Freelancing advice no one's had the balls to give you
This is a pretty risky post to write.
My blog is read by both prospective and current clients. Yet here I am, telling aspiring freelancers that they need to know what they're signing up for—it's not all coffee shops, globetrotting and flexible schedules. There are a lot of hard lessons to learn. Ignore them and you'll mess yourself right up and earn pittance for your efforts.
Luckily, you're pals with me, and I'm not afraid to tell it like it is! The following snippets of advice are all things I learned through my own experiences starting out as a freelancer.
Your business won't implode if you take time off
It's too easy to fall into the mentality that time off equals lost earnings. The simple fact of it is...you need time off. The benefit to your mental health far outweighs any client job and you'll be a better writer for it.
I try to book my holiday relatively far in advance so I can give my clients a shed load of notice. This gives ample time to shuffle their requirements and my schedule around so all needs are met.
Once holiday time arrives, stick your out-of-office on and stop checking your emails—you'll only stress yourself out. I've tried working through weekends and during holidays and it just made me hate my life and my job. Time off is important, so take it!
You need to charge what you're worth
First thing's first—stay the hell away from content mills and content bidding sites. You won't find any joy there. They are mouths into the very pit of hell, wherein you sit churning out 500-word blog posts for a fiver and working with the world's worst clients.
I had two short gigs through sites like these and I learned my lesson very quickly. Those platforms might sell the idea of safety and guaranteed work, but it's not where the real clients or the real money is.
The same can be said for haggling clients that don't like the idea of paying 'normal' copywriter rates after they've seen the prices on these content bidding sites. Those that value decent writing and quality content will pay a fair price for it. End of story.
Check sites like ProCopywriters to work out what your rate should be, and The Freelance Circleto search potential employers (you know...for safety and all that). That's how you turn the dream of freelance writing into a well-paid reality. Neverwork for free and never accept less than you think your time is worth.
Set your working hours and stick to them
When you work in an office, you've got set times to sit at your desk and set hours you're expected to take lunch. Working at home should really be no different (but it kinda, sorta is).
The assumption 'office people' make is that freelancers spend their days dossing about on the couch in pyjamas. The truth is: when you don't have set work hours, you work all hours. All. Bloody. Hours.
I start my day at 8am and work through until 6pm, with an hour and a half for lunch. But it wasn't always like that. In the early days, I was so intent on martyring myself for my business that I ended up working 14 hour days and not taking weekends off. I was incredibly stressed, unhappy and unfulfilled. I quickly learned to look after myself and now clock off promptly at 6pm.
You have the power to say 'no'
Again...there's no need to martyr yourself. This is your business, your time, your reputation and totally your call. If you're getting internal warning flags about a client enquiry, you have every right to turn the job down.
I've been told that accepting every job is an absolute must if you're going to make a good living, but experience has taught me that this isn't true in the slightest. I have let clients go because the relationship wasn't working. I have referred other writers for jobs because I didn't feel I was a good fit. I have identified potentially unprepared clients and advised them that they'll need to do more groundwork before hiring a writer.
You can avoid a heck of a lot of frustration, wasted time and wasted money by simply admitting that the job isn't a good fit. And that's perfectly okay...something else willcome along.
It's not a competition
There are so many wicked freelancers out there and it's hard not to compare yourself to them. How do they have so many followers? How did they score that project or award? Why can't I get more work in that particular industry? The list goes on.
Much like life, work becomes an unfulfilling nightmare when all you do is measure yourself against the success of others.It doesn't matter what they're doing/have done/will do. If you're happy and earning a great wage, you're golden. Keep at it!
Besides, the freelancing community is more inclusive than you might assume. Yes, we compete for jobs, but we're also shit hot at looking out for one another. We refer each other for work, collaborate on projects and share tips on how to run a business. I wouldn't be where I am now if it weren't for the kindness of other writers in my industry.
All right. Moment over.
You'll get hella lonely
Ever heard of cabin fever? That's freelance life. For in-house writers, working from home is a rare luxury—the ultimate in comfort and productivity. For freelancers, it's quite different.
It only took me two weeks before I was pining for ex-colleagues and harassing friends on WhatsApp. Nowadays, I make a conscious effort to take a walk during my lunch break and often work from the village library. Sometimes I meet my buddy in a coffee shop and we both work together (with synchronised 80's metal playlists, obv). Other times I'll invite myself to a client's office so I can work on their stuff while they're around to feedback directly.
If you don't make an effort to network, work with others or just get out of the goddamned house, there's a very real chance you'll end up like this: