Two years ago I was made redundant and I’ve learnt so SO much in the past 24 months. More than I could’ve ever imagined. And far more than I would have if I was still working in full-time travel PR. That doesn’t mean to say it’s been easy though. I am constantly hustling (I met a client at my cousin’s 21st birthday party).
But now I know my own self-worth and have discovered that variety and creativity are the two most important factors in my career. Although I shout about the wonders of freelance life, it can be tough. This April (2019) was my quietest month yet (definitely down to Brexit) and I was worried. Now, things are ramping up for the summer.
There are times I find it totally overwhelming. Right now I’m managing four inboxes and have worked from 6am quite a few mornings this month. I’m constantly learning how to juggle things, when to say no, how to put stronger boundaries in place.
If you’d like to meet up to chat about any of the below (tips for me, advice from me, someone to moan to), drop me an email.
What I’ve learnt
- A friend once told me that a project must fit into one (ideally two or three) of these categories: KICKS, KUDOS OR CASH. If something comes to me, I ask myself why I’m really doing it. If I’m unsure whether to take it on, I try to sleep on it (if I can!)
- Sometimes people just need someone who’s available and can deliver on time. Easy as that. There are a few brands/publications who I’d drop everything for and hit the ground running that day if needed.
- My Instagram has transformed into a place where I share my work and it’s so important. I’ve got commissions and ideas and freelance support from there. I see the platform as my work/life scrapbook and Twitter as a backlog of useful articles.
- This is nothing new but it’s true what they say: make yourself an expert in something. I’ve worked with a lot of wellness brands and I know the industry inside-out. I have spoken on panels, been quoted in a wellness marketing 101 manual and I’m now looking to review yoga retreats on a regular basis.
- Job titles mean nothing. I change it depending on who I’m talking to and the work I’m looking for. I generally call myself a copywriter/journalist (the balance between these two shifts all the time) but I do still take on PR consulting work now and again.
- The importance of give and take. If I’m bogged down with work I pass it on. Freelancing can be lonely so it feels good to share.
- I miss colleagues so I’ve made my own. Mostly I work from home by myself but like to do days (around once a week) with a freelance friend. I find I’m happier on these days.
- I’m open to hearing about most industries (I’m a curious soul) as long as the project has a creative angle. However, I’ve defined my specialisms into: travel/hospitality (tourism boards, hotels, restaurants, food/drink), wellness/lifestyle (yoga studios, fitness brands, automotive, fashion) and art/design (architecture firms, galleries, museums, co-working spaces). It helps to narrow it down so that when something perfect comes along, I have specific examples I can show.
Some quick tips
- Get.a.website. Doesn’t have to be complicated – just portfolio work and client list.
- Send your CV and portfolio to everyone and anyone you’ve ever worked with. You never know.
- Be open minded when you’re building your portfolio and client base. At the beginning I worked with law firms, game brands, recruitment businesses… The wider the web, the more clients you have on your books, the more selective you can be in the future.
- Join and keep an eye on the Facebook Freelance PR/media/journalist groups and even write a little intro. I got SO much work from these at the start.
- When contacting marketing/design/ad agencies with a CV, say you love the look of their stuff. Make it seem like *you* chose *them*. There are hundreds in London and I find the boutique ones are really receptive to cold emailing. Their in-house teams are smaller so they are more likely to need immediate support than the big guys.
- Keep on top of trends – I subscribe to A LOT of newsletters. Courier, If You Could (creative industry job listing), Women Who and Creative Mornings are my favourites.
- Put an OOO on when you’re abroad and make it personal to spark conversation. Some of my previous: “I’m currently in Canada writing for The Week and trying not to freeze” or “I’m currently in Italy on a Call Me By Your Name themed press trip.” It might be relevant to something they’re working on.
- This also applies when you’re contracting. When I was working with Casio I explained I couldn’t reply in my OOO as I was booked. People asked me about it. Also shows the client you’re dedicated to them and them only on that day.
- Sign up to Sian Mendes freelance writing jobs bulletin – it’s amazing.
- Go to a variety of events. Recents include The Dots portfolio masterclass at Shoreditch House (where I met people like Adidas and It’s Nice That), a HER Europe women only networking event and the launch of Courier’s newspaper. I was commissioned by them the following week. In-person introductions really work.
- This sounds SO basic but wear something bright when networking. It’s a good conversation starter and people will remember you. Always follow up the next day. Connect on Linkedin, follow social channels, etc.
- Figure out what works for you – I’m an early bird so try to write first thing then do meetings/admin in the afternoon.
- Always be gracious. Ask for feedback and a testimonial.
- Again, an obvious one, but always deliver on time. Ideally a day before. They’ll remember that. Be agile too – feedback will be late, days will get churned up, you will need to adapt quickly.
- When you meet a new client ask questions beyond the project. Ask about their background, business goals, future plans. Shows you think about the bigger picture.
- I get most of my work from referrals but consider setting up profiles on:
Things I’m still trying to figure out
- How to avoid giving away all my ideas in an interview/meeting. I find it hard striking the balance between impressing the client and throwing ideas away. This especially applies to writing tasks that you don’t get paid for (then perhaps don’t get the job). They may end up using that content.
- Spending too long on projects that don’t make money. It’s frustrating when a meeting or story pitch doesn’t result in anything. I’m trying to streamline this by booking all my meetings in one day, for example, and now only concentrating on 1-2 press trips I really *really* want to go on.
- Drawing a solid line between holiday and work trips. Wondering whether it’s unhealthy to never really switch off when I’m away. I still check emails and know that I’ll miss out on work if I don’t.
- Managing workload when abroad. Jet lag is getting worse every time I swear, which makes me stressed and confused in the middle of the night.
- Late payments. The bane of every freelancer. Three months is the record. I’ve added this at the end of my invoices and actioned it once. It was still ignored.
- Another classic: often I’m waiting on work, then it all comes in at once. This makes planning my weeks hard. Now I just power through with ridiculously early mornings and weekends if I need to then I’ll grant myself that time off once (if!) it calms down.
What I want to do more of
- Big copywriting projects involving more brand strategy, which I love. I’m working with a new Canary Wharf ‘stretch studio’ on their Tone of Voice this month (right up my street).
- More fashion/lifestyle brands for my portfolio. Really interested in the industry, especially direct-to-consumer brands and tech developments. This is down to my work with Appear Here who are incredible.
- Public speaking and panels. Would also love to speak to more young people about careers and how they do have the control to shape their future (which doesn’t mean what your sixth form tutor told you about your options i.e. teaching or engineering).
- Interviews/profile pieces. I love hearing from creative entrepreneurs about how they’ve got to where they are today. Recently spoke to designer Fred Rigby, which was so interesting. He’s been working on a new gallery in Bath launched by Cereal editor Rosa Park.
And less of?
- Travel, which sounds mad, but by that I mean be more selective about where I travel. If I’m going for work, I want to experience *something*. I’ve traipsed around too many hotel tours. Right now I’m pushing for an eco-focussed music festival in Oslo and exploring Dallas’ underground art scene with a beloved local friend in the autumn. I’ve realised my favourite trips have been about the people, not the place, so now I try to get a travel writer friend on the same trip as me.