After three years in China, one of which was spent working as a journalist for a radio station in Beijing, I took the decision to move back to the UK and find work there.
From the outset I knew it was going to be hard. When I left the UK for China, the amount of journalism jobs were low and it was hard to find entry-level jobs and even harder to get on a graduate programme.
While the situation has improved, it’s definitely not as great as I thought it would be when I decided to go into the field of journalism.
And so upon my return, I made the decision to go freelance. What do I think about it? It’s brilliant. But there’s definitely a lot of hard parts to freelancing.
1. You will be poor.
I still am. It helps when starting out to have some money behind you – just a little bit of savings to keep you going just in case you hit a lull. Let’s just say thank god for a recent tax return.
2. Sometimes payment takes a while
When you get commissioned, it’s not like you get the money instantly. For magazines especially, you have to wait until the piece has been published before you get paid. This could be months away. This is why its important not to get complacent and stop pitching to people for other work because you always need to have work to bring in the money!
3. Freelancing isn’t just about sitting in Starbucks
Ironically as I write this, I am indeed sat in Starbucks. However! Freelancing comes in all shapes and sizes. Companies could ask you to come into their offices and work. I currently freelance for two newspapers which involves me having to come into their offices to do some work. It’s actually really nice and sociable because sometimes freelancing can be very lonely. It’s also nice because you know you are going to get paid quicker as most companies tend to pay you within two weeks of your first shift.
4. Whatever people say, cold pitches work
I am a big fan of the cold pitch. I love them. I got my first big freelance job a couple of years ago by sending out a random cold pitch to a travel magazine. Yes it’s true, you have to send out lots to get yourself a piece of work however when you get that piece of work, you’ve got a contact.
The important thing to do is perfect the pitch. Keep it short and sweet, remember to tell the editor why it fits in with their brand and how it would benefit their readers. And make sure you at least look at the publication first.
5. Keep to a routine
I can’t say i’ve fully mastered this yet – i’ve forced myself to come and work in Starbucks as i’m finding it hard to work at home. BUT you need to find a routine. Yes freelancing is great but staying in bed until 11am isn’t going to pay your bills. Maybe start your morning off with a run or read through the morning paper. And definitely invest in one of those ultra cool week planners and write down what you want to achieve by the end of the day or week.
6. Network like a boss
Yes sometimes (all the time) I feel socially awkward but I know that I need to get out there and speak to people to help build my portfolio and client base and….get money.
This means attending events and going up to people (shocker) and just start talking. I’m getting better at it. It’s still a bit weird though.
I can’t say i’m perfect and YES the woman in the coffee shop knows my name but i’m learning ways to work out this whole freelancing thing. It’ still early days but freelancing is a great way to test yourself and motivate yourself to take your writing further and to approach people for work.
It’s hard but I think that’s the whole point of it!
Enjoyed this piece? Are you a freelancer too? Let me know!