Freelance writer revelations
I’ve been a freelance writer and small business owner of Yellow Canary for well over a year now. What have I learned along the way? What’s worked for me and what hasn’t? What’s to love about freelancing and what’s not so flash?
For all of you considering the freelance leap, I think it’s fair to say, the lifestyle switch from the daily commute and long desk sitting hours is a win. A massive win. Since leaving my regular city gig and waving goodbye to my daily train commute, I have been blessed with slower starts and more time with my children. Nothing beats this.
Once I’ve walked the children to school, I’ll make myself a cup of coffee and embrace the silence that follows. Now, this is where it can feel lonely. If you’re a social butterfly and love a good staff room chinwag, your daily solo coffee might feel a little flat. The quietness is something I love and embrace. I’m an introvert, so being by myself isn’t something that bothers me.
On the days when I’m craving more connection and I’m not meeting with clients or taking calls, I’ll make sure I grab a coffee at my local café and work in a space that’s with people. This works for me, but it might not cut it if you’re usually the social coordinator at your current gig and gain loads of energy from being around others.
By 10 a.m. I’m usually ready to start the day. Washing is on the line, coffee has been poured and I’m primed for creative writing. It’s at this time I am usually at my most productive. From now until I need to collect the children from school, I’m either writing material for clients, working on my own material, or responding to new queries.
This brings me to my next point, if you’re not normally the type of person to have spreadsheets, calendars, and multiple notebooks and diaries, you’ll quickly become one! Freelance life brings with it a whole new level of independence, if you’re not the organised type, it’s time to get on board.
I’ve managed my projects through a business workbook. I’ve created tabs for each financial year and kept up to date accounts of every project, quote, timeline, receipt, and invoice. This is not a space that can be neglected. Get yourself a separate business bank account and don’t merge this with your personal one. This keeps things nice and easy at tax time!
Don’t forget about your superannuation. This is an easy one to forget about (especially if you’re a spring chicken) but as silly as it may seem, your superannuation is your retirement money. If you don’t pay yourself accordingly now, your working life as a freelancer won’t be enough to support you when you retire. You can also kiss those international retirement holidays goodbye! Make voluntary contributions straight away, download your superannuation app on your phone, and prioritise this phase of your life.
Give yourself 6-12 months to find your freelance feet. And, I’m not referring to those long morning barefoot beach walks that end with a siesta on the sand (although I will argue these are an essential part of the creative life of a freelancer). The first year of freelance life is extraordinarily different from anything else you will experience. Not only are you the driver of your own employment, but you are also the driver of absolutely every aspect of your work. This is scary at first. It can feel liberating to be your own boss, make all the big decisions and be the expert in your space. But, and a big but, it can come with a huge sense of responsibility to perform, and to perform well.
Getting clients, keeping clients, briefing, quoting, invoicing, receipting, the entire process needs to be performed properly in order for your business to survive. The pressure can feel massive at first, over time this feeling does subside. Your confidence will grow and what used to bother you will no longer be an issue.
Trust yourself and trust that it takes a special kind of person to decide to fly solo, to take a different path and embark on something unconventional. Your decision may even cause family and friends to question you and your career choices. You might find people wonder why you left your ‘perfectly fine’ job with a ‘perfectly fine’ income to take on something unpredictable and irregular. Or, people might pass your idea off as some kind of ‘creative phase’ and continually remind you to find ‘real job’. Always take these comments in your stride and use them to push you forward.
This does, however, bring me to my next point. Always allow yourself a financial buffer in the first six months. Nothing comes quickly and for most freelancers, the initial stages are tiring. There can be a lot of reaching out, and not much coming back. There can be lots of quoting and not much commitment. Tread carefully in these first few months, be kind to yourself and allow a financial buffer to get you through the quiet periods.
When it’s quiet, work on your business. Work on your marketing, social media marketing and your website development. Write blogs, post regular content on your socials and engage in effective paid advertising. And, use your connections. Reach out, offer discounted rates to mates and tell everyone (even the hipster who serves you your daily coffee) that you are freelancing. Sell yourself, sell your work, sell your business. It starts with you!
When school pick up time comes around, I’m usually ready to close the laptop. Most people can’t write all day, and I’ve found since flying solo, my output is far more efficient and creative. These are the benefits of working for yourself, if you find your work isn’t moving, you can take a break. If you need some creative inspiration, you can visit a local gallery, take a walk, listen to music, read a book and the list goes on. How you spend your day is up to you. This is the most liberating aspect of becoming a freelancer. It can feel slightly weird at first but embrace it and own the feeling.
My freelance copywriting journey wasn’t driven out of a desire to make more money than I previously was when employed. And, I have to add, it is our current family situation that has enabled this kind of financial flexibility. This is not always the case for many freelancers.
My desire to become a freelance copywriter grew out of genuine longing for a calmer lifestyle. I wanted to put the balance back into our lives and create something far more simplistic. I wanted more time to exercise, more quality time with my three children and more time to create work that I felt great about.
I wanted to see projects come to life with the material that I’d created. I wanted to educate small business owners on the very basic elements of simple and effective marketing and communications. I wanted to meet with real people, doing great things and to help them create real change.
My longing was to create a business that fostered both a meaningful career and a meaningful life. Sometimes those two things are very difficult to maintain with a mainstream job. The juggling is exhausting, and the fit doesn’t always work out for everyone. I yearned for a much slower pace, a much deeper connection to my work, and the time to just be present.
I always loved the idea of being able to close my laptop and listen to my children after a day at work and a day at school. To wipe away their tears if I needed to, to celebrate their wins as they happened, and to laugh with them about the quirks of the day. I wanted to bring simplicity back. Freelance life has done just that for us, what more could I possibly ask for?