October 29, 2016

What i’ve learnt after a year of freelancing full time

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!

Sophie with a piece of freelancing work

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.

Read more: How to cope with freelancing when it gets hard

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.

Read more: Freelance life: Things I did wrong

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! 

12 responses to “What i’ve learnt after a year of freelancing full time”

  1. Kallsy says:

    Thank you for these helpful tips and also reminding myself, and many others to not get discouraged at times! I have a full-time job currently but would love the ability to freelance more. Networking is such an important part of being a freelance writer!

  2. What a great piece. A very honest and first hand account of a fascinating career path. I love how you stick to your routine and work on networking and cold contacts. Your piece so interesting I am handing it to Jenn so she can read it right now.

  3. Love this post. Straightforward, honest advice. I agree about sticking with the schedule. You have to hold yourself accountable which is sometimes soo hard. But, it’s the key to success as a freelancer.

  4. Karla says:

    I love all the advice here. This is something I am going through now, just freelancing. Thanks for giving me more inspiration to do cold pitches. Optimism and what do I have to lose?

  5. Sending out pitches and networking are intimidating but can definitelympay off (literally)!

  6. Bryann says:

    All great points! I think people assume freelancing is an easy job but it isn’t! Totally agree with you about keeping a routine – then again easier said then done :).

  7. I left my office job almost 6 years ago and couldn’t agree more with you on this. Except that I’m writing this comment from a McDonald’s 🙂 6 years, and I’m still trying to work out a proper routine, one of the biggest challenges for me, personally, apart from making money, of course, haha! So here’s wishing you all the best with your freelancing journey!

  8. Great tips on freelancing – especially on networking like a boss. I started out blogging and didn’t think I would dive into freelancing. Though it’s come naturally after having networked and opportunities present themselves through contacts you’ve made 🙂

  9. Nika - nextstopabroad.com says:

    First of all, BIG CONGRATULATIONS girl for your courage to become a freelancer!
    I was considering freelancing as well but gave that idea up few months back. I decided to focus on my IT projects in the corporations for now, save up some money and become freelance project manager/ consultant once I have some decent experience behind me (which might take another ~5 years).
    Glad to read about these challenges up front. I wish you the best of luck with your upcoming contracts!

  10. Christopher says:

    Great post. To think I’ve put so much work into this blog and I haven’t even got around to pitching for work.

  11. Words of wisdom. Thanks for the honesty. I’m constantly relearning much of this. Funny, as a travel writer to live like I’m in a cave -home without days leaving, working. Then traveling like a ninja. Vive la difference! All the best & I hope your persistence pays off big time.

  12. Chichi says:

    I freelance as well and I love it!



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