Becoming self-employed

Crunch client stories: Freelance Medical Copywriter and Healthcare Business Consultant Melissa Holloway

Table of contents

    Going freelance has not only given copywriter Melissa Holloway priceless time with her a family, but also opened doors to a variety of work that she’d always craved.

    Tell us about your business!

    As a freelance medical copywriter, most of my work involves writing the materials that pharmaceutical sales reps use with doctors. My clients are typically healthcare specialist advertising agencies. I also do consulting for companies with an interest in diabetes, particularly technology for diabetes management, including insulin pump therapy and continuous glucose monitoring.

    I love the variety. One week I might be working on the storyboard and script for a video to be played on a pharmaceutical company’s stand at a medical conference, the next week I could be attending a diabetes conference, and the week after that I might be drafting a detail aid for a toothpaste brand.

    What prompted you to go self-employed?

    In late 2013, after four years in a London healthcare advertising agency, I felt ready for a new challenge, so I joined a smaller agency just outside London that offered me a senior title. The commute was miserable and the agency was not a great fit for me. That experience made me reconsider what I had enjoyed about my previous role, and what I wanted more and less of.

    I really wanted more control over the work I do and the time I spend working, without the politics that often accompany permanent employment. I wanted to be a freelancer. Four months into the job I gave my notice and set up M Holloway Ltd.

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    What were the biggest challenges you had to overcome when starting out?

    I had to get over worrying that I wouldn’t have enough work and use my network to hustle. I went out to lunch with former colleagues and asked them to put me in touch with the people in their offices who would book freelancers. I accepted a bunch of LinkedIn connection requests I had ignored for months. I sent emails to people I hadn’t talked with since meeting them at awards events. It helped to think of myself in terms of a business.

    What do you like most about working for yourself? And what do you dislike?

    I like being able to decide when I’m available for work and when I’m not. Also, having the option to pass on work when it’s not my sort of thing. The idea of asking to take holiday makes me roll my eyes now.

    The things I dislike? Working out which tax and finance information is relevant to me, and occasionally having to explain that having a limited company isn’t a tax dodge I came up with – rather, almost all of my clients insist on it.

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    How has Crunch helped you during your self-employed journey so far?

    Using Crunch has given me the right balance of control over my business finances and good advice to steer me right. I have learned how lots of things work and gotten a sense of best practices, whilst having qualified accountants on hand to help when I’m out of my depth.

    What’s your biggest success story from your time being self-employed?

    Can I go for the top three?

    First, I have a work/life balance that just wouldn’t be possible as a permanent employee in my sector. I can’t put a price on being home in time to eat dinner as a family.

    Second, being named a runner-up for Freelancer of the Year by IPSE in my third year as a freelancer was a huge boost. Along with Crunch, IPSE has been a fantastic resource and I’m pleased to be involved in the IPSE Members’ Forum.

    Third, I’ve been able to take on charity and NHS committee commitments that would have been difficult to balance with employment and a family.

    What would be your top tip to anyone thinking about going self-employed?

    Ask yourself: ‘why would I work with me?’ Make your LinkedIn profile strong and use keywords to help prospective clients find you. A few months ago someone surfaced in a Facebook group I’m in, asking for help finding work. Her LinkedIn profile didn’t have ‘freelance’ in her job title line – an obvious place to start!

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