We’re asking members of Chorus (our free-to-join micro-business community) to share their experiences of being self-employed. This week, freelance copywriter, Suzanne Rose, shares her thoughts on juggling freelance work with the demands of parenthood.
Tell us about your business.
It’s less of a business, and more just me taking on work as I get it. Basically, I’m a freelance copywriter/proofreader who also does social media for a restaurant and a parenting website.
What prompted you to go self-employed?
In 2010, I left my job as a sub-editor at the BBC magazine to start a family, and gave up work for a few years to focus on my two children. In 2014, by chance I fell into writing for a local food website, then started writing restaurant reviews for the local paper. This gave me the impetus and confidence to start taking on regular paid writing work.
What were the biggest challenges you had to overcome when starting out?
For me, as a stay-at-home mother, it was finding the time to get any work done. Until my eldest daughter started school, and youngest turned three and could avail of her free childcare hours, I had to work every single evening when they were asleep. I never had designated working hours – I just grabbed time when I could. It was exhausting and I burned the candle at both ends for a long time.
What do you like most about working for yourself? And what do you dislike?
I love working in my own time. If I’m tired or have social plans, or one of my kids is unwell, I know I can always catch up the following day or evening. It takes the pressure off and is very liberating compared to the strict deadlines I used to work to at the BBC.
Working from home, I find it difficult to concentrate sometimes. It’s difficult to change my mindset from “mum” to “professional writer” when I’m at home being reminded of chores that need to be done. I also miss the banter and adult conversation of an office job. It would be nice to have a separate work space so I could focus more.
Looking back, is there anything you would have done differently when starting up?
No. I started off very gradually, and as I rebuilt my confidence as a writer and the kids started to sleep better, felt I could take on more work. I’m lucky in that I never had to go back to an office job and plunge straight into long hours again with no mental preparation. Gradually building up my reputation and client base has really helped me.
What would be your top tip to anyone thinking about going self-employed?
Always have financial back up, never go down to the wire with your money. You never know when a client may stop using your services. Set up a dedicated working area in your home, away from distractions – if you’re lucky enough to have the space.
Designate yourself working hours, whatever suits you, be it daytime or evening, and try to stick to them. It may not feel like a “proper” job working from home, but it does help if you know that, say, Thursdays and Fridays are your designated working days, and the rest of the week you’re free.
What’s your biggest success story from your time being self-employed?
By chance, a friend of mine mentioned to her boss at Warner Brothers that I did social media for a restaurant and was looking for more part-time social media stuff. Within a day, we had met for coffee and I’d secured myself a new job – doing social media for a new parenting website, which I could do entirely in my own time. When I mentioned I had a background in copywriting, and was a parent myself, I was made editor of the website. It was all just luck, and you never know when one casual meeting over a coffee can lead to something really good.
Do you have any pro tips on how to find new clients?
Network as much as you can. All the work I’ve done has come from chatting to people in the same industry as me – you’d be surprised where I’ve found work (kids parties, at the school gates!). You’ll find out that someone has just started a website and needs some copy written, or needs help with their social media account, and suddenly you have another job! Don’t be afraid to sell yourself, you won’t get anything if you don’t put yourself out there. Be confident.
How do you find managing your cashflow?
I have a strict household budget and I always factor in the fact that one month I may not get paid on time. Always have financial back up so you’re never caught short and will always have enough for essentials like mortgage payments and food.
What did you consider when calculating your rates?
I talked to friends who were established copywriters and social media managers, and kicked off with very competitive rates. After about a year, I upped those rates as my client base, CV and experience built up.
Do you work from home or in a coworking space? How do you find that work environment?
I work from home which I find very distracting at times. The temptation to do housework, have a nap, read a book, go out in the sun – anything – is often difficult to deal with.
How did you find the transition to self-employment?
My transition wasn’t overnight. I had two kids and pretty much took three years off work completely before dipping my toe in the water again. I then realised how much I’d missed writing, and not having financial independence was a killer, so I gradually took on more work – difficult as it was at first with two demanding pre-schoolers.
If you want to share your experiences of being self-employed, give us a shout at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Is now the time for you?
If you reckon it’s time for a career change and are considering setting up your own business, visit our #GetStarted homepage for free resources and advice on how to make it happen.