Diary of a Freelancer

By Emma Challoner-Miles

The Only Way to Be a Freelance Writer is to Write

The pinboard in my kitchen is cluttered with the usual paraphernalia, money off vouchers, theatre ticket stubs, letters from school, a few family photos, and the menu from my local Indian takeaway (very handy on exceptionally busy days). If you look hard enough, you will also see a tattered pink post-it emblazoned with the words The only way to be a writer is to write. This little phrase gave me the kick up the jacksie I needed to start my freelance career three years ago, and it still makes me smile / frown (depending on what type of day I’m having), every time I boil the kettle.

I didn’t set out to be a freelance writer, but it’s fair to say I’ve always had a penchant for the written word. I’ve devoured books for as long as I can remember. The Owl Who Was Afraid of the Dark was a particular childhood fave (who couldn’t fall in love with the hapless Plop). This initial love of reading led to an interest in writing, and I vividly remember penning my first poem, a rhyming ditty about a mean headmaster, unimaginatively entitled “The Mean Headmaster.” Please don’t be too harsh – I was about eight at the time!

I’m pleased to say my writing has come on a little since then. I’ve been able to cobble together something resembling a career from doing it, and it looks as though I’m not alone. Apparently, there are nearly 5 million freelancers in the UK alone, 2 million of which are fellow writers. I can’t speak for my remote colleagues, but freelancing appealed to me due to the flexibility and variety it seemed to offer.

Ok, I’ll admit – I may have also been slightly swayed by the thought of only having to commute from the bedroom to the dining room (a.k.a my office), and the dreamy ideal that during summer, I could sit on my patio, laptop on my knees, and a cold Pinot perched on the arm of my deckchair. Alas, this is a balancing act I am still yet to perfect. I confess, my poor laptop has spent time parked in the airing cupboard due to a near-death experience with chilled white. Having no computer to hand may have given me a free Friday afternoon, but it also caused me to miss a deadline – never a good thing.

As I have learnt, a successful freelancer relies on positive feedback to bolster their reputation and stand out from the crowd. Thankfully, my client kindly offered an extension, and I managed to fire off the article the next day. In theory, as a freelancer, you work for yourself – but you still have to answer to the nice people who commission you and pay your fee.

It goes without saying you have to put the time in, although I do my best to fit my work around my home life. I start my day early, and I like to have the majority of my writing done and dusted before the hubby and teens tumble back through the door late afternoon. However, with so many distractions and temptations, it can be hard to stay on track, and it’s not uncommon for everyone to fend for themselves, especially once I’ve become encroached in a piece of work.

Thankfully the teens are now dab hands at creating weird and wonderful pasta dishes with cupboard staples, and the hubby instinctively walks in from work and puts the kettle on – usually before he’s even taken his coat off (priorities sorted). It’s only Roy, our loveable and lively Border Collie that doesn’t seem to get it. He has mastered the forlorn look that propels me to take a longer than planned lunch break just to play frisbee at the park.

On my return I get back to it. I like that I can organise my own workload and I get a huge amount of satisfaction from a client saying they like the piece I’ve submitted. I am commissioned to write all sorts, from articles on the rise of artificial intelligence to blogs for a wedding website and web content for a company producing meds to combat erectile dysfunction. No two days are the same – and that’s how I like it.

Freelancing can be unpredictable; you have to work at it and there’s no boss to moan at if you’re overworked and underpaid. But you do get to rebalance your time and set your own agenda, and that’s a real bonus for me. Now I really need to get on and think about dinner – can someone please pass me that Indian takeaway menu?

I hope you enjoyed this glimpse into how my freelancing career began. Over the next few months, I will be writing all about the ups and downs of a freelancer’s life, as well as some handy hints and tips on how to make freelancing work for you.

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