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Freelance writing comes in many different forms which means there are lots of different ways to approach it. This is why every so often in the Freelance Writing series we’re going to check back in with our three resident professionals.
A massive thank you to Ruth Dawkins, Lindy Alexander and Abby Alexander who have not only agreed to share their knowledge with us but who also do so on their own websites on a regular basis. You can find links to their very helpful web pages at the bottom of this page.
So, let’s meet the team!
What sort of freelance writing do you do?
Ruth: I work about 25 hours a week on a combination of copywriting (for NGOs, universities and small businesses), feature and essay writing (mainly parenting, lifestyle, arts, and travel). I also do some light editing and proofreading.
Lindy: I write for magazines, newspapers, digital publications and corporate organisations. My time is split about 60% for magazines and newspapers, and 40% of the work I do is for corporates. I predominantly write feature articles in the food, travel and lifestyle space. The corporate work I do is mostly writing about human resources and recruitment.
Abby: I do various sorts [of writing]: news/topical/opinion writing for news outlets from time to time, and also copywriting for various businesses, organisations and PR agencies. I have my own clients, and I sometimes work as a contractor for others. I also write for pleasure in my spare time, but this is not paid.
You can see from Ruth, Lindy and Abby that most freelance writers don’t just do one type of freelance writing. Head back to our first post in the series and think about what combinations of writing you might be interested in pursuing.
What do you wish you’d been told about freelancing before you started?
Ruth: There are two things, which in some ways are contradictory. In relation to feature writing, I wish I’d realised earlier how much control it’s possible to have over your own workflow and tasks. When I started out, I would send in a pitch and then sit and wait for days or weeks to get an answer before I felt able to work on something else. Don’t do that! Send a pitch, and set a mental deadline for when you need to hear back from the editor. If you don’t hear back by that date, then send one follow-up email letting them know when you’ll withdraw it to pitch elsewhere. If you don’t get a response to the follow-up then just move along and find another home for your piece.
In relation to copywriting, I wish I’d realised that sometimes when things are outside your control, you just have to let them go. If you’re waiting for information to come in before you can start, or if you’re waiting for someone else to hit a deadline on their work before you can start yours, then don’t fight that. You can only control the things that fall within your remit, and it’ll cause you unnecessary stress if you try and control other people’s work too.
Lindy: To be strategic in who and how you pitch – that you should aim to build relationships with editors from the very beginning (rather than just sending out pitches in a scattergun way). I also know a lot of freelancers who wish they had known that it’s a lot less stressful if you have a financial buffer of a few months’ salary saved up before you start.
Abby: I wish I had known how much unpaid admin time you have to do, and how hard it is to snag new clients. It is also frustrating when you see someone offering the same service as you for as little at a quarter of the cost—my prices are not exorbitant. In fact, they are quite affordable and very reasonable for my experience and qualifications, but there is always someone else out there who will do it cheaper.
We’ll be talking about some of these things (pitching, setting prices, admin, and building relationships) in more detail in future instalments of the Freelance Writing series.
What makes freelancing worth it for you?
Ruth: I have a 9-year-old son, and I love the flexibility of freelancing because it allows me to be there for him at school pickup and during holidays. I also really love the variety of work I do—I feel like I’m always learning new things about the world, and constantly picking up new skills and knowledge that help me to be a better writer.
Lindy: I love being able to choose who I work with (and who I pitch to), how I manage my hours and work, and the ability to work from home or a co-working space. Every day is different, and I get such a buzz from running my own micro-business.
Abby: I am studying full time at the moment, and I also volunteer with a few organisations. Freelance work means that I can work on my own terms and it gives me the freedom to pick up extra shifts at my ushering job, to work more during uni break and less when an assignment is due, and it lets me take time to read a book in the middle of the day if I so desire. It’s also the only work I can find in my industry that will work with uni. It’s not something I can afford to do forever, but for now it is fun.
Want to learn more?
We’ll be covering a lot more in future segments of the Freelance Writing series, but in the meantime, if you want more information, head on over to our guest’s websites and check out their wonderful resources.
Ruth Dawkins: http://ruthdawkins.net
Abby Alexander: www.abbywrites.co