Category Archives: Freelancing

Succeeding as a freelance writer

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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

 

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The freelance writing client from hell

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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

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  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

Why confidence in freelancing is so important

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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

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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.
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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.
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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.
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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. 

How freelancing is a lot like dating

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I thought of this analogy a long time ago when I was first learning how to interact with clients and pitch to them.

Freelancing is not only like dating, but it’s like being a man playing the dating game. And as I’m not a man, it was a really hard thing to get used to.

I gained a renewed sympathy for how hard it is to be (a heterosexual) male and looking for love in our society, because all the pressure is on you to go out there and ‘attract’ a woman – and all the while, without coming across as too aggressive or desperate.

Hunter-prey dynamic

I’m not saying it’s right that we have such an imbalance of power in the dating game, but it does obviously arise from ancient hunter-prey dynamics fuelled by testosterone.

But in some ways, taking on the ‘hunter’ role was also very empowering, and I became a little jealous that men get to be the ones to come up with all the little strategies to attract the object of their affection.

As a freelancer, I have to attract clients effectively, and without showing them my desperation, which would make them run a mile – especially when I was just starting out and had absolutely no clients!

How to attract clients (or dates)

The only answer to the conundrum of attracting clients while not feeling your best is to build confidence, which can be applied in many areas of life.

You build confidence by trusting that the universe will provide what you need, and also applying proven techniques to draw your clients to you.

And it works – I now have twelve regular clients.

Hopefully, as a male in the dating game, you wouldn’t end up with twelve lovers, or that may require a trip to the sexual health clinic. In that way, freelancing and dating are different.

But here are some ways where freelancing is like dating:

  1. You have to present an attractive image of yourself that clients/dates will like
  2. You have to narrow down your market to attract a certain kind of client/date
  3. You have to make the effort to reach out to people or they will never know you’re in the market (for clients or dates)
  4. You have to risk rejection and failure to get who you want (clients or dates)
  5. You have to try many different platforms to ensure you’re reaching out to as many people as possible (sending cold emails and attending networking events, or going on Tinder and to speed-dating)
  6. When you finally land someone you want, it’s the best feeling in the world
  7. If you don’t hear from your client/date in a while, you start to panic that they’ve forgotten about you
  8. If someone goes quiet, you have to make the effort to follow up with them a couple of times, but then if you don’t hear from them, LEAVE THEM ALONE (some men should take note of this)
  9. Hopefully, if you’re both suited to each other, your client or date will turn into a satisfying long-term relationship

And that’s it!

The conclusion of this piece is that we can all learn a lesson from freelancing.

Heterosexual men trying to attract women can be emboldened by the fact that they’ve got a lot of pressure on them, and even if they get rejected, can take heart from the fact that at least they’ve had the courage to put themselves out there.

Heterosexual women can realise that they can take a bit more responsibility to become the ‘hunter’. It seems terrifying to put yourself out there but even if you get rejected, you’ll still be on a high from the fact that you tried.

As for homosexual men and women… I can’t even imagine how hard that must be!

If you’d like to find more about my freelance writing, you can check out my women in tech blog awaywithwords.co

Image: Adriana Velasquez, Unsplash

How to take your first step towards the future of work

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Ever since I was a teenager, I’ve wanted to have a different kind of job to the normal 9-5. The idea of sitting in an office until I’m old enough to retire seemed like my idea of hell.

I’m 27 now, and I did work in offices for a while. It wasn’t nearly as bad as I thought it would be, but I was still fascinated by the idea of freelancing, and crazy jealous of the few people I’d come across who were freelancers.

Until recently, I didn’t really have a concept of an alternative to the 9-5, because I hadn’t discovered the wonderful world of the digital economy. I didn’t know how to make money online.

What held me back

Many myths held me back, like how unstable freelancing is, and that you have to be a massive risk-taker.

These unhelpful beliefs kept me thinking that I wasn’t the sort of person who would be able to try freelancing, as I’m cautious and I’m afraid of not having any money.

What I actually was afraid of was failing.

Honestly, so many people have a terror of failing, and it stops them from even researching their options. Or, there is so much information out there that it’s overwhelming and you give up.

The barrier to entry is so huge that many people don’t make it through the door. In a way, it’s a positive thing, because it weeds out the people who aren’t really committed enough to try it for real.

I then found out about the future of work through blogger Tom Ewer’s website, Leaving Work Behind. I also took his no-nonsense blogging course to get me started, which is very reasonably priced.

The future of work is not being chained to your desk doing a job that was decided by some hiring managers in some company. It is deciding on your own career path, working out if there’s a market for what you want to do, and then putting heart and soul into making it work.

There is no template for success

When I quit my job, I didn’t have any savings apart from a few grand that will serve as a buffer in case the worst scenario possible happens and I don’t make any money. No one is going to support me if it all goes wrong.

I’m not well-connected, and I just went to your average comprehensive school in a provincial town. I’m also female, my parents are divorced, I’m estranged from my father, and I even come from an ethnic minority background.

My only social advantage is sounding very middle class.

If anything, quite a few things about me are heavily criticised by some sections of wider society, like coming from a ‘broken’ home, not having a good relationship with one of my parents, not having a penis or being descended from Robert the Bruce.

I even had a mental health problem – extreme anxiety, panic attacks and dissociation.

The reason I’m telling you all this is because there is nothing different about me – no special secret that means I was able to do what has turned out to be quite an extraordinary thing.

How to take the first step

Nowadays, I can still get very anxious, but normally I can deal with it pretty well.

Society has really negative attitudes to people suffering with mental ‘illnesses’ but they can actually be an incredible catalyst for change.

Either way, nothing should hold you back from building your dream career.

Dealing with something like anxiety on a daily basis gives you incredible powers of resilience – so, all you anxious people out there, make sure you recognise your strengths.

I also have determination and curiosity, which are not traits I was born with but ones I have developed over time, inspired by my passion for self-development.

These are two qualities that will absolutely help you to follow your dreams and become a freelancer, or whatever.

Develop determination

To develop determination, you need to realise there is no such thing as failure – there is only giving up too early, or dying before you can accomplish your goal, in which case the failure becomes fairly insignificant.

You must remember that life is unfolding rapidly and make a commitment to the idea that there is nothing more important than achieving your goals – not going out and getting drunk, not finding a relationship, or even having a particularly clean house.

Develop curiosity

To develop curiosity, instead of feeling down about yourself when you hear about other people who are doing things that you want to do, think to yourself, I wonder how they did that. And then ask them.

When you hear about things that make you uncomfortable or confuse or scare you, resolve to find out more about them – even at the risk of leaving your comfort zone.

Your comfort zone will still be there when you go back – if you want to go back.

Find your own way

So there is really no template for taking that first step towards the future of work. You have to value your life too much to waste it, and then make an internal commitment to take just one small step in creating the career that you want. And then, maybe you’ll take another.

If I’ve learned one thing from brazenly quitting my job to become a freelance blogger, it’s that so many people are harbouring similar dreams to me. We’re all worried about looking stupid, or failing, or being criticised.

But, when you’re loving every day and feeling disbelieving that you’ve managed to do something so crazy, none of that really matters. Don’t settle.

You can find out more about my professional women in tech blog, Away With Words, and how the digital economy has created a Future of Work. Or, discover how I was able to quit my job and become a freelance blogger

CatherineCatherine Julianne is a blogger and content writer obsessed with the field of personality systems theory. She also likes tech, visual art, Eastern practices, adventures and being in nature.

Image: Unsplash.com