What I’ve Learned From my First Year as a Freelance Copywriter
A year ago, I took the huge (and very scary) step of leaving my secure, sensible, and generally fun job as Senior Copywriter at Avon, to become a freelance copywriter.
I had practical worries: Will anyone want to hire me? Will I make enough money? Will I be lonely working by myself? Am I crazy to give up a good job in a recession? What if being self-employed is more stressful than my job? What if I get too distracted by other tasks to work from home?
But I also had two very good reasons for leaving. Ava and Thea.
I was worried that by having them in childcare four days a week I was missing out on way too much. The cute email updates from nursery were tinged with a shade of sadness, and even guilt. I should have been there when they did that funny dance/painted that brilliant picture etc. I felt that my precious time with them was slipping away.
Before leaving Avon, I had interviewed for a different job. I was told I was “head and shoulders above the other candidates” and that the concepts I presented really stood out. I didn’t accept that job: it was a long way away and any benefit I would have gained by working three days instead of four was overshadowed by a huge commute. But having that feedback gave me the confidence I needed to go for it. It taught me that I am better than I think. So although that job wasn’t right for me, I am so glad I went to the trouble of preparing for the interview. I’m not sure I would have had the guts to go freelance without it.
It was strange leaving the office that afternoon, and it was also quite hard to get much done during the day, thanks to the desk decoration!
I was given a lot of really thoughtful and lovely presents, but the funniest by far was this picture:
I was confident I’d be asked back to freelance for them, and in fact, I have been back pretty much every month for at least a few days. Going back is always a pleasure, catching up with the wonderful team of creative ladies. I love hearing about who’s having a baby, who’s got engaged, and who’s renovating their kitchen.
My Earl Grey teabags are still in the creative kitchen cupboard, and there is one other major benefit to working there on a Friday: the CAKE TROLLEY! Two lovely ladies come round in the afternoon with a trolley laden with goodies, and really, it would be rude not to, right?
The past year hasn’t always been easy, in fact it has been quite tough in many ways. I live in fear of one of our cars dying. And just tonight my old MacBook has finally kicked the bucket. It’s pretty scary booking holidays. And the printer is always out of ink!
The Benefits of A Freelance Life
Going freelance has given me the opportunity to write this blog, which I’d been wanting to start for years. I’ve also made lots of very interesting new friends through blogging and social media. I’ve written on some very diverse new topics, including (amongst lots of others) whether water births can help ease the pan of childbirth, and if ovulation predictor kits can help you get pregnant for bounty.com. Less fun was how to plan a funeral, for a funeral director’s website. The website and prospectus for a lovely local nursery, and an events planner’s website were right up my street. I enjoyed writing the coffee machine distributor’s site, and managed to make concrete pouring fairly interesting.
But the main benefit has been to Ava and Thea. I’ve been able to cut down Thea’s nursery to two days a week, and I’ve been there to pick up Ava from preschool, and now school two out of three days. I’ve been able to go to the Ava’s first Nativity and Harvest Festival, I’ve been able to make their costumes and remember Jeans for Genes Day. I’ve even been able to make home made presents for her pre-school teachers at the end of last the year. And last year I clubbed together with two friends to do a Frozen themed birthday party for Ava and two of her friends. There’s no way I would have been able to do that if I’d been working four days a week.
After a few months of being freelance, I was back at Avon, and a friend from a different department asked how it was going. I answered “OK”, and her next question was brilliant.
She asked if the girls were happier. And it dawned on me that yes, yes they were (and are) happier. And THAT was the reason for it all.
I was so pleased she asked me that insightful question.
I’ve learned that actually, despite being a bit of an introvert, I’m not bad at networking. Clients tell me they are thrilled with how well I’ve grasped their business and how the tone of voice I’ve created for them is spot on. I’m actually quite interested in the technical side of blogging (something I NEVER thought I’d say!). I’m enjoying taking photographs and want to improve my skills. Although I’m working fewer days than before, I’m actually doing far more, and still just about fitting it all in.
Why I’m Glad I Became a Freelance Copywriter
I’m so glad that I didn’t just keep ploughing on when I was pretty miserable about missing out on family life. I’m so thankful that I have a supportive husband, family and friends, who have helped me and encouraged me in so many ways, not least recommending me to clients. I’m so happy (and lucky) that I have skills and experiences that let me be self-employed and set my own rules. I was worried that by leaving, I’d damage the career I’d worked so hard for, for so many years. But actually, I’ve just gained a whole new career, and I’m learning new skills all the time. Plus I’ve been able to use some of the skills I gained as a broadcast journalist.
I’ve got some exciting projects coming up, and I’m keen to see what happens next for me and my little family. So sometimes, I think you just have to take that leap of faith and trust that you are good enough. And if you work hard, anything is possible! I’m not saying everything is perfect. I’d feel more comfortable if I had a few more clients. But I’m getting there, slowly but surely.
I read this great blog post about “Imposter Syndrome” from Honest Mum and I think I suffer from it. I’m always telling Ava and Thea that they can be anything they want to be. So maybe it’s time I started believing it myself!
When I manage to get some new ink cartridges, I’m going to print out this little picture I made, and pin it to my wall as a reminder. If you’d like a copy, pop me an email to firstname.lastname@example.org and I’ll send it over.