Continuing our Chorus Stories series, Melissa McClements shares her experiences of running her own freelance writing business. Want to share your story with the world? Drop us a line at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Tell us about your business
I’m writer. I write both editorially and commercially.
As a journalist I’ve written for Financial Times Weekend, The Guardian, The Observer, The Independent and The Telegraph.
On the business side of things, I write press packs, web content and marketing materials. To date, I’ve written for brands including Budweiser, Ikea, Marks & Spencer, Fanta, InterContinental Hotels, Danone and Vichy.
I also run business writing workshops for PR professionals. I show them how to write media-friendly copy.
What prompted you to go self-employed?
The freedom! I like being able to organise my own time and not being answerable to anyone. I’ve been self-employed for 16 years now and couldn’t imagine going back to a full-time position. Obviously, the insecurity of self-employment has its disadvantages too, but for me the positives outweigh them.
What were the biggest challenges you had to overcome when starting out?
To be honest, I was a financial idiot at first. I didn’t do any planning or put aside enough of my earnings for tax. I just spent money as soon as I earned it. On one occasion I even took myself off on holiday to Mexico for six weeks after a particularly well-paid job. Through having to deal with a couple of horrible tax bills and the inevitable fallow periods, I’ve acquired some financial nous along the way – although Mark Carney needn’t worry about me nicking his job any time soon.
What do you like most about working for yourself? And what do you dislike?
I like the variety of work. I value being able to fit my work around my life. If there’s no pressing deadline and I want to get my brain cells whirring by running along Brighton seafront at 11 o’clock in the morning, then I can.
On the downside, I’m not always keen on the solitude. To counteract the amount of time I spend tip-tapping away at my keyboard by myself, I make sure that the rest of my life is very sociable. That being said, the man in my corner shop probably fears me as the mad woman who initiates a 20-minute chat whenever popping in for milk.
Looking back, is there anything you would have done differently when starting up?
If I was starting now, I’d make sure to get myself some proper financial advice and actually listen to it, especially when the word ‘pension’ came up.
What would be your top tip to anyone thinking about going self-employed?
Be tenacious. It takes a lot of perseverance to generate enough work.
What’s your biggest success story from your time being self-employed?
My work-life balance – and the fact I’m still doing it after all these years.
Do you have any pro tips on how to find new clients?
Although I do email potential clients directly, pitch ideas and network whenever I can, nothing is better than word-of-mouth. I always make sure I do the best job I can, so that clients will hopefully recommend me to someone else.
How do you manage your cashflow?
Probably not as well as I should.
How do you calculate your rates and what factors do you take into account?
This can really vary, as I do a rather eclectic range of work. When it comes to editorial, most newspapers and magazines have their own rates, which aren’t really negotiable in these tough times for journalism.
In terms of copywriting, I have a day rate. When it comes to training, I offer a range of pre-packaged workshops at a set price. Alternatively, I can put together a bespoke training programme and quote accordingly.
Do you work from home or in a coworking space? How do you find that work environment?
I mainly work from home, where I’m lucky enough to have my own office. I do, however, take myself out to a local café at least once a week to sit and write in a different space. I have a small selection of preferred cafes. Woe betide anyone who sits at my favourite table.
If you worked for a company before, how did you find the transition to self-employment?
I found the transition quite easy, as I remember. When I first started, times were economically much better and there was an abundance of work.
Has being self-employed held you back in any way, for example getting when getting a mortgage?
I did have a problem getting a mortgage initially, although a couple of years’ worth of accounts sorted that out.
Want to find out more about Melissa’s freelance writing business? Head over melissamcclements.co.uk to find out more or follow her on Twitter @MelMcClements.
And if you want to share your experiences of being self-employed, give us a shout at email@example.com.
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