From 9-to-5er to pen for hire
What I’ve learnt from becoming a freelance copywriter
If you had to interview before going freelance it might run something like this:
‘You’ve got the job. But we can’t pay you. The workload is…unpredictable; a fourteen hour day will be followed by 2 weeks emptier than the Gobi desert. There’s no sick or holiday pay and no pension. Take the desk in-between the toaster and the kettle. You’re on your own.’
This scenario illustrates some realities of being your own boss. But in my experience, nearly 1 year in, the benefits far outweigh the risks. By following my dream and becoming a copywriter I’ve joined the ranks of more than 1.5m people in the UK who class themselves as freelance. I’ve sacrificed job security and subsided canteen slop, but gained creative fulfilment and control of my career. My work life balance is healthier than ever and my relationship with money has changed dramatically for the better.
A freelance copywriter pays his dues
My monthly pay cheque bred complacency; easy come, easy go and the wheels of drudgery kept turning. Now every pound is hard won and paid invoices land in my account like manna from heaven. Understanding the value of money, and my ability to earn it, is an important motivator as I teeter on the cusp of an exciting life stage. I’ve ticked the mortgage box (secured before leaving my job – banks don’t like lending to the newly self-employed) and soon my girlfriend and I want to try for kids. In my romantic vision of the writer’s life I stand at the edge of a boiling sea pondering big questions, like:
‘Can I afford Pampers or should I go own brand?’
Perhaps an ensemble of knotted dishcloths will do. I expected, optimistically, my earnings to soon equal my previous salary. Wrong. There were plenty of copywriters doing a good job before I lobbed my pen in the ring; why should anyone hire me? So, I knuckled down to endure regular rejection and months of unpaid work. When morale was low I took inspiration from the words of Benjamin Franklin:
‘Energy and persistence conquer all things.’
I persisted because the responsibility of providing my unborn child with appropriate underwear is not one I take lightly.
Going rogue is a gamble but the rewards are great; finding and owning your sense of purpose is a huge boost to happiness. Thinking about becoming freelance? Do it. You can never be prepared enough and you might spend your whole life waiting for the right moment. But remember…
Be ambitious – it’s all on you so you have to give 100%.
Be realistic – your income will start low and fluctuate. You’ll need backup savings.
Get out – meet people in the same field; interaction keeps creative juices flowing and prevents conversations with plants.
Get dressed – do this first. If working from home, maintaining sartorial standards puts you in the right frame of mind and stops the neighbours talking.