Everyone works differently. The way we manage our time, our admin, our marketing and our work is a matter of personal taste. While the Freelance Writing Series aims to give you a starting point, let’s check in with our resident professional freelancers Ruth Dawkins, Lindy Alexander and Abby Alexander to hear how they manage it all.
Tell us about a time you didn’t use a creative brief and what happened?
Ruth: Ummm, I am evidently a terrible freelancer because I rarely use a creative brief. I always put together a basic project proposal—my understanding of the project, likely timeframe, estimated hours etc.—but a lot of the time the kind of projects I work on are in a constantly evolving space, and I have to be pretty flexible as I work through them. For example, the last project I worked on for a university involved more than 20 separate pieces of writing, each of which had a minimum of 4 or 5 people providing the source information, and then there was additional feedback provided on piece from at least 4 different sources. The initial guidelines for how to write the piece changed SO many times throughout the process. So while a creative brief can definitely be helpful for some kinds of work, sometimes you need to be flexible.
What’s your top tip for marketing yourself as a freelancer to perspective clients?
Ruth: Be honest about what you can and can’t do. It’s much better to say that you can do two things really well—say copywriting and proofreading—than it is to have a dozen services listed on your website that you’re only okay at. I’ve just removed the ‘social media management’ section of my website because even though that’s something I did as a full-time job a few years back, and it’s something I probably could still take on as part of a role, it’s so important to stay on top of developments in digital media if you want to be good at it, and I haven’t done that. There are other people who can do it much better than me, and there is no shame in admitting that. If you’re approached to do something that might not be a good fit, then refer the client onto someone else, and then you’re likely to be rewarded with a referral in the other direction in future.
Lindy: I think marketing yourself doesn’t ever stop. Every interaction you have with an editor or client is marketing yourself (or not). Be visible (on social media—comment on their Insta posts, retweet their tweets etc.), polite, easy to work with, responsive and reliable. That’s the best kind of marketing you can do.
Abby: Have a personal email address, a clean website, and send them a succinct, to-the-point email that touches on the type of work they need done, and specific examples of you doing that work before. Give them an indication of what you may charge for what they described and ask them to get back to you if they think you would be a good fit. Follow up two days later (I told you there was a lot of admin work).
What other processes do you regularly use when you’re working?
Ruth: I am a compulsive list maker because having my tasks written down stops me from feeling overwhelmed. I can sometimes be working on three or four different projects at once so it’s really important to me to stay organised. I write a new list for the week every Sunday night, broken down into three sections—priority, short-term and long-term. I also really keep on top of my email with an organised filing system. My inbox is like a secondary to-do list so there is never more than about 20 emails in there at once. If it builds up more than that then I know I’m in trouble, and need to take some time to get on top of things.
Abby: I always work on the couch with music on in the background if I am working from home. I start the day with a coffee and a to-do list, which is triaged from most important to least important, and I tick it off as I go along.
Want to learn more?
We’re getting towards the end of our Freelance Writing series which aims to help you get started as a freelancer but there’s still so much to learn. We’ve got a few posts left but if you’ve still got more questions why not check out our resident professionals for more information:
Ruth Dawkins: http://ruthdawkins.net
Abby Alexander: www.abbywrites.co