Freelance writing series part 7: A word from the professionals

Article by Jess Gately

Image from Canva Free Stock Images

We’re welcoming back Ruth Dawkins, Lindy Alexander and Abby Alexander, our resident freelancers who are discussing some of the things we’ve been talking about so far and giving us an insight into the working world of freelance writing.

What was the hardest thing you had to learn when you became a freelancer?

Ruth: Not to take rejection personally. Less so with copywriting, but definitely with features – pitching is hard work, and it is super frustrating to send things out and either get a no or just get no response at all. At first, I would dwell on the rejections for far too long, but experience has taught me that sometimes your idea is great, it’s just not a great fit for the first place you send it.

Lindy: That it’s not just about writing. For me, the writing is actually a fairly small part of what I do each day. There’s a lot of pitching, following up, invoicing, social media, updating my portfolio, writing blog posts, interviewing, transcribing, researching and so on. The hardest thing has been learning how to juggle it all so I’ve got the right balance of all those things.

Abby: It’s all been hard. Definitely realising HOW MUCH admin work you have to do was a big one. And the bloody tax stuff is so annoying. I have a table that I keep track of every month now with my expenses to make it easier come EOFY. And it is annoying to not always know how much you will make each week, or where your next pay cheque is coming from.

What was something you needed to set up your business that you didn’t realise until you had your first client? 

Ruth: I’d been freelancing for several years as a features writer before I started copywriting, and I didn’t realise until I got my first big copywriting client that I would need professional indemnity/public liability insurance. It’s not essential, but a lot of bigger clients require it.

Abby: It isn’t something that I necessarily needed, but I did set up a separate, professional email account that I use for my clients now. It just means that I know what inbox to go to to find their emails, and having a personalised email address is an easy way to convince people that you are more professional than you may otherwise appear. I also have a very complicated email folder system, that ensures I can find client emails quickly and easily.

What’s your advice to people setting up their business and overwhelmed by how much there is to do?

Ruth: Break it down into manageable chunks and just try to tick one or two things off your list each day. Try and alternate between the fun and less-fun jobs. So maybe work on building your website one day and sort out your insurance the next day. Buy your business cards one day and sort your ABN the next day. I also really recommend having a paper diary as well as an electronic one – I have one with dates on one page, and blank page for my to-do lists on the opposite page. If I’m in a mood and feel like I haven’t been achieving much, then having a flick back over the last three or four weeks and seeing how many things I’ve actually done can be a real boost.

Lindy: Take it one step at a time. Make a list of the absolute must-dos (such as having an ABN) and work through it systematically. There are some things that you think you need, such as a website, but really, you can get away with not having one for ages.

Abby: Just make a list and do it. It’s the only way.

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

Lindy Alexander: thefreelancersyear.com (advice for new writers) or lindyalexander.net

Abby Alexander: abbywrites.co

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