The accidental freelancer: Thoughts on my first year of self-employment

MIPIM 2019 - CONFERENCES - UK: REGENERATION & WATERFRONT DEVELOPMENTSIt’s coming up to a year since I started out as a freelance and what a career change it has been.

I say started out, I’m more of an accidental freelancer as when I left property magazine Estates Gazette after 20 years, my plan was to take my time exploring different options and ideas before deciding which direction to go, but I’ll come onto that.

My time as a property journalist and features editor taught me lots of things not least that the best time to catch people in the industry is either before 8.30am or after 5.30pm.

Starting out

When I started out we didn’t have laptops and there was one brick-like mobile phone to share on the features desk. If you were lucky enough to get use of the mobile you soon learnt that it never actually worked.

It was the days of long, often boozy lunches and Friday afternoons in the pub (remember those?).

The lack of technology made working life less agile and less productive but in some small way, I do miss those days of being able to get on a train to go somewhere for work and just read the paper.

Fundamental changes to journalism

Mobile phones, digital and social media fundamentally changed ‘storytelling’ and the dissemination of information. It also changed the way journalists interact with their readers.

My skill set broadened considerably. I went from writing and editing for a print publication to a canvas which included digital editions, web content, infographics, podcasts, video, Twitter and Instagram.

The evolution was exciting and exhilarating.

IMG_3875You hear people talk about transferable skills but it is not until you leave a job that you fully appreciate its meaning.

The accidental freelancer

Which brings me back to being an accidental freelancer. While I was busy working out what I wanted my next career move to be, I started getting the odd approach about work: Writing some marketing copy, a website audit, coming up with ideas and writing blog content, a bit of consultancy and moderating at a conference.

People were asking me to do things that suited my skill set and knowledge of the property industry but which I hadn’t considered before.

‘Corporate journalist and copywriter’ is probably the best of the catch-all terms to describe what I was doing but it was a couple of months before I decided/realised that freelancing could work as a career (and earn me a living).

A new learning curve

Getting properly set up was a whole new learning curve – something I couldn’t have done as well or as quickly without the brilliant advice and support of friends and contacts.

And the learning continues at a pace that is invigorating.

Yes, I have moments when I feel scared and I’m wracked with excruciating doubt – being self-employed is not for the faint-hearted – but I’m learning ways of guiding myself through and embracing what pushes me outside my comfort zone.

Most of the time being freelance is fun, exciting, liberating and thoroughly rewarding and I’m looking forward to what my second year brings.

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