Birmingham, UK
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laura@laurajanejohnson.co.uk

If you’re starting out as a freelance copywriter my story

You’re probably wondering if your reasons for shunning the security of your existing career with its pension plan and paid holiday are really justified? Or maybe you’re facing redundancy and you’re clueless to why the heck anyone would voluntary sacrifice themselves to such a unpredictable and chaotic existence? Starting out as a freelance copywriter isn’t easy. But I don’t regret it one little bit.

For many freelance copywriters, impending parenthood gives them the confidence to take the plunge and escape the shackles of formal employment*. My reasons were far more selfish. It was the lure of a life more spontaneous that sent me merrily skipping into self-employment in 2009.

* By the way, preparing for parenthood is a very, very good reason to go freelance. Now, with the hindsight of becoming a parent, I applaud those with the forethought to pursue freelance copywriting as career for this reason.

Self-employed. Self-moderated.

My husband is a self-employed cameraman, so I definitely didn’t waltz into freelancing with a headful of dreams and naive to the downsides of being my own boss. The pressure of the busy spells versus the anxiety of dry spells. The paperwork and accounting (yawn). The unpaid holidays. I knew what was coming. But still, I wanted a piece of the freelance fun.

It wasn’t entirely about taking holidays on a whim, and serving up sparkling copy to delighted clients whilst perched with my laptop sipping posh coffee at a seafront cafe. Honestly? OK, it was a fairly big part of the attraction (you’ve got to dream, right?), however, there was more to it than this.

No grand plan. I just took an opportunity to write.

I never really had a career plan. Scrap that, I’ve never plan. Most days I struggle even to pin myself down to a daily to-do list, preferring to tackle tasks based on a more fanciful mixture of proximity of deadline and whim. Luckily, I’m blessed with my parents’ solid work ethic and a heavy dose of self-discipline to keep me on track.

It’s undeniable though that my career destiny is largely determined by a mixture of fate and opportunity, driven by an unwavering confidence in the soundness of my instinct. I knew I wanted to write for a living and an opportunity to take voluntary redundancy was fate giving me a helping hand.

I never get bored of chasing the next challenge.

My career path was never going to be a linear route to the top. Looking back, in the early days post-university, I moved jobs every one to two years. I felt convinced greener, lusher grass (whether that was pay, prestige or fulfilment) was always only another job interview away. That’s the eternal optimist in me.

Equally, I loved the interview process (I’m completely aware how weird this is by the way). Seeking out new opportunities and then throwing myself into the ring was something I embraced, making me an easy target for circling recruitment agents. Being naturally competitive, my success rate at winning new roles (rather then length of service) was something I proudly wore as a badge of honour.

With freelance copywriting, I finally found ‘the one’.

July 2019, marks 10 years since I first started out as a freelance copywriter. That’s s whole decade in the same role. It’s probably cause for party of some kind (maybe I’ll save that for my next birthday though – yes, it’s a big one).

So what’s made me stick with freelance copywriting?

  • Writing is my dream job

This all sounds very gushy (sorry about that) but I don’t really mind if it’s software or sofas I’m writing about. Regardless of the topic, helping people and businesses to find the right words to express themselves gives me a whole lot of satisfaction. I talk a lot about the power of words.

  • It’s a great outlet for my curiosity

I like to talk (if you know me, you know). But more than that, I like to listen, to explore, and fully understand. I love books and movies that are based on real people and their life events. But I always want to know more. As the credits roll on one screen, I’ll be on Google tapping into the background of the characters and dissecting the minor details of the story line. I find businesses, their brands, their people, the ambitions driving them, and the challenges they encounter equally fascinating. Helping businesses to develop their personality and share their story, never gets boring. Ever.

  •  I get to win (and fail, which is not always a bad thing)

Freelancing definitely plugs the gap that used to be filled by regularly putting myself up for interview. I get the thrill of ‘winning’ every time I pitch to a new client. And facing failure from time to time means I never get stale, because there’s always a new challenge or a new skill to master. From SEO to social media marketing, as a freelancer you can’t afford to get left behind. For this reason, the itchy feet I always suffered with as an employee, they just don’t factor into my work as a freelance copywriter.

  • Self-employment has created new opportunities

My clients and projects make my work wonderfully diverse, which definitely satisfies my restless nature, but it’s the freedom freelancing gives me to do other things too that I really appreciate. My spontaneous nature loves a side hustle. I’m a director of a tech firm, and being part of the journey of growing a start-up is an opportunity I’m grateful I was able to jump on. I also run a holiday cottage with my husband and have branched out into journalism and dabbled with photography. All of this real world experience, brings a whole lot of of added value to my copywriting services too.

  • No ‘should of’, ‘would of’, ‘if’ and ‘but’.

In the last ten years the flexibility of freelancing has allowed me to explore personal goals. I’ve run a half marathon, climbed Kilimanjaro, learnt to street dance, lived in the city, spent weeks living by the sea, spent four weeks snowboaring in the Alps, and been able to support my family in various ways.

But most significantly, in this time I’ve uncovered my maternal instinct and become a mum to two girls. The flexibility of my work (combined with my husband being freelance too) allows us to give our children a wonderfully exciting upbringing, that they thoroughly deserve. I’m the type of mum I want to be.

Freelance copywriting is not all tea and roses.

However, ask me if there is anything else I’d rather be, I’d say ‘no way’ before you’ve even finished the question. I work harder for myself than I have any previous employer (apologies past bosses but it’s true I’m afraid). My days have no order, predictability is zero, the lack of financial security has me constantly on the edge of my seat, and not every client makes my heart sing.

But that’s what makes freelance life exciting, right?

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