Writing is all I’ve ever wanted to do, along with marrying an Australian. If I was going to blow £40,000 on something then I’m glad it was a degree that excited me, and not an Australian. Because that would be illegal.
Sure, I learned plenty at uni. Most importantly, that I’m really, really bad at writing erotic fiction. But what I didn’t learn was how to navigate life as a freelancer. Becoming a good writer and teaching myself how to sell my skills have been two very different beasts.
So, to stop you making the same mistakes I did, here’s what I wish I’d known before I began freelancing:
It’s okay to suck at some stuff.
I don’t know if you’ve tried it, but writing about laminate flooring when your loins aren’t burning with passion for clicky bits of synthetic wood is pretty marrying. Some people are great at talking out of their behinds, but right now, I’m not suited to copywriting. Forcing yourself to write in a form you aren’t confident about will seriously damage your faith in your abilities. So, move on and try something else. There are books, magazines, blog posts, Tweets and even dating profiles waiting to be written!
Know your worth.
People will attempt to wheedle as much as possible out of you for as little payment as possible. When pitching a feature to a glossy regional magazine, the fee I was offered didn’t reflect the years I’d spent honing my craft. Confident that my story would appeal to readers, I pointed out that the publication’s website had offered “competitive rates” for freelance contributions. What do you know? They tripled the original offer, no questions asked.
Get a damn contract.
I would fall into the trap of thinking, Who the Hell do I think I am, wanting a signed contract for a job that’s barely keeping me in sanitary towels? It doesn’t matter whether that potential client you’ve been in talks with has the most adorable Gmail pic – the ones with dimples are often the ones that will screw you over. Sending over a contract can feel awkward, but a client worth having will respect your professionalism.
Most freelance writers have a muggle job.
For a long time, I felt like I’d failed as a writer because I needed an additional income to sustain myself (even if I had graduated to tampons by now). The only other freelancers I’d come across lurked in online communities, where new writers were ridiculed by those boasting 5-6 figure salaries. It was only when I learned that the majority of freelance writers make less than £5,000 a year that I let go of my shame. Little by little, I’m finding my feet – and constantly reminding myself that Legoland wasn’t built in a day.
And finally, if any of my former lecturers are reading and thinking ‘We told her all this!!!’ …there is a strong chance that those were the classes I was too hungover to attend. Sorry.
By Lowri Llewelyn
Lowri is a freelance writer and burlesque performer based on the Isle of Anglesey. Although sometimes she gets to write about exciting topics like designer children’s wear (FORTY QUID FOR A HAT?!), more often than not it’s DIY – not to brag, but she has become quite the expert on Combi boilers and laminate flooring.
You can follow Lowri on her personal blog here.