Chioma Nkemdilim, Creative Partner at ForCreativeGirls, speaks on Life as a Freelancer

The Freelance Deck is a weekly post, where we spotlight Africans who are pursuing their dreams and passions through independent work. Today’s interview is with the curator of The Civil War Projects, creative partner at ForCreativeGirls and owner of ThatIgboGirl.com, Chioma Nkemdilim.

Buffrspace: What type of freelancer are you? What’s your niche — journalist, social media manager, ballerina…?

Chioma Nkemdilim: I prefer to refer to myself as a Content Strategist, as my work is a mixture of writing, editing, social media management, etc. But in normal terms, I’m a Freelance Writer and Editor.

You freelance Fulltime or Part time?

Part time.

How do you find the time, after long traffic hours, insane weather and an 8–5 job to still do freelance gigs? Please share some of your tips.

My job requires me to put in 30 hours a week. I had to turn down a lot of job offers because flexibility was important to me. So, with this job, I basically plan my time. Also, the company I work with practices remote working. I either work from home or a coworking space or wherever else I want. On average, I put in 6 hours a day for the job (9 to 3), then the rest of the day is for my freelance works and side projects.

Cool! How did you get started on the freelance circuit?

My clients actually approached me because either they had seen my blog (That Igbo Girl) or they had seen my articles written for some online publications or were referred to me by friends and acquaintances. Some knew of my day job and asked if I could take on side gigs. I also do a bit of networking. I designed my business cards myself and had them printed and delivered by Printivo. I always have them with me when I attend events so I can hand them out.

How do you land freelance jobs?

For the most part, my previous works speak for me, which is why I try as much as possible to make sure that my clients are happy with what I’ve done. I’ve never really had to pitch per se.

What’s your favorite thing about freelancing?

Work location is flexible. The extra cash. Also, I have quite a number of personal projects I’m working on, so the combination of the freelancing and my regular work allows enough free time for me to work on them as well.

What’s your worst?

At a point, I was freelancing full time while transitioning to another job. I’ll just quote Paul, “I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty”. Those words best described my situation. It wasn’t very feasible. Sometimes, clients would drag their feet to pay up (sometimes taking months). This was why I decided to have a ‘day job’ and freelance part time. Another really annoying thing is when a potential client say they can only pay ridiculously low prices. I just dust my sandals and politely bid them farewell.

[LOL] Okay, tell me about your worst client so far. What made them so bad?

I did a job for a client and didn’t get my money till two months later. I’m still glad I got my money because I’ve heard tales of clients that skipped out on freelancers.

For you, what’s a typical working day like?

Work from 9am to 3 or 4pm, Rest. Work on other gigs till 7pm. I sleep around 11 pm (most days. It can be later). Then I’m up around 1 or 2 am and go back to sleep by 6am. It happens like this sometimes. But most days, I just go with the flow. No two days are alike. I wake in the morning and make a list of things I must achieve in a day. I transition between tasks and rest when I need to. Sometimes, I work for long hours then don’t work at all the next day.

I always make sure I use the Pomodoro technique. No matter how many hours I work, I always take 5 minute breaks for each time I work for 25 minutes. I use the Flat Tomato app to time myself. I also use the Time Tag app to calculate how many hours I put in in a day for each job or task.

Do you listen to music while you work?

Yes.

What’s your top 5 songs you love to work to?

My list is rather unconventional, but here goes:

- Background noise like rain sounds. It’s great for concentration. I use Noisli.

- Jazz or Classical music

- All songs by Primary (he’s a South Korean music producer)

- All songs by Zion.T

- My carefully curated playlist that is a mixture of 90s and modern Hip Hop and R&B (Lauryn Hill, Jill Scott, Jhene Aiko, Yuna), Rock (Cold Play, Maroon 5, etc), Rap (think J Cole, Kendrick Lamar), lots of K Pop and alternative R&B (Dean, Jay Park, Hoody, Crush, Gray, Big Bang, Ailee, Lee Hi)

… I think I’ll stop now.

Any advice for new or aspiring freelancers?

Do your research and make sure you have a client base before you start freelancing (if you already have a full time job). If you’re just starting out and haven’t worked for any company as a full time employee, it counts to get experience. The experience can be through starting a blog of your own or guest writing on popular blogs. This is because most potential clients will want to see something you’ve done before. Always make sure you draft a contract and it’s signed by you and your client before you start a job (I learned this the hard way). If the client already has a contact for you to sign, make sure you are okay with all the terms before you begin the job. Have a business card on you always. You never know who you might meet. Moreover, it looks more professional to hand out your card than just your phone number.

Thank you Chioma.

Chioma Nkemdilim is the owner of ThatIgboGirl and The Civil War Projects and also Creative Partner at For Creative Girls. She’s also a Freelance Content Creator.

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