesn’t speak French, the chances of securing a permanent job are often limited, unless they teach English.
But getting going is not always as straightforward as it might seem. We are fortunate that our trainer is very experienced in working as a freelancer. He will be able to help TEFL graduates to build their own network of students in Paris.
If you consider writing, the reality of working as a freelancer is far from the romantic image of people sitting outside a café, creating a 5,000-word article, sending it off, and taking the money. For a start, the cafés are too expensive in France.
There is work out there for freelancers however, and to help you get to a point when you can relax and spare a bit of money to sit in a café, we have come up with ten tips for you.
1. Keep up with your paperwork.
Everyone knows the bureaucracy in France is a nightmare, so just accept it and get on with it. That means declaring your taxes in May and paying them when the bill arrives in September.
Go the extra mile and set up your tax payments to pay monthly. Do it early in the process and don’t be scared of the bureaucrats. They have the reputation of being cold and frosty, but it’s not true. Every time they tell you to do something, just do it.
2. Join a cooperative.
Many freelancers start out in France on the country's auto-entrepreneur scheme for self-employed people. It is a good way to begin. Join a worker’s cooperative, known in France as a SCOP which helps the self-employed start up their own businesses.
You have to pay ten percent of your earnings to the cooperative, but for that they do all your accounting. They also go after clients who don’t pay. They will send you pay slips and issue you a permanent contract which really helps when it comes to things like finding an apartment. They also give you advice. The cooperative has its own network, which can be extremely helpful at times. When it comes to choosing a cooperative, it’s worth asking around and doing some research.
3. Keep contact professional.
Starting out as a freelancer requires you to send out dozens of emails and make dozens of phone calls. It’s important to get the tone of your communication right, which in France basically means as formal and polite as possible. You need to understand from the start how the French work. Initial business contact is very formal. Using the appropriate language is important especially in emails, so don’t use any slang expressions.
4. Don’t stop networking.
The hardest thing about being a freelancer is getting your name out to potential clients. Sending CVs and making phone calls is one thing, but it’s also important to network and not just in professional circles. Find out where expats meet and join them. Friends will often think about you when they know someone looking for a teacher, translator or writer.
5. Social network like crazy.
If you are in Paris or another large city in France, physical networking is much easier than if you are stuck in a remote part of rural France. If that is the case, make sure you get on social media and start meeting people. Apart from the obvious facebook and LinkedIn, Google+ and Skype are great tools for keeping in touch with clients everywhere.
Skype is everything. It's how you connect with people around the world on different projects, including teaching English, while working remotely from Paris. If you can, attend a “Tweet up” – this is when a group of social networkers arrange to meet up. The first press release a freelancer wrote was for someone starting a business making handbags, whom she met at a 'Tweet up'. After the event at the bar, she made friends with a lot of the people there, and word spread.
6. Gamble on which jobs to take.
When you are offered a job as a freelancer, it may sometimes seem like it’s not worth the hassle. But it’s important to remember that one job tends to lead to others, as long as you don’t make a mess of it. If you have one student, he may refer the next one to you. And this is how your “business” slowly grows. If you are loyal to your clients, they will be loyal back to you.
You should also be prepared to exchange favors with other freelancers. "I helped a freelance photographer translate his website and in return he took professional photos of me for my website," says Foggie, a freelance writer.
7. Stretch out your talents.
Remember your English language ability can count for a lot more than you think. If you are an English teacher, it’s worth promoting yourself as a writer and an interpreter, a web editor, or re-writer and even a journalist. If you are flexible, you can end up doing a lot more in France than you first thought.
8. Get a website.
If you can be found on Google, then your chances of picking up work will be much higher. So freelancers are advised to build a website and even better if they can create a French version of it, because most of your potential employers will want to read about you in their own language. Just imagine beginning English students. An English website would not attract those who are about to learn your language. Web.com offers to create a free website; Word Press is also an excellent way to go because it's great for rankings on Google no matter what you are trying to sell.
9. Treat it like a business.
Although you won’t have a boss and there will be no meetings to sit through or arguments with colleagues, you still need to act like you have an ordinary job in France. That's why it might be worth renting a space in an open office, alongside other freelancers. Although you might not have the nine-to-five hours, you will have to be disciplined to work morning, night and even weekends.
The first thing is to research, read books and understand that it's a business. Don't waste time. Get writing samples, write a blog, or volunteer your time to someone. You have to work past the fear because rejection happens all the time. If this is something you really want, power through."
10. Be prepared for lean times.
They will come, so make sure you put away some money to help you get over them. As a teacher, the summer is vacation time and will be slow in France. Remember if you are an auto-entrepreneur, you will need to set aside money to pay your taxes and your social charges, which is normally done every three months.
When lean times do come around, you need to be patient but it’s also time to start picking up the phone. Call every contact you have ever made, including people you haven’t spoken to for a long time.
Courtesy of International TEFL Training Institute Paris, France