It’s been a year since I started freelancing. This is what I’ve learnt.
It’s unpredictable but never dull. One pitch. You’re one pitch away from a new project. I’ve woken up on Monday morning with no work on the horizon and by Monday lunchtime I’m busy with two commissions. However, that unpredictability applies to the bank account too. Never underestimate the comfort of a regular salary.
You can never relax fully on holiday. I’ve just come back from a week in Croatia. It was brilliant – wonderful, fabulous and I checked my emails at least three times a day. You can’t switch off as a freelancer. You can’t be the writer who doesn’t respond to the panicked editor’s emails. You don’t want to be the idiot that passes up a golden opportunity. Which brings me to…
You will be an idiot and pass up a golden opportunity. A few months back I was busy busy busy when I took a call from a well-known charity. I’d applied for a job there many moons ago and heard nothing. They still had my CV. Would I, they asked, be interested in coming in to discuss working full-time for them for seven weeks? I couldn’t, I said. I was too busy. We parted ways and only then did I realise what an idiot I’d been. Of course you go in and meet them. Then when they realise how fabulous you are, you explain you can’t work full-time but would four days work? I still kick myself for this. Anyway, back to the holiday.
You will book a holiday at the wrong time. Croatia was booked on this particular week as my teaching year had ended, as had the World Cup and it was a week before kids broke up from school and holiday prices rose. Then I was offered two interviews on the Wednesday that we were away. The date couldn’t be changed as both these people were then going on their holidays when the kids broke up from school. That day’s work would have paid for my holiday. Which brings me to…
You win some you lose some. I’ve spent days, weeks and months setting up interviews that have fallen down at the last minute. I’ve also been offered lucrative projects out of the blue. Some things work and some don’t.
People will try and exploit you. A few weeks ago I was approached by a ‘copywriting agency’ that asked for my rate and then asked me to write two sample articles to deadline to see if I cut the mustard. I passed. Hurrah. Then they asked for my rate again, said they had no work at that price and since then I have been offered one job. For £5. I blogged about their shitty practice here.
You enjoy life more. I’ve spent 19 years in London and until 2012, when I quit the newspaper, I’d worked pretty much every one of those days, commuting to offices throughout. I was tired and I was bored. Now I spend time enjoying the flat it costs me so much to live in. I also run, cook, garden, drink coffee with friends, spend time with my cat, spend time with my boyfriend (one of these is more appreciative than the other). I take weekdays off if I fancy it and work weekends if I need to catch up.
You can make your body clock boss. I’m an early riser and a lot of my best work is done in bed (stop sniggering at the back there). My ideal working day would be writing from 7am to 1pm. Then, BBC news headlines, run, lunch, read, potter, garden or snooze until 4pm. Then work until 7pm. That’s a 9-hour working day but it works with my body clock (I’m pretty crap in the afternoon but perk up later) and it doesn’t feel half as much like hard work as the nine to five.
It will take you more than a year to get used to it. Do I love freelancing? Yes. Can I relax and enjoy the sunshine when I have no work? No. I sit in front of the computer, panicking. Therein lies the rub.
SEO stuff (I've still not got to grips with this). Teacher, author, journalist.