I have pretty much worked full time from the day I left university (which is over 10 years now!) and even though I enjoyed many of my jobs, something about the 9-5 lifestyle never sat right with me. I was never particularly comfortable in that environment and felt I couldn’t be as creative as I wanted to be. Not to mention, it wasn’t a very healthy lifestyle. I often worked long hours, ate badly and developed a bit of a caffeine addiction to keep myself ‘productive’.
For years I dreamt of being a freelance writer and PR all rounder and I am pleased to say, that only a month ago, I took the plunge and am now working for myself full time, as a writer, digital content creator and consultant.
I’d like to share with you the following strategies that have been really helpful in building my business:
Start off small
At first, I started taking on very small jobs while I was still employed. I started writing blog posts for online sites and magazines. Then I took on a bigger client managing their social media accounts and dropped down to part time hours in my day job. It was a slow transition, but it felt good to know that I was working towards one day being my own boss.
Talk about your business
There was a lot of luck and timing involved in developing my business but I think a lot of it really came down to making an effort to connect with people. I have connected with most of my new clients through existing clients and online. Social media is an amazing marketplace to sell your skills and connect with the right people. Twitter changed my life. It has connected me with so many people and I actually got my first few small jobs through connections I made there.
Ask for help & support
One of the things that made the biggest difference to me was networking. I honestly just emailed people I admired or who were doing what I wanted to do and invited them for coffee or a drink or email advice at the very least! Just telling people what it is you want to do is a great start. People are generally pretty generous but they can’t help you professionally if you don’t tell them exactly what you want. I would be as upfront as saying ‘I want to be a professional writer and I need some advice about where to start.” Pretty soon it paid off.
I invited one magazine editor to coffee and got my first magazine writing gig that afternoon!
Success comes with hard work
For me the best strategies for success were fairly simple. I simply started doing what I wanted to do professionally so that I had something to show people (as well as get some much needed practice). I wanted to write so I started writing.
Promote you the brand
The other thing was to promote myself. It’s not naturally something I am comfortable with but there is a difference between being assertive and upfront and being pushy and arrogant. It’s really important that you back yourself and share your work beyond just your friendship group.
Something I wrote on public education, which I shared heavily with key industry people and journalists I thought would be interested, led to me being on a panel on the Mornings show on Channel 9- something I never would believe would have happened a year ago.
Find the life balance that resonates with you
I am still working on the life balance part, particularly as I work in social media a lot and it’s hard not being connected for large parts of the day, but generally I try to impose standard working hours on myself.
I have made a few commitments to myself in starting my new venture in that I will never work late into the night, or take on so much work that I don’t get a lunch break or get to enjoy the ocean where I live, at least three or four times a week.
I made the decision to freelance predominately to create a healthier lifestyle- so that I could get up and go for a walk in the morning and make myself a nutritious lunch, rather than rushing to work and grabbing a sandwich in a 10 minute break.
I often use meditation and yoga as techniques to ‘slow down’ and try to eat well and get out into the water or exercise at least a few times a week.
I want my work to support the kind of lifestyle I want to lead. I don’t want my lifestyle to suffer because of my work anymore.
About the Author
Yatu is a freelance writer and communications consultant. She began freelancing full time in early 2014 and now counts the National Centre of Indigenous Excellence and National Indigenous Television amongst her clients. She regularly writes for the Koori Mail and Peppermint Magazine and has been featured on Mamamia, Coping With Jane and EcoSalon among others. She is also the creator of conscious style blog Thinking Fashion and has a monthly eco style segment on ABC national radio.
Follow Yatu on Twitter @yatuwhunt