Category Archives: Writing

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

 

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

How I was able to become a professional freelance blogger

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I think there are two reasons why more people don’t become professional bloggers, even if they want to.

  1. It sounds unachievable.
  2. They haven’t discovered the potential of the internet.

At the risk of becoming an ardent evangelist, I’m aware that I’m placing my livelihood on quite a risky medium – the internet.

However, other people also place their livelihoods on other risky mediums, and that’s not just professional musicians or actors.

Financiers are at the mercy of the market. Charity workers are at the mercy of the performance of the organisation.

By coming to terms with risk, I was actually able to see that everything I was worried about going wrong with my vision was actually very unlikely to happen.

Change your ideas about blogging

There are people who are professional ‘bloggers’ and for them, blogging is a business. Blogging is the tool through which they sell their products and they can become very rich on it.

I am a professional blogger in the sense that I write blog posts for a living, which is very different. My blog is also my business because it generates clients for me, but I don’t sell any products through my blog.

This is where a lot of people go wrong when they start to learn about blogging.

If blogging as a business is what you’re interested in, I recommend Jon Morrow’s blog, Smartblogger.

I’m talking about blogging as a freelancer, which means selling your blogging services.

Read The Four Hour Work Week

The reason I was able to become a professional freelance blogger was by reading quite a famous book, The Four Hour Work Week, by Tim Ferris.

Among other things, he helps you work through your irrational fears about taking risks, and it enabled me to understand that traditional ‘employees’ like myself need to come to terms with taking control, and traditional ‘entrepreneurs’ need to learn how to let go of control.

While this book isn’t gospel or the be all and end all, it’s certainly essential reading if you’re planning to start your own business or launch a freelance career. I’m putting together a list of top reads for budding freelancers, so watch out for that soon.

Introduce minimalism to your life

Another thing that Tim’s book spurred me to on to do was go through all of my possessions to whittle them down to the bare minimum. (I mean, I still have loads of stuff). But I had been accumulating more and more for years, and it got to the point where moving was a real pain.

By minimalising, and streamlining all of my possessions, I was able to see how I could again put my belongings into storage and move out of my flat.

A lot of my well-being had become attached to my home, and while that’s still important, my belief that I needed to live in the centre of London meant I would need to be earning upwards of £1,500 a month from freelancing (and that’s not even taking into account tax).

While that’s certainly attainable in the long term, it’s a lot of pressure to put on myself in my first few months of freelancing.

So, by terminating my tenancy and paying only about £100 a month for storing my favourite items, I’m now free to travel or live somewhere cheaper. I don’t need my home comforts to be happy, because becoming a freelance blogger is more important.

Trial freelancing before quitting

You wouldn’t just go into a relationship with someone you didn’t know – you’d go on a few dates first to see if it would be likely to work out.

You need to see if your personality would be a good fit for freelancing – you need to be disciplined, able to work alone, at the same time adept at building your freelance community, and good at dealing with rejection.

Work out the minimum you would need to earn to make freelancing a success, and set concrete milestones that you need to pass before you actually quit your job. That will make you more accountable and stops you subconsciously moving the goalposts.

Just keep your freelancing separate from your work if you think it might be a conflict of interests. Most workplaces should really value the employee that is pushing themselves outside of work to develop and grow.

Work on your issues

I wasn’t always good at the things that enable me to be a freelancer. I was distinctly undisciplined for many years, but going through some difficult times made me realise that

I had to sort out the things I was avoiding through turning to alcohol and other distractions.

It turned out that I was developing an ability to deal with pain and transform it into something positive, that would help me cope with adult life.

Sadly, if you’re not willing to face your issues, you’re going to find it very hard to follow your dreams. This is because you’ll always be sabotaging yourself, either through procrastination, making mistakes or numbing out.

Only through personal growth can we follow the right path.

Actually… write?

I’ve been keeping this blog for quite a few years and if you look back through the archives, you can see how far I’ve come. I’ve even got other abandoned blogs where the posts are far more embarrassing than anything you’ll find here. But it all takes practice.

Not only do you need to write but you need to actually show it to other people and get it out into the world. That’s a huge stumbling block for many writers. I remember how painful it was when I first had to get used to criticism.

And that’s the key to success – being willing to learn and look a bit foolish in the eyes of others. You’re not perfect, you won’t always be right, and sometimes you’ll get it wrong.

But ultimately, it gets easier because you spend less time stressing over things that don’t matter.

Find out more about how I quit my job to become a freelance writer. Feel free to email me at catherine@awaywithwords.co if you have any questions about freelancing, or check out my professional freelance blog

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. 

 

How to become a writer in the 21st century

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We have a lot of preconceived notions about what it means to be a writer, not all of them related to the 21st century. Many of these images stem from the past, when vastly different technologies dominated our society. The typewriter, for example.

This fact is important, because as someone who’s life’s ambition is to become a writer, the job opportunities must be clearly defined in order for me to realise my dreams.

Writing myths

There are a lot of myths and stereotypes attached to being a writer, not least because it’s a ‘creative’ career but also the fact that it is a ‘profession’. Because of these associations, only certain people seem like they are allowed to become writers.

And then there are the thoughts, what if I’m not good enough? What if no one likes what I write? What if they do?! Then what?

In school, you’re encouraged to study subjects at A Level that you’re good at and you may want to carry on to university. In some schools (not mine), children are encouraged at quite a young age to start building careers as doctors, politicians, bankers or journalists.

In my school, they were happy if you went to university, it being a relatively under-funded comprehensive school.

Gathering dust

So with the focus on just getting people to pass their exams, I never really grasped how I would pursue my dream of becoming a writer. It began to gather dust, especially as I went to university, had fun, and learnt about academia.

But then I graduated and had to make a decision about life, so I moved to London with vague plans of becoming a writer. Ha!

All my plan involved was wandering around tree-lined North London streets with a notebook, musing, and people raving about my genius – you know, Virginia Woolf style.

Real adult life was a rude awakening, to say the least. It took me five years, a lot of disappointment, frustration and depression, to get to where I am now.

Lessons learned

I’ve learned it’s not enough to vaguely say I want to be a writer. I’ve got to plan for it in a way that society will pay for, so naturally my thoughts went to becoming a
journalist.

But I didn’t want to play that game. I didn’t have the money to spend on another postgraduate qualification, especially after my ill-advised masters. I didn’t want to keep my finger on the pulse of all the trivialities and tragedies that we call news. I didn’t want to work long, anti-social hours.

Other types of writers are novelists – but it doesn’t pay the bills when you’re writing your bestseller for several years. Also, I don’t want to write a bestseller – I want to write a
classic. This is going to take many years and I’ve already been working on my fantasy novel for more than a decade – I started it when I was fifteen!

I worked in communications, but ironically I wasn’t officially allowed to do any of the writing. I had to work on the technology side of things instead.

Which, amazingly it turns out, launched my career as a freelance blogger (among many other things, of course).

The power of the internet

I learned how the internet is an incredible medium for people to connect with audiences.

I’d long been exposed to derogatory opinions about the internet from journalists writing in the newspapers I read, I imagine because it was threatening the model of traditional print media and its monopoly on ‘the news’.

Well, that ship has sailed now. In just a short few years, the internet has blazed like wildfire through our society, with some good and bad consequences.

A good consequence is that it’s possible for you to make up your own job. No, really. As long as people will pay you for it, you can use the internet to connect with them at relatively low-cost. The barriers for entry into business have been drastically lowered.

Try to wrench your mind away from precocious YouTube stars and celebrities on Instagram. Of course, competition is stiff, but that’s where persistence, experience and defining a niche comes in.

Getting paid to write

I love freelance blogging because it is amazing to have so much fun and get paid for it. I’ve chosen clients in a niche that I love, which is technology, and often focus on issues affecting women in the technology sector, which I feel really passionate about.

I run my women in tech blog, Away with Words, partly to showcase my abilities and interests for professional reasons, but I genuinely love thinking of and writing new posts. It’s so rewarding when people engage with them and give me their feedback.

So, being a freelance writer in the 21st century looks a little different from when Samuel Pepys was writing his diaries as London was burning, or John Keats was penning his sonnets during the time when women weren’t even allowed to vote.

Avoiding pitfalls

Of course there is still space for the traditional journalist, but this is not the hallowed career it once was. Journalists must manage the interests of the business that owns their paper, limiting their capacity for true freedom of expression. The weakening of unions means that they’re not protected from losing their jobs if their writing is dissident from established values.

And novelists must write for the mass market, unless they’re Jonathan Franzen. Communications professionals are contracted to write the views of their company.

That’s why I love being a freelance blogger. I choose the clients I work with, and they seek me out based on my blog, so we have similar values. I don’t write anything that makes my skin crawl.

Contact me on catherine@awaywithwords.co if you have any questions about becoming a freelance writer, or anything else.

Lessons I’ve learned from freelancing

 

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I recently quit my job to become a freelance blogger and content writer. I just published a post entitled ‘How I feel about quitting my job‘. This is Part II of that post series.

This is what I’ve learned so far on my journey into freelancing.

  1. Putting myself out there is really difficult.
  2. There’s a lot of conflicting advice out there.
  3. It’s easy to get side-tracked but you need to learn the value of letting some “opportunities” pass you by.
  4. It’s easy to get caught up in the moment and make impulsive decisions.
  5. You need to consider a plan from all angles and carefully decide how to proceed.
  6. Take time out from your “productivity” to regain your centre and reduce anxiety.
  7. One must develop a public persona that matches with their private core.
  8. One must not compromise themselves for the world, neither must they be afraid to bare their soul.
  9. The insecurity will always come raging back but we must blindly feel our way, one step lit up at a time, and no more.
  10. It’s hard to stray from the beaten path because there is no roadmap, nothing to tell you if you are going the right way. Don’t panic, though, because others have been here before you.
  11. Try not to think about all the precocious success stories who make it barely seem worth trying. There’s a middle ground between that and abject failure – which is moderate competence, and that’s the path we aim to walk.
  12. There will be many failures as we try to learn new things in the world at large, actualising by experiencing and it’s going to hurt. But we must remember that everything is going to be okay.
  13. You have to physically embody your creative dream and not be afraid of how others will judge you.
  14. Try to ignore all the thousands of past opinions weighing down on you and remember that there is no reason why you can’t succeed.
  15. You just need to calm down, look around you, and find a way to make it happen.
  16. Forget everything you think you’ve been told about “the way to do things”.
  17. And sometimes, stop looking.
  18. Integrate all experiences as having some value.
  19. And, if you don’t ask, you don’t get. You need to ask for the working arrangements you want and believe you have a right to fulfilment and satisfaction.
  20. Don’t rush things, be patient, but at the same time commit to deliberate action.

I’ll write more posts on this topic as they come to mind. If there’s something specific you’d like me to cover, email me at catherine@awaywithwords.co. 

You can also check out my women in tech blog, Away with Words

imageCatherine 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: Brooke Cagle, Unsplash

How I feel about quitting my job

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I haven’t posted on this blog in a while, mainly because I started a new women in tech blog, Away With Words.

This new post is for all the people who may be thinking about doing something scary, or are struggling to find a new path for themselves.

Why I quit my job

Though I’ve wanted to be a freelance writer ever since I was mature enough to understand I need to have some kind of job, actually quitting my full-time job was something I thought I’d do in my late thirties, or maybe never.

Being just your average person, I settled for getting a job in an office (my ultimate nightmare!) and this was mainly because I didn’t have a clue how to become a freelancer.

It turned out that working in an office is nowhere near as bad as I thought it would be (well, my first proper job was, but you live and learn). It was actually kind of fun at times, and of course everyone is lovely.

But something nagged at me, telling me that I wasn’t fulfilling myself. I didn’t feel I was ‘complete’ by doing the work I was doing, and I always wondered about what else there was ‘out there’.

Overcoming a lack of self-belief

Since I didn’t believe it was possible for me to become a freelance writer, I didn’t even try to look for other work.

Instead, I did a lot of volunteer writing, which taught me a lot. I also wrote on this blog, and some very kind people gave me great feedback about the posts I shared.

Finally, one day in April 2016, I’d had enough.

I had been searching for my next step on the career ladder, and I got rejected after having an interview for another job. I was really annoyed and decided to throw in the towel on the whole career ladder thing – extreme! This was because my heart wasn’t in it.

I spoke to one of my friends about how he’d managed to quit his job as a recruiter (grueling!) and started travelling the world while running his own business. His words of encouragement were resounding, and they started me off on my journey.

I was also emboldened by another friend, who had to cope after losing his job. My worst nightmare had evolved from working in an office, which I was already doing, and turned into getting fired, but their triumph and grace made me see that the worst is never really that bad.

That it’s always me and my own fears that are holding me back.

So, after trying out freelance writing for a couple of months, it turned out I could make quite a bit of money out of it.

And then I quit.

Well actually, I tearfully told my manager I was going to quit and then I went on holiday.

Then, I quit.

How I knew what to do

It’s been really sad but I know I’m making the right decision. The time is right to leave.

I learnt so much from my job and it is a hugely contributing factor to how I’m able to become a successful freelancer. I met wonderful, helpful people and learnt about business, marketing and workplace culture.

Telling everyone I know about my decision has been an ongoing process, and I’m stunned to be able to say that every single reaction has been positive. No one has asked me if I’m crazy, or what I’m going to do if I fail.

Everyone has been wholeheartedly supportive (at least to my face!) and been excited for me. Maybe it’s because I am an extremely cautious and sensible person so they assume I know what I’m doing (heh…). Or maybe everyone I know is also crazy.

Now what?

I’ve learned that there are many things you can do, even if you lack self-belief. You can build up that belief – you just have to work up the courage to take that single first step. That is the turning point between complacency and exhilaration.

So, if anyone else is thinking of making a big leap, I’d be happy to talk to you about how I dealt with the anxiety I felt (and still feel), and how I have systematically taken calculated risks to ensure I stand the best chances of success.

My next post will be about what I have learned from being self-employed. 

Image: Phoebe Dill, Unsplash