6 Months Of Being Self Employed

Last year I finally made the decision to become self employed, after years of working towards my goal of being a freelance writer. I was apprehensive, with it being something I'd been thinking about doing for around a year, but it finally felt like the right time to make the move. For me it wasn't so much of a financial risk as I'm on ESA (Employment and Support Allowance) due to being unable to work traditional hours in a traditional environment outside of my house. However, this did add it's own added complications as there are a lot of rules about working on ESA. I was anxious but I'd turned down a lot of paid work previous to becoming self employed and that was really limiting my ability to make progress as a writer. So, what have these first 6 months been like?

There was a lot of paperwork at the beginning, I had to register as self employed with HMRC and also inform the DWP that I intended to start permitted work. I can work up to 16 hours a week and earn up to £131.50 a week on ESA, and for me I'm not working or earning anywhere near that so I thankfully had no issues when informing the DWP of my intentions. There were a lot of questions on the forms I had to fill out that really did not relate to me as a self employed freelance writer however, so I sent a letter alongside the form explaining the nature of my work and that seemed to clear up any queries and blank spaces. Once all the paperwork was done all I had to do was start finding work!

Over the past 6 months I have predominately worked as a freelance writer, writing for online and print publications as well as writing a short piece for a book. I have also done sponsored posts for my blog, been paid for a quote given for another book and gained one photography job, so work has varied quite a bit! Most of my working hours are spent brainstorming and pitching pieces right now, on average I've gotten paid work around two times a month. I'm definitely finding that I need to try and widen the topics I write about to gain more freelance writing work.

Of course I have discovered the joy that is having to chase up invoices, I'd say so far I've had to chase up around 75% of my invoices, it's something I expected but it doesn't make it any easier to deal with! I'm lucky that I live at home and don't rely solely on my freelance work to pay my bills, I can only imagine how difficult it must be to be a freelancer full time, there really is so much uncertainty.

I was asked a few questions on Twitter and Instagram about being self employed and a freelance writer and how that relates to my disability, so hopefully I've covered everything!

How do you pitch and how long does it take you to write a pitch?

Over the past few years I've been able to build up a lot of contacts that have really helped me out in these first 6 months. Through my blog I'd already written some pieces for online and print publications and so to get me started I really utilised those contacts where possible. When I have an idea I first work out which is the most appropriate publication for it, where it would fit best. If it's theatre related then this narrows things down quite easily but if it's disability related then there are often a few publications that spring to mind who take on such pieces. If I don't already have a contact there then it's time to get googling and find out who is the most appropriate person to contact. Sometimes places have a dedicated email for freelancers who want to pitch, which makes things easier but also it means you sometimes don't get a response because of the sheer volume of emails they receive. If this isn't the case then I try and hunt down the editors contact information. And then it's on to writing the pitch itself!

If I'm writing a pitch for a publication I've written for previously it doesn't take me quite as long because I don't need to introduce myself, these pitches usually take around 15 minutes to put together. If I'm contacting a publication for the first time however pitches usually take at least 30 minutes. I'll introduce myself, provide some relevant examples of my work and usually go into a little more detail about what I want to write about and why it would work well on their platform. Pitching really is about selling yourself and your piece and explaining why this particular piece would work well for their audience. I would also say to check on a publication's website to see if there have been any recent pieces similar to what you want to write about, if there are then I'd suggest pitching elsewhere unless you have a dramatically different angle!

How do you pace yourself? 

I have always been very bad at pacing, especially when it comes to writing. I've tried so many things over the years but when I'm in the flow of writing I often find it difficult to take a break and then return to the same flow afterwards. I try not to spend more than 30 minutes doing the same thing though, so I'll write for 30 minutes, take a break, and then maybe answer my emails for 30 minutes and take a break. I find this also helps my creativity, I've had writers block quite a bit and switching up what I'm doing and getting out the house has helped that a lot. It really is just about listening to my body though, if I wake up in the morning and I know that sitting at my desk is going to be difficult then I just won't work that day. The beauty of self employment means I don't have to stick to traditional working hours either, I rarely work before 11am and I do most of my work in the afternoon and evening.

How did you get into freelance writing?

I've been writing my blog for over 8 years now and for me that has really been the stepping stone to freelance writing. Starting your own blog really is my number one advice for anyone who wants to be a freelance writer, it gives you your own platform to develop your writing and find out what you're passionate about. At the very start, before I'd had much experience writing for publications, I was able to use my blog posts as examples of my work. In particular, posts such as my one about the plastic straw ban really demonstrated my journalistic skills. Writing for charities is also another way to gain more experience, my first piece of published writing was for a charity magazine. Even now I still write posts for places like Scope, it's unpaid but it keeps me writing and building up my experience, as well as getting my name out there. I've taken as many writing opportunities as I can over the years and that really has got me to where I am now, simply writing my own blog was what got me the opportunity to write an essay for a book. You never know where these things might lead you!

I am so glad that I finally made the decision to become self employed, it's been incredible to be able to spend so much time doing the thing I love most, and getting paid for it. No longer am I having to turn down opportunities, I can finally stop holding back and just go for things!

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