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How to Survive Your First Year as a Freelance Writer

The Huffington Post The Huffington Post 8/03/2016 Remie Lund

Lessons Learned (1) © Provided by The Huffington Post Lessons Learned (1)
Regular readers will already know that I went freelance in June last year and sat here. Now I can truly say that it is the best decision I have ever made. Since leaving my job at a marketing company, I've been called brave about 4689 times by various people who I've spoken to about my career change. Now I wouldn't say I'm exactly where I want to be right now but I'm leaps and bounds away from my first week as a freelancer. For those of you who ever thought of taking the plunge, here is a little insight into what it's really like to work for yourself and a few tips on finding work and what to do when you have none.
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Let's start with a run down of my first week as a freelancer:
I said "I'm really busy" a lot on my first week as a freelance copywriter and I was really busy if you count watching 48 episodes of Lost or sipping a hot chocolate as 'busy'.
Sign up to every freelance site going. Check emails. Watch Lost. Make a snack. Contemplate going to the gym. Order a pair of outrageously expensive 'freelance pants' from Net A Porter. Cry at bank balance. Manage stress by chain eating chocolate fingers. Check emails. Tweet. Have a nap.
IMG_0115 © Provided by The Huffington Post IMG_0115 Sign Up to PPH
One piece of advice I was given was to join as many freelance job sites as possible but there are so many out there and setting up a profile can be tedious and time consuming with little return for your effort. When I went freelance, I had one steady client and a lot of spare time so I signed up to People Per Hour. Even when I have jobs lined up for a month, I'll always be on the look out for opportunities and this job site is where I find the bulk of my work. Job sites like this don't get enough credit. Yes you will find people who expect you to write 4000 words on the world's most boring topic for £4 but there is also long term work to be found. I have found three of my biggest clients on PPH, one of which I worked for for over a year and in my opinion it is the only job site worth spending time on. Take a little time making your profile look professional, go to a cafe and treat yourself to a nice piece of cake and make sure you have examples of writing to showcase. PPH does take a fee from what you earn but it also offers financial security as the client always has to pay a deposit up front so no contract needed.
Twitter Twitter Twitter 
My second biggest resource for finding work is Twitter. As a newbie blogger, Twitter changed my life allowing me to build relationships with other bloggers and brands and it has done the same for my freelance career. Most mornings will involve a little search for freelance opportunities in my Twitter feed with a cup of green tea of course.
Utilise Your Contacts 
In most cases, freelance opportunities will be staring you in the face in the form of those closest to you. Your Auntie who doesn't have time to set up social channels for her small business or your Mum's friend who could benefit from your SEO knowledge, don't be afraid to turn your contacts into clients.
IMG_2077 © Provided by The Huffington Post IMG_2077 The Serious Stuff
There are so many things that I love about being a freelance copywriter, being able to take client calls in my pajamas, the fact that my schedule is flexible and I have time to manage my blog not to mention wedding commitments but there are also a lot of responsibilities that come with the job title. The most annoying thing by far about being a freelance copywriter is that you have to be a grown up. When I first went freelance I didn't have a clue when the tax year ended or the deadline for completing my tax return. In my first few months, I set up a business bank account, found an accountant and set up a cash ISA with Nutmeg who made savings super simple. I originally found them when I was looking for an ISA but they also offer pensions and while I had a pension set up for me when I worked for a company, that too is something you may need to set up yourself if you are self employed. Pensions can seem daunting but Nutmeg make it easy to set up a pension from scratch or even transfer one. You can manage it all online which is perfect for me. This is a far cry from simply turning up to work each day, getting a set wage each month and having my tax payment automatically taken off. Making sure you are making regular National Insurance contributions, keeping track of your expenses (anything from petrol to that new Macbook you bought) and updating spreadsheets with your earnings are all part and parcel of the freelance lifestyle. Knowledge is power in this situation and I found reassurance by simply learning about how to keep my books up to date and knowing when my tax return was due. I visited an accountant who took one look at my earnings and put my mind at rest immediately by telling my when I should pay tax and how much I would owe. One thing I had underestimated greatly was my outgoings. I thought because I worked from home, my outgoings would be small but I hadn't factored in my phone bills or other investments such as my camera, the latest software I'd downloaded  or heating and internet as your home is now your office. That being said, there is no pressure to shell out for an accountant, you can do your tax return here for free if that's your cup of tea.
rp_IMG_9366-1024x1024.jpg © Provided by The Huffington Post rp_IMG_9366-1024x1024.jpg What to Do When it's Quiet
During my entire freelance career, I've been lucky to only have had a couple of quiet weeks but I have to admit it did make me rather anxious. So what do you do when you find yourself without work? My one piece of advice after a year of being self employed is enjoy those quiet moments. At the time you may be consumed with panic that you will never be able to shop at M and S again but use this time that you have to see family and friends, work on your blog, polish your portfolio, update your website, order new business cards, update your LinkedIn profile or network with other people who have similar interests. It's tempting to stay in when you don't have a lot of pennies coming in but the more people you speak to, the more opportunities will roll in. In my first few months of being a freelance copywriter, I went for a spray tan and came out with a new client simply by explaining why I was able to get time off work to get a tan in the middle of the day. You never know who you might meet and stressing about not having work won't make the money roll in.
I hope this post helps those of you out there who have recently taken the leap into the freelance community. If you have any other questions relating to this topic of have any pearls of wisdom to share, please leave a comment.

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