Freelancing isn’t for everyone. I get that. Some do very well in employed work and enjoy the security of a paycheck at the end of each month, don’t get me wrong, I do miss the security, would anything make me go back to working for someone else? Not on your life. You would literally have to drag me and force me at gunpoint. Not one cell in my body ever wants to go back.
After a lifetime in an open plan, busy, noisy and smelly sales office (someone always chose to eat something stinky at their desk), adjusting to freelance life was a huge eye-opener. I had always wanted to work for myself. I hated being told what to do, having to follow the rules and commuting to and from my job was a mission sometimes.
I remember always clock watching despite actually enjoying my role in sales as a Business Development Manager (for the most part). I was good at my job, the commission was good, my customers were great, my colleagues even greater, I met my other half there, I had so many happy times and memories, but something was missing. That something was freedom!
Got the itch
Ask any freelancer and they will probably all tell you that deciding to go freelance was either something that they kind of fell into or a change in circumstances was the beginning. Let’s face it when we are settled and content, why would we do anything to disrupt that? My change came when the company I was working for was taken over.
I began to hate waking up every day and having to go there to a job that I had lost all passion for. The commission, incentives and rewards had evaporated and to a salesperson, that is the end of that job.
The hunt begins
I began looking for other work, of course, I did, but nothing took my fancy. I could have stayed in the industry that I was in and moved to a competitor (probably for much more money) but I wanted a change. I was coming up to 40 and the thought of spending 37.5 hours a week, 52 weeks a year, in a mediocre job, until the day I retired, scared the living sh*t out of me.
Something had to change. I began applying to a couple of jobs but one stuck out for me. It was the chance to run my own recruitment franchise. Fully funded and once trained received 80% commission on all of my placements. Well, I had worked in recruitment before and decided to go for it.
I was chosen out of over 100 applicants to be offered the chance of running my own franchise. Was I scared, hell yeah, was I excited? You wouldn’t believe how excited!!! I loved the training, it was one to one with a mentor who I can honestly say, taught me so many new skills which I still use today. I will always be thankful to her. I experienced every part of what it was to work for yourself and I had the bug.
The itch returns
18 months later, I decided that I wanted to work 100% for myself. I had learned so much during my time running the franchise that it gave me all of the confidence to go it alone. Although the franchise wasn’t my own business, it felt like it. I had to learn how to manage my books, complete tax returns, do all of my own administration, keep a diary, run interviews, generate and follow up on leads, I wore so many different hats and I’m not going to lie, it was overwhelming at times. I almost felt like a child pretending to play an adult. (still, do if I am honest)
Oh, the guilt!
Then comes the self-discipline side of things. Yes, I could choose my own hours which was great. I would frequently find myself working at all hours of the day and night. My other half still worked at the corporate company that I had left behind and during the months when I had failed to bring in much money, I would feel incredibly guilty. Also, when it was quiet and I had nothing to do, I would overcompensate by filling my time with learning new skills (that turned out to be the best thing I have ever done).
I loved working for myself but again, something wasn’t right, I wasn’t enjoying the recruitment side of things, in fact, I found it too repetitive. To fill in my spare time, I began taking online courses in social media management and marketing. I already had a pretty sound background but upskilling is what lead to what I do today. I have always loved writing. I have always written. Friends and family were always saying I should be a writer. I have written so many stories, articles, poems and songs over the years and taken several writing diplomas (just for fun. Yes I am a geek!).
I wanted to write for a living, no doubt about it. Becoming an author wasn’t really an option to bring in enough money to cover the bills. But being a copywriter and writing for businesses was the perfect solution. I have always written in both a professional and personal capacity, I already had years of experience across a wide range of industries, and I had a solid sales and marketing background. I’m a fast learner of new platforms and business tools and I had the grit and determination to succeed. Mostly, because the fear of having to go back into paid employment, working for someone else, made me sick to my stomach.
Having the franchise had taught me so much but I still had a lot to learn and at times, those lessons were costly. When I had the franchise all the contracts and agreements were already drawn up, I didn’t have to worry if a candidate left within the trial period or if it didn’t work out with a client. I had my a$$ covered. I used guides and templates that were provided, and I had a set process for everything I did. Starting my own business, I had none of these. I didn’t have a website, I didn’t have a way of capturing information, I had no business plan or marketing strategy, and I didn’t have a social media presence as a business. Who the heck was I going to ask for help if I needed it?
And so, it begins
I researched, researched and researched some more. I reached out to other freelancers who were more than happy to help me (and for free!!!) I planned everything that I needed to do and set my launch date to the 22nd of July 2019. I committed to the date and I had to be ready. I was nervous, anxious, excited, had sleepless nights, drank way too much to destress and worried about money constantly. But the one thing I didn’t do, is give up. Giving up was not an option for me. I was going to make this work!
By the time I was ready to launch I had already secured 3 clients who I was writing for. With the help of other freelancers and the support of my other half and family, I was good to go. Hitting the ‘go live’ button on my website was emotional. I had so much anxiety and excitement all in one go. What if it didn’t work? What if I was a terrible writer? What if I couldn’t get any clients? What if I failed? Let me tell you, these are totally natural thoughts, as terrifying as they were at the time.
3, 2, 1 we have lift off
Turns out, I had little to worry about. Don’t get me wrong, I screwed up big time with one client when I sent them the work and they decided that they weren’t going to pay because they couldn’t afford it. Took the work and despite suing and winning, I never saw a penny. All because I trusted the client, didn’t send him a contract and learned a very expensive lesson, a mistake that I will never make again. I think it’s good to make mistakes and expect to make some. It happens. We are only human at the end of the day.
Armageddon AKA Covid-19
Lockdown hit when my business was 7 months old. Just my ruddy luck, I thought. But instead, it was incredible for my business. All of a sudden, the world ground to a halt which gave people time to take a step back and evaluate what was important. In the business world, this meant that businesses were forced to look at their online presence and if they weren’t online, they were in trouble. Whoever would have guessed it would go on for so long!
I was already used to working from home so I took lockdown in my stride. Adjusting to homeschooling and having the other half working in my space was tough at first but then I loved it. In fact, hubby, who is a field sales manager, still mostly works from home because face to face meetings are demanded less and less and customers are more than happy to meet on Teams, Skype or Zoom.
A year in
The first year absolutely flew by! I did however start to notice that everyone wasn’t sailing through the way that I was and I wanted to do something about it. I worked very closely with a friend who was also a freelancer at the time and he was running a networking meeting on Zoom. He asked me if I fancied running a second one for him. My initial response was ‘no way. One, I hate myself on camera, two, I didn’t think I had the confidence and three, it scared the life out of me.
Like a dog with a bone, he didn’t give up nagging me to step out of my comfort zone. One day I agreed to be interviewed by him online. A true test of courage for me and I was as nervous as anything, but afterwards, I was buzzing! I couldn’t believe I had done it. Because of him, I have been interviewed loads online and I love it. In fact, I consider it a part of my marketing strategy.
Stepping out of my comfort zone
After doing a few interviews I agreed to run the networking group. We were deep into the pandemic and I wanted to help other business owners cope and not feel alone. It was my chance to run a networking meeting the way I wanted to. I have been to loads of events over the years so took my experience of the best bits and put it into my group.
I never wanted to monetise my networking group. I’ve no doubt that people would pay, but that’s not why I do it. I created a relaxed, supportive and open forum where business owners and professionals could support one another in their endeavours, both professionally and personally.
After a few months, the networking meeting moved to my own brand and I now run it through my business instead of my friends. He was more than happy to pass the torch and has gone along another career path. (Which he is smashing FYI.)
I am only as strong as the network around me
I still run my networking meeting every week and I am constantly blown away by the feedback and by the wonderful individuals from all over the world who come. I like to think that I have created something truly unique and it wouldn’t have been possible had my friend not convinced me to give it a go. Not only are business connections and leads generated made, but friendships have also been formed and that is priceless!
Onwards and upwards
Fast forwards almost three years as a freelance Copywriter and I couldn’t be happier with my life choice. Would I change anything? Never, apart from wishing that I had done this years ago! Not even the mistakes. Since becoming freelance myself I have offered to help others do the same. I don’t charge. I only ask that they pay it forwards one day. I will forever be grateful for those who helped me when I began and this is my way of giving something back.
Hopefully, by sharing my story, I can inspire others to follow their dreams no matter what their age or professional background. I still worry when things get a little quiet or a client decides to leave but my mindset now, is that it opens up an opportunity to either work on my business or seek out new client work.
I never stop working on developing myself and I will never give up. As the old saying goes, do something that you love and you will never work a day in your life and it’s true. Who knows, one day I will become an author in my spare time!
Good luck with your own journey and feel free to reach out to me 😊
Sarah English – Freelancer and owner of Write Idea