Succeeding as a freelance writer

kalen-emsley-94317-unsplash

When you get started as a freelancer writer, you’re the one that has to (politely) hassle companies to hire you. You have to sweet-talk people into letting you guest post for them so you can market yourself and your blog.

You use up a huge amount of energy trying to get a business off the ground. You think you can’t possibly keep this up forever.

Then, the tables turn.

If you set your business up correctly, people start approaching you to hire you. With more experience and work to show for it, people begin to accept your rates without questioning you. You can start turning clients down if they’re not a good fit, or telling people they’ve got to wait until next month.

Companies and people approach me to help them market their business now. Apparently, I’m “someone” and people want to be on my blog. You get asked to speak on panels about your experiences.

Hard work is rewarded with work, opportunities, and freedom.

The process

All this doesn’t happen by magic. If you expect to be rewarded right from the beginning then you’ll set yourself up to fail.

But the universe does reward your hard work in the end.

I’ve been properly freelancing since October 2016 and my business didn’t really take off until the end of January. I think that’s particularly quickly, partly caused by the fact I marketed myself so much. I regularly went to women in tech events and blogged about it, and kept up an active twitter account.

I feverishly followed other freelance writers I admire such as Jorden Roper, Lizzie Davey, Tom Ewer and Carrie Smith Nicholson to gain knowledge and inspiration. When times got tough, I read their blogs to cheer myself up or to find some insight.

Having role models is so important for keeping your sights on the goal. Especially role models who are a bit like yourself. They help you believe that you can succeed.

It took me roughly three months to start earning my target income as a freelance writer. Before that, I had been freelancing casually since April 2016, as well as holding down a full-time job for the majority of that time.

Obstacles I overcame

Nothing good comes easy.

One of the most difficult parts of being a freelancer is dealing with all that freedom. You’ve got no employer to decide your routine for you, or assign you goals and targets. There’s no accountability – until your bank account starts going into the red.

It took me ages to realise that I was “the boss”.

I’m not that good at being a boss yet, but it means you call the shots. You’re responsible for everything in the business. You can’t run to your manager if you have a problem or ask someone else to do it. Everything comes down to you.

The potential for success or failure is terrifying. When I started feeling successful, I was really confused since I had only planned for failure. Success is a whole different ballgame and in all honesty, quite overwhelming. You feel like you don’t deserve it. It’s only a matter of time until the universe realises its mistake, and it all comes crashing down.

It turns out you get criticised a lot more when you’re successful. When you’re just starting out, a lot of people regard you as a potential failure, or a bit of an oddball. It’s easy for them to be supportive.

When you’re killing it at your business, people instinctively seem to look for a way to tear you down. But you don’t make a success of something by looking for negatives in yourselves and others.

If I meet someone who’s doing great, I try to connect with them and learn from them. Even if someone is just starting out, I try to inspire them to go for it. Thinking about others takes my mind off thinking about whether or not I deserve to have success.

It becomes about them, and not about me.

I wrote this post about the steps I took to becoming a freelance writer.

CatherineCatherine Heath is a freelance blogger in tech, business and marketing. She’s obsessed with the field of personality systems theory. She also likes drawing, yoga, meditation and being in nature. 

Image: Unsplash.com

 

The freelance writing client from hell

freelance-writing-client-from-hell-girl-denim-shirt-unsplash-allef-vinicius

I haven’t updated my blog in a while because I am a terrible blogger.

No, seriously, I’ve been distracted by a sudden boost in my freelance writing business so I’ve been busy completing lots of new jobs.

Since I last posted, freelance writing has gotten a lot better. I’m enjoying the process much more, and slowly learning how to deal with working on my own.

All of my clients are completely delightful – apart from one of the most recent ones. They have been the client from hell.

The client from hell

I let them haggle me down my usual price because I thought the work was interesting, and they hinted that we would probably work together on future projects. I always value a long-term client.

They also framed it as their ‘budget’ not being big enough, which I totally understand when it comes to technology startups. I get it. So I took on quite a big job for much less than I could potentially charge another client.

What a huge mistake.

Where it all started

When we were haggling, I had a tiny bad feeling in the pit of my gut, but I ignored it. You have to take chances and when you run your own business. It’s a bad idea to be shy or hesitant.

First, they treated me to an hour-long phone call where they described the blog post in great detail. That wasn’t a problem in itself, because the topic was very interesting and I wanted to learn all I could about it.

Then they wanted the post turned around really quickly. I thought, that’s going to be tight because I have so much other new work, but what the hell. I want to please them as they’re a new client.

Working all the Sundays

Then I got an email on a Sunday asking if the post was ready as that was the due date. I would never agree to have work ready on a Sunday as I don’t like to suggest to clients that I work weekends. If I do, that’s my business.

I thought maybe we’d crossed wires. I thought I’d told them the first full week of February, but I didn’t have it in writing, so I spent the Sunday frantically putting the post together. After already having an incredibly busy week full of new client work.

Then, apparently they didn’t receive the email, which was fine. I sent it again during the week. The post came back with many, many edits. They made my head hurt.

They said it wasn’t what they were looking for and maybe they should move on to someone else. I bent my rule of only one round of edits (which is all I allow at such a low price) because I wanted them to be happy.

I spent another Sunday rewriting the post for the following Monday. All was quiet for a day or two. It wasn’t looking good.

Apparently, I can’t write

And then – they came back saying it just wasn’t what they were looking for. I still couldn’t understand why. There’s a possibility that I may be completely stupid and can’t read, but I think it’s unlikely. I have dozens of other satisfied clients.

And then the nastiness started. They were very rude to me over email, accusing me of not being the writer I said I was (that really hurt). They said my work was full of grammatical errors, and I didn’t understand the topic I had been asked to write about.

Now, of course, I cried a lot when I was dealing with all of this. No one likes to be told they’re shit. But a little voice inside me was telling me that this was all nonsense. Because I am a good writer. I have lots of clients. And I know what I’m talking about.

Lessons I learned from this

A freelance writer is only as good as their brief. And whatever happens, there’s no need for nastiness. It may be very British, but I’m always polite, even if I’m totally disgusted (apart from when I lost it on the phone with Virgin Media).

I had no idea how bad a client could make you feel until today. But I also felt annoyed on the part of my business, which I’m very proud of.

I couldn’t resist having the last word. I told that client I regret not charging them more. It could be petty, but I almost felt they were expecting me to be a pushover because I’m a girl, and I’m young. Freelance writers have a reputation for being desperate for money.

Because I’d been so busy, I’d forgotten to send them my contract stating all commissioned worked must be paid for. As a consequence, they’ve refused to pay. I’ve lost many hours of work, and more than a little bit of confidence.

I’ll definitely review what happened to see where I could have done better. But my policy next time will be to only work with clients who I feel 100% chemistry with. I’ve been doing this too long to pick up the dregs of the work.

It’s time to be much more picky with my clients.

I shared this story because I wanted to get it off my chest, and to let other freelance writers (or aspiring writers) know that they’re not alone. We’ve all been there, and it really sucks. But just try to remember the nice clients, who are definitely out there.

Let me know in the comments if you’ve had a similar experience with a client.

CatherineCatherine Heath is a freelance blogger and copywriter for B2B SaaS companies. She’s obsessed with the field of personality systems theory, and she also likes drawing, yoga, meditation and being in nature. 

Image: Unsplash.com

 

10 hard truths I’ve learned about freelancing since I quit my job

resized-pineapples-workspace-unsplash

  1. Freelancing is persistent loneliness and constant rejection.
  2. The ratio of rejections to successes is probably something like 19:1 – brutal!
  3. You work alone at home so you turn on the TV for company but end up watching it thinking Gordon Ramsay’s Kitchen Nightmares is the most important thing ever.
  4. It’s easy to get caught up in a cycle of your own thoughts with no external influences so you have mini crises on an hourly basis.
  5. You drink too much tea or coffee and end up having mild anxiety attacks before you realise what you’ve done.
  6. You try to work in the library to avoid that feeling of being trapped at home but realise that most people just go to the library to kill time out of the cold, so it’s not a great place to work.
  7. You make stupid mistakes with admin because you’re a writer, not an administrator, and you feel like an idiot.
  8. You think you’ll have more time to change the world / pursue your dreams / watch funny videos, but you don’t because building a business is harder than having a job.
  9. You think it’ll get easier to network and reach out to clients but it doesn’t because you’re an introvert and the world is far too stimulating.
  10. Becoming a freelancer still rocks and even though most days are difficult, nothing worth achieving was ever easy. You’ll find a way to keep going.

Find out why confidence is so essential to freelancing and some quick tips for building confidence.

Feel free to contact me at catherine@awaywithwords.co if you have questions about freelancing or anything else.

CatherineCatherine Heath is a freelance blogger and copywriter for B2B SaaS companies. She’s obsessed with the field of personality systems theory, and she also likes drawing, yoga, meditation and being in nature. 

Image: Pineapples, Unsplash.com

All that is necessary for evil to triumph is for good people to do nothing

resized-unsplash-wil-stewart-men-stars-silhouette

I’ve adapted a well-known quote for this post because originally it said good ‘men’, and I wanted to acknowledge that women have agency too.

I was motivated to write this post after the election of Donald Trump as president.

I was not as stunned as the rest of the world. I was hardened by the tragic results of the European Union referendum here in the UK recently, which no one expected to turn out as they did.

I witnessed firsthand the chaos that is wreaked by our modern media machine, controlled behind the scenes by big business.

Its big seller is fear, by constantly feeding the masses doses of terror, recession, and violence.

Actually, we live in a more comfortable time than we ever have, at least in the UK, some parts of Europe and the US. That’s how we’re able to operate under such a sophisticated model of media and business.

One that controls the masses tightly by promoting a societal order that benefits very few.

Don’t think of politics as isolated

I normally stay out of political matters and approach them indirectly through advocating for women in tech on my blog, or helping others to develop themselves personally and professionally.

Politics isn’t a separate area of society, however. That’s just a media construction.

Political matters are inseparable from our daily lives, and legislation affects every one of us.

You can make a difference ‘politically’ by involving yourself in organisations that promote social good, which aim to change society at a macro level.

For example, women in tech isn’t just about women in tech.

It’s about the idea of equality and respect for everyone, regardless of who or where they were born.

If individual women are empowered to pursue their dream careers in tech, this will also help them become more powerful individuals in society at large. This will benefit the causes of women overall.

I chose the title of this blog post because so many of the reactions to Trump’s presidency were from good people, the vast majority of whom do nothing.

Acceptance rather than fear

I know we have no direct power to influence the American political system from our sofas in Britain. Still, I’ve noticed that the most politically active people on my social media feeds were also the ones that preached acceptance and tolerance – rather than fear, hatred and division.

Ironically, the descent into name-calling and despair is exactly the fuel that Trump’s – and Brexit’s – campaigns ran on.

If people are afraid of and hate each other, then overly-conservative and divisive campaigns (under the guise of patriotism) can flourish.

At the risk of being as dramatic as everyone else, much of Trump’s campaign – the little I allowed myself to actively absorb – reminds me of Nazi rhetoric.

A return to a lost golden age that never existed, a revival of the great American society (where’s it gone?) which is a mask for the true social injustices perpetuated by those in power. Uniting against a common ‘enemy’ (non-Americans).

And of course, Trump is the charismatic leader, galvanizing the people by selling them a dream, playing on their fears and tempting their greed.

Good people stand up

But more fear and more division is not the right way. So that’s why I was motivated to write this blog post.

All that is necessary for evil to triumph is for me to do nothing.

The opposite to Trump is not ‘not-Trump’ because that’s just Trump in a different form.

The true opposite to Trump and what he represents, the answer that everyone who was upset by the result of today’s elections is seeking, is more love, courage, openness and humanity, actively practiced by every human being.

That means every person needs to go out there and be more active in the causes that matter to them. That’s the antidote to Trumpism. Whether that’s helping inner city children learn to cook, or more women to succeed in tech, or get more homeless people off the streets, just participate.

Because it’s not like anyone was happy with the state of affairs before. The political climate could not have been called good.

We may now be reaching a point where it’s sufficiently bad that good people are motivated to speak.

It’s taken the election of a conservative government, the near-split of the United Kingdom, Brexit, the collapse of said government, the appointment of an unelected head of state, and, finally, the rise of Donald Trump, to get me onto the soapbox.

I hope this post reminds a few people that they aren’t alone. Lots of people who are normally silent are humane, compassionate and progressive. There’s always another election. There’s always time for change.

CatherineCatherine Heath is a freelance blogger and copywriter for B2B SaaS companies. She’s obsessed with the field of personality systems theory, and she also likes drawing, yoga, meditation and being in nature. 

Image: Unsplash.com

Why confidence in freelancing is so important

resized-unsplash-sarah-swinton-red-haired-woman

We all kind of know this implicitly, but in the storm of everyday life, we can forget that so many of our problems with what we’re doing stem from a lack of confidence.

Now, there are those who believe that women’s issues aren’t important. That in a global context of poverty, environmental damage, war, and Donald Trump, feminism should just shut up and go home.

But in my everyday life, feminism has been my motivating force. One day in university, I was reading Virginia Woolf’s A Room of One’s Own, and it was like a lightbulb came on in my head.

I was only to recognise its significance years later, but I realised that it was significantly better to be a man in this world.

Being a woman, well, sucked.

And that could have been the end of the story. Oh well, that’s nice, move on, get a job, get married and so forth.

Except that it’s so hard to succeed in the world when every major media message, every film, every book, tells women that they are only good enough to serve men – all the while looking very pretty. You’d better not be too fat, or too loud, or too assertive, because society will crush you.

So when I thought that I wanted to be a freelancer, almost as soon as it occurred to me, I dismissed the thought as ridiculous. That was for other people. Happiness was for other people.

I was only good enough to take the path that society had handed to me – which, given my background and upbringing, was still a damn good one.

But I’ve always been the kind of person who wants to forge her own path. I get a twisted delight from taking the road that no one has gone down before, and while there are plenty of other freelancers out there, there are none quite like me.

No one else is running my freelance writing business, or working with my clients, or building my brand. And I am so grateful for that.

Yet although I am doing exactly what I want to do, confidence is my biggest struggle. It’s not the lack of money that comes with just starting out in a new business, or lack of clients, or uncertainty – it’s that pervasive belief that I am not good enough and never will be.

If you’ve never experienced that feeling, you will dismiss feminists as irrelevant harpies that are just trying to grab a bigger slice of the societal pie for themselves. The true meaning of feminism is actually just equality. It means giving everyone the equal chance to fulfill their potential.

If it hadn’t been for all those women, living and dead, around the world who promoted the message that other women can – and should – be successful, I probably wouldn’t have even had the guts to try.

So now it’s a daily struggle with confidence, or lack of it. Building confidence takes time, and it’s incredibly hard.

But there are some things you can do:

  1. Challenge unhelpful beliefs like “I’m not good enough!” which run on autopilot in the background of your mind
  2. Get outside your head and go to events in your industry. Make it real. Talk to people who will reinforce that you’re doing good things.
  3. Don’t compare. We’ve heard it all before, but comparison really is the death of joy.
  4. Remember, you’ve had the courage to try, which barely anyone else has. Even if you fail miserably, you still win.
  5. Focus on the positives. Make a list of all the things you’ve accomplished in your life. Or, if that’s too hard, just pick three things.
  6. Spend time with people who make you feel good. There are some special people who, after you spend time with them, make you feel about a foot taller.
  7. Remember, the universe works in mysterious ways. You no more know that you’re going to fail than you’re going to succeed. Don’t assume nothing is happening because you don’t see the evidence for it right now.
  8. Put in the work and you will see the results pay off. Half of confidence is simply preparation, and it’s not enough to sit around and hope. Do your research, put in the time, and you will have every reason to feel confident.

Feel free to get in touch with me at catherine@awaywithwords.co if you have any questions about freelancing. Or, you can check out my professional freelancing website

CatherineCatherine Heath is a freelance blogger and copywriter for B2B SaaS companies. She’s obsessed with the field of personality systems theory, and she also likes drawing, yoga, meditation and being in nature. 

Image: Unsplash.com

Why travelling to Berlin and freelancing was a terrible idea

digital-nomad-alexanderplatz-travel-berlin-resized
The view of Alexanderplatz from a bridge
  • I wanted to learn German but I was so overwhelmed with setting up my freelance business that I couldn’t really take in anymore information.
  • Travelling to and living in a new place increases your cognitive load. Along with quitting my job and starting a new business, I really felt the strain.
  • When you travel, you probably need to be in a mindset of freedom and abandonment. Even though I quit my job to be more ‘free’, I’ve actually found my lack of rigorous self-discipline when I don’t have any external demands to be a hindrance.
  • I’ve learnt the hard way that freedom is simply a state of mind. We need to recognise that everything in our lives is the result of our own choices, and even being a freelancer doesn’t necessarily mean you will feel free.
billboard-berlin-kreuzberg-travel-digital-nomad
A captivating billboard in Kreuzberg
  • Dreams are always better as dreams – actual reality can never live up to the fantasy. Even though you can post endless exciting photos on Instagram, there is still the drudgery and mild panic of everyday life.
  • Despite this knowledge, it’s always worth pursuing your dreams because you only get one life. I wouldn’t want to live my whole life not knowing what it was like to pursue my dream.
  • I’m not saying that I regret becoming a freelancer, but it is truly difficult. The difficulty is mainly internal, struggling with a constant fear and lack of self belief. It’s so hard to keep that fire stoked.
  • I’ve realised that I’m 27 and I have no excuse to keep putting things off. I’ve learned that many things I’m supposed to enjoy are actually unpleasant, such as travelling the world.
lake-berlin-westkreuz-travels-nature
We went to Westkreuz and there were many beautiful lakes
  • And yet, I still keep going abroad. What I get out of this experience is widening my perspective of history and different cultures, but I prefer being a passive observer rather than an active participant.
  • Sometimes doing something crazy is rewarding because it inspires other people to tell you their crazy dreams – which aren’t really so crazy. I feel a lot closer to my friends and family, and I actually know what their aspirations are now.
berlin-potsdamerplatz-travel
I got a visit! Here we are in Potsdamerplatz
  • Freelancing is something you need to do with a stable base so you can develop the routines and processes necessary to make your business a success. You can find stability in chaos, from a mixture of going to the library, buying your favourite coffee from the hipster café and continually staring at your bank account in panic.
  • I wouldn’t say I have any proper regrets but in the middle of my trip, I got this vomiting virus and couldn’t eat for three days. You feel pretty lonely being ill in a foreign country and it puts things in perspective.
  • Even after all these complaints and dissatisfactions, I’m still going to do it again in a few months. I’m hoping Budapest in February will be a more suitable destination for me.

I hope you enjoyed this second post about my travels in Berlin. You can also read the first one if you missed it. As always, don’t hesitate to contact me if you have any questions about freelancing. 

Worst digital nomad ever: travels in Berlin

A digital nomad is a remote worker who doesn’t live at a fixed residence. They normally travel around the globe to various cool locations such as Thailand and South America to soak up local culture and meet other nomads.

I’ve come to Kreuzberg, Berlin, which is quite a popular digital nomad destination.

Indeed, I’ve already met almost all the possible stereotypes – a digital nomad, startup founder and a jewellery designer.

The scene is very cool and I definitely don’t fit in!

As a result, I’ve come up with quite a few reasons why I’m possibly the worst digital nomad ever.

  1. I don’t really like being away from home. I find it stressful rather than exciting.
  2. I don’t particularly like meeting new people. I mean, they’re ok. But I like the people I already know.
  3. Learning how to navigate is stressful. I’m not very good at crossing the road or catching the bus at the best of times. Throw in a foreign environment and language, and I’m surprised I’m still alive.
  4. I don’t like eating many types of food. I’m pretty fussy and I want to know exactly what’s in my food before I touch it.
  5. I don’t actually like cities. In fact, my next location is going to be a village at the foot of the Yorkshire Dales, and I’m really looking forward to it.
  6. I’m awful at languages, with many aborted attempts to learn a second tongue. I can say a few basic words in Cantonese, German and French, and that’s it.
  7. I think calling yourself a digital nomad is lame. It puts the focus on the wrong parts of the experience, as you’re not actually nomadic in terms of the digital technology, since it is by its very nature, global. A nomad is simply a nomad.

However, Berlin really is a great city and I’m staying in Kreuzberg, which is where all the hipsters live.

s-bahn-kreuzberg-berlin

 

Image: The yellow S-Bahn on in Kreuzberg

I’ve seen everything from a raver peeing in daylight to people performing in front of oncoming traffic, amazingly beautiful billboards and someone buying me a meal at a kebab shop.

gay-billboard-berlin

 

Image: here’s the billboard – no idea what it’s advertising but it looks lovely. 

I’ve met someone from Airbnb, eaten tons of mustard and drunk incredibly aromatic coffee.

 

cafe-berlin

Image: where I get my coffee on Eisenbahnstraße, staffed by pleasant hipsters

In all honesty, I’ve spent most of my time so far at the public library working on my freelance writing. It has awesome internet, especially compared to the Manchester public library (sorry, Manchester).

public-library-kreuzberg

 

Image: the Kreuzberg public library

The truth is, I’m not that much of a party person these days. I have to work really hard to make sure my freelance writing career is successful. It’s not the easy ride I thought it would be.

On the other hand, I’ve still had the chance to compare two different brands of vodka, one from the fancy, trendy market where I live and the other from budget supermarket Morma.

cheap-vodka-berlin

Image: these two bottles of vodka were the same price! 

This is the first instalment of the thrilling tales of my travels. More to come!

Find it how I quit my job to become a full-time freelance writer, or check out my professional women in tech blog