Life & Stuff

Reflections on six weeks as a full time freelance writer

I am very aware that when I wrote about my typical day as a full time freelance writer, I may have come across a little too defensive of how busy I actually am.

I am under no illusion that I have it good. That I am happier now than ever and loving every minute of my day, even on days when I seem to have achieved nothing but file rejection after rejection from editors.

I have been a freelance writer full time for 6 weeks now, and on the penultimate day of 2016, I reflect on this journey and why I fully intend to continue for a long time.

Image source: MorgueFile | Credit to: diannehope

That happiness argument

I think, there’s a lot of talk about having to quit your job to find happiness, and I think it’s really just one of those things that make people sound cool, similarly with the need to find a perfect work life balance.

To be honest, I probably work harder and longer hours now than I ever did in an office, because I am thinking about my stories every waking hour, and that I no longer have a boundary of what’s work and work’s not work.

Remember the writing goals I made myself earlier this year? I never got to achieve all of them. Now, I have the opportunity to go back and fulfill them.

With no ‘day job’ to go to, I have the time and energy to write, and absolutely everything I do now is work for me, including writing this blog post.

When you are working on something you love, whether it’s a career climbing the corporate ladder or being a party balloons supplier, you begin to blur the lines between work and life, because you are doing what you want to do!

I know the contradiction, that while having said you don’t have to quit your job to find happiness and I’ve done exactly that, I just wanted to make the point that as long as you are doing something you want to achieve and love (and no, just wanting to spend all day playing World of Warcraft does not count), then perhaps, quitting your job is the way to go.

Although, I go through days of self doubt

In the last six weeks, I haven’t even completed one chapter of the book, nor have I had any more new commissions from editors I have contacted.

That didn’t help in the first couple of weeks. I couldn’t get a move on, no matter how long I sat at the desk and how much I was reading. The motivation and the creativity just wasn’t there at all, and I felt that I was already failing being a freelance writer.

I began to doubt whether I really could do this, whether it really is possible for me to dream of a life outside the corporate job. It’s not just about the money, but I was failing everyone who has ever supported me, ever cheered me on and ever looked forward to my next ‘masterpiece’.

I’ve got out of this haze of self doubt and analysed the situation. Perhaps I have been too hard on myself? Perhaps, it’s just the wrong timing in the year for freelancing.

So I have a major drive for pitching and writing when 2017 comes!

However, there are something I need to change in the new year unless, I happen to land the commission of my dreams…

Next year is going to be a year of changes! First up I am going to make sure my pitching calendar is as full as it can be! (Image source: Morgue File | Credit to: GaborfromHungary)

I need to re-focus and re-prioritise

It didn’t hit me until just now, that I can’t just book any holiday I want any more. With every trip must generate new opportunities to make the trip worthwhile, and if money is low, I may have to go without some of my comforts.

I’ve always been careful with money anyway, and don’t like the idea of waste, however with the decision to leave my job, I have chosen not to have a regular, guaranteed income to work for myself.

Without a packaged salary, I also have given up on perks such as free health insurance and company contribution to my retirement fund.

So, I need to be even more selective on where to spend our money, and re-prioritise what we can afford.

Every writer knows the sacrifices they need to make to make it work, and I know the cost of my decision means we will no longer have the financial stability (at least for the first year or two should I continue to go down this path).

The income from freelance writing can be irregular and seasonal, so I have to budget everything I spend, every day.

My parents have been kind enough to send some aid money to assist me through this stage, but I am putting them aside, away from my spending pool just to see how far I can make it through without.

After all, I should treat my new job with the same desperation as any one starting something new!

I realised that have to develop an even thicker skin

What? You mean, you weren’t bold already?

Well, actually I can get extremely shy when it comes to ‘advertising myself’.

As part of being a freelancer means I need to sell my writing to editors, it means I have to have a thick skin. Most of the time, I am ‘cold calling’ with an idea, and 80% of the time I am being rejected.

Just the other day, I received a phone call from a recruiter in travel content marketing who asked if I do copywriting.

The answer should have been yes, as I was taught to do in my writing course but, knowing that I have actually never done a copywriting gig (yes, it is different to feature and creative writing! There’s a different method to that madness) I had said “No.”

Did I just turn down a potentially very well paid client? Perhaps, but lessons learned. Fake it until you make it eh? I know what I’ll say next time!

Better established freelancers obviously can do this a lot better and will have more success in pitching stories and getting gigs than I do but, it’s part of the journey, and I am willing to take any rejection and mistakes on the chin and keep going.

Image source: Morgue File | Credit to: caprisco

Sounds like you are hating it??

Never!

I mean, really, I can continue to list a lot of things that is difficult when working from home, and working as a freelance writer, but I can also list a lot of things that’s wrong with having any job.

So, no, I am not hating it. I am just reflecting on a couple of changes I need to make next year!

I think, as human beings, we are programmed to complain, to find faults in anything just to make ourselves feel like we deserve some kind of reward for sticking up with it.

The truth is, nothing is perfect! So instead of going on and on about the downsides, I’ll stop here, and tell you why I am sticking to the choice I made.

If it’s so hard being a freelance writer, then why bother?

Because I love writing, and haven’t we all been told to follow our dreams? What’s the point of keep saying you have a dream without actually doing something about it?

Also, there’s plenty to love about freelancing and working from home…

I get to choose my hours.

I get to go to the bank / post office during their business hours.

I roll out of bed, I am already at the office. In a world where commuting time average on about an hour each way from home to office (a lot more if you are one of the poor sods who have to take Southern Railways these days!) – not having to worry about rushing for a train / bus has been heaven.

Not to mention the money I have saved from transport costs.

Best of all, I get to cuddle my cats while I write! Actually, I have no choice in this matter, the cats pretty much claim their rightful spot on my lap as soon as I sit down!

Funnily enough, while you might assume that one of the perks must be I get to spend more time with my husband… well no. That is one thing that haven’t changed.

I am locked away in the study or I find a small corner of a cafe to hide, so that I can write in peace.

There’s a lot to writing than just typing really fast! Although it has been nice to have him make me tea during the day and to remind me to take a break once in a while.

My favourite part of all this, is that every bit of effort and every minute I spend writing, directly benefits me. It’s something I can say that I’ve achieved, something that is mine.

All this effort goes towards achieving what I want to achieve: to get published, regularly, and get paid.

What if I fail? Well, I can genuinely say I’ve given it a go. Isn’t life all about risks and challenges after all?

One of my chapter plans for a book idea. After spending 2 days working it all out, I ended up changing my mind and had to start again! But, it was a rewarding exercise!

But I am not just ‘taking a break’

The message you got a few weeks back was that I took a long extended leave from work to do this. So, in the back of your heads, I know you are thinking: she is just taking a break.

Just so you know, I fully and wholeheartedly am working towards not have to go back to the same job! So naturally, there is the determination to make sure everything I do at the moment, goes towards the end goal of being self reliant on writing, of getting a book published, of getting that freelance commission.

With every pitch I send, every nod I get from the editor and every article I submit I inch ever so slightly forward towards these goals. I have a daily routine as a freelance writer that I follow, and I have a supportive husband.

I can’t see myself quitting on this, even if I do have to take the odd contracting roles to make ends meet.

No never.

That’s why, I am working super hard at this thing

As a long term blogger I surround myself with like minded people who do unconventional jobs. So the idea of doing something that doesn’t involve a daily routine of going to an office and have meetings isn’t new to me.

Many people still have the perception that if you are not regularly going into an office, if you are not on someone’s payroll or have a set working hour, then you don’t have a job.

And I fully understand why most would think that, as society has taught us from the very start, that we need to get a job.

However, just because I no longer have a 9 to 5 commitment (or rather, 9 to 6 in most cases), I no longer have a monthly pay from an employer, I no longer have to go to an office and go to meetings and write up documents and so on, doesn’t mean what I do is not a job.

Being a freelance writer is absolutely a job. If I do well, I get paid, and I have my own KPIs and targets to meet.

Although the path to success for me is looking a little rough at the moment, but I don’t see it as a bad thing, and I am not giving up.

After all, even in a corporate career we also work hard to get to where we want to be, why should being a freelance writer be any different?

Share your thoughts below!