How I was able to become a professional freelance blogger

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I think there are two reasons why more people don’t become professional bloggers, even if they want to.

  1. It sounds unachievable.
  2. They haven’t discovered the potential of the internet.

At the risk of becoming an ardent evangelist, I’m aware that I’m placing my livelihood on quite a risky medium – the internet.

However, other people also place their livelihoods on other risky mediums, and that’s not just professional musicians or actors.

Financiers are at the mercy of the market. Charity workers are at the mercy of the performance of the organisation.

By coming to terms with risk, I was actually able to see that everything I was worried about going wrong with my vision was actually very unlikely to happen.

Change your ideas about blogging

There are people who are professional ‘bloggers’ and for them, blogging is a business. Blogging is the tool through which they sell their products and they can become very rich on it.

I am a professional blogger in the sense that I write blog posts for a living, which is very different. My blog is also my business because it generates clients for me, but I don’t sell any products through my blog.

This is where a lot of people go wrong when they start to learn about blogging.

If blogging as a business is what you’re interested in, I recommend Jon Morrow’s blog, Smartblogger.

I’m talking about blogging as a freelancer, which means selling your blogging services.

Read The Four Hour Work Week

The reason I was able to become a professional freelance blogger was by reading quite a famous book, The Four Hour Work Week, by Tim Ferris.

Among other things, he helps you work through your irrational fears about taking risks, and it enabled me to understand that traditional ‘employees’ like myself need to come to terms with taking control, and traditional ‘entrepreneurs’ need to learn how to let go of control.

While this book isn’t gospel or the be all and end all, it’s certainly essential reading if you’re planning to start your own business or launch a freelance career. I’m putting together a list of top reads for budding freelancers, so watch out for that soon.

Introduce minimalism to your life

Another thing that Tim’s book spurred me to on to do was go through all of my possessions to whittle them down to the bare minimum. (I mean, I still have loads of stuff). But I had been accumulating more and more for years, and it got to the point where moving was a real pain.

By minimalising, and streamlining all of my possessions, I was able to see how I could again put my belongings into storage and move out of my flat.

A lot of my well-being had become attached to my home, and while that’s still important, my belief that I needed to live in the centre of London meant I would need to be earning upwards of £1,500 a month from freelancing (and that’s not even taking into account tax).

While that’s certainly attainable in the long term, it’s a lot of pressure to put on myself in my first few months of freelancing.

So, by terminating my tenancy and paying only about £100 a month for storing my favourite items, I’m now free to travel or live somewhere cheaper. I don’t need my home comforts to be happy, because becoming a freelance blogger is more important.

Trial freelancing before quitting

You wouldn’t just go into a relationship with someone you didn’t know – you’d go on a few dates first to see if it would be likely to work out.

You need to see if your personality would be a good fit for freelancing – you need to be disciplined, able to work alone, at the same time adept at building your freelance community, and good at dealing with rejection.

Work out the minimum you would need to earn to make freelancing a success, and set concrete milestones that you need to pass before you actually quit your job. That will make you more accountable and stops you subconsciously moving the goalposts.

Just keep your freelancing separate from your work if you think it might be a conflict of interests. Most workplaces should really value the employee that is pushing themselves outside of work to develop and grow.

Work on your issues

I wasn’t always good at the things that enable me to be a freelancer. I was distinctly undisciplined for many years, but going through some difficult times made me realise that

I had to sort out the things I was avoiding through turning to alcohol and other distractions.

It turned out that I was developing an ability to deal with pain and transform it into something positive, that would help me cope with adult life.

Sadly, if you’re not willing to face your issues, you’re going to find it very hard to follow your dreams. This is because you’ll always be sabotaging yourself, either through procrastination, making mistakes or numbing out.

Only through personal growth can we follow the right path.

Actually… write?

I’ve been keeping this blog for quite a few years and if you look back through the archives, you can see how far I’ve come. I’ve even got other abandoned blogs where the posts are far more embarrassing than anything you’ll find here. But it all takes practice.

Not only do you need to write but you need to actually show it to other people and get it out into the world. That’s a huge stumbling block for many writers. I remember how painful it was when I first had to get used to criticism.

And that’s the key to success – being willing to learn and look a bit foolish in the eyes of others. You’re not perfect, you won’t always be right, and sometimes you’ll get it wrong.

But ultimately, it gets easier because you spend less time stressing over things that don’t matter.

Find out more about how I quit my job to become a freelance writer. Feel free to email me at catherine@awaywithwords.co if you have any questions about freelancing, or check out my professional freelance blog

CatherineCatherine Julianne is a blogger and content writer obsessed with the field of personality systems theory. She also likes tech, visual art, Eastern practices, adventures and being in nature. 

 

How to become a writer in the 21st century

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We have a lot of preconceived notions about what it means to be a writer, not all of them related to the 21st century. Many of these images stem from the past, when vastly different technologies dominated our society. The typewriter, for example.

This fact is important, because as someone who’s life’s ambition is to become a writer, the job opportunities must be clearly defined in order for me to realise my dreams.

Writing myths

There are a lot of myths and stereotypes attached to being a writer, not least because it’s a ‘creative’ career but also the fact that it is a ‘profession’. Because of these associations, only certain people seem like they are allowed to become writers.

And then there are the thoughts, what if I’m not good enough? What if no one likes what I write? What if they do?! Then what?

In school, you’re encouraged to study subjects at A Level that you’re good at and you may want to carry on to university. In some schools (not mine), children are encouraged at quite a young age to start building careers as doctors, politicians, bankers or journalists.

In my school, they were happy if you went to university, it being a relatively under-funded comprehensive school.

Gathering dust

So with the focus on just getting people to pass their exams, I never really grasped how I would pursue my dream of becoming a writer. It began to gather dust, especially as I went to university, had fun, and learnt about academia.

But then I graduated and had to make a decision about life, so I moved to London with vague plans of becoming a writer. Ha!

All my plan involved was wandering around tree-lined North London streets with a notebook, musing, and people raving about my genius – you know, Virginia Woolf style.

Real adult life was a rude awakening, to say the least. It took me five years, a lot of disappointment, frustration and depression, to get to where I am now.

Lessons learned

I’ve learned it’s not enough to vaguely say I want to be a writer. I’ve got to plan for it in a way that society will pay for, so naturally my thoughts went to becoming a
journalist.

But I didn’t want to play that game. I didn’t have the money to spend on another postgraduate qualification, especially after my ill-advised masters. I didn’t want to keep my finger on the pulse of all the trivialities and tragedies that we call news. I didn’t want to work long, anti-social hours.

Other types of writers are novelists – but it doesn’t pay the bills when you’re writing your bestseller for several years. Also, I don’t want to write a bestseller – I want to write a
classic. This is going to take many years and I’ve already been working on my fantasy novel for more than a decade – I started it when I was fifteen!

I worked in communications, but ironically I wasn’t officially allowed to do any of the writing. I had to work on the technology side of things instead.

Which, amazingly it turns out, launched my career as a freelance blogger (among many other things, of course).

The power of the internet

I learned how the internet is an incredible medium for people to connect with audiences.

I’d long been exposed to derogatory opinions about the internet from journalists writing in the newspapers I read, I imagine because it was threatening the model of traditional print media and its monopoly on ‘the news’.

Well, that ship has sailed now. In just a short few years, the internet has blazed like wildfire through our society, with some good and bad consequences.

A good consequence is that it’s possible for you to make up your own job. No, really. As long as people will pay you for it, you can use the internet to connect with them at relatively low-cost. The barriers for entry into business have been drastically lowered.

Try to wrench your mind away from precocious YouTube stars and celebrities on Instagram. Of course, competition is stiff, but that’s where persistence, experience and defining a niche comes in.

Getting paid to write

I love freelance blogging because it is amazing to have so much fun and get paid for it. I’ve chosen clients in a niche that I love, which is technology, and often focus on issues affecting women in the technology sector, which I feel really passionate about.

I run my women in tech blog, Away with Words, partly to showcase my abilities and interests for professional reasons, but I genuinely love thinking of and writing new posts. It’s so rewarding when people engage with them and give me their feedback.

So, being a freelance writer in the 21st century looks a little different from when Samuel Pepys was writing his diaries as London was burning, or John Keats was penning his sonnets during the time when women weren’t even allowed to vote.

Avoiding pitfalls

Of course there is still space for the traditional journalist, but this is not the hallowed career it once was. Journalists must manage the interests of the business that owns their paper, limiting their capacity for true freedom of expression. The weakening of unions means that they’re not protected from losing their jobs if their writing is dissident from established values.

And novelists must write for the mass market, unless they’re Jonathan Franzen. Communications professionals are contracted to write the views of their company.

That’s why I love being a freelance blogger. I choose the clients I work with, and they seek me out based on my blog, so we have similar values. I don’t write anything that makes my skin crawl.

Contact me on catherine@awaywithwords.co if you have any questions about becoming a freelance writer, or anything else.

Reflections on my self-employment so far

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I recently quit my job to become a freelance blogger and content writer. I just published a post entitled ‘How I feel about quitting my job‘. This is Part II of that post series.

This is what I’ve learned so far on my journey into freelancing.

  1. Putting myself out there is really difficult.
  2. There’s a lot of conflicting advice out there.
  3. It’s easy to get side-tracked but you need to learn the value of letting some “opportunities” pass you by.
  4. It’s easy to get caught up in the moment and make impulsive decisions.
  5. You need to consider a plan from all angles and carefully decide how to proceed.
  6. Take time out from your “productivity” to regain your centre and reduce anxiety.
  7. One must develop a public persona that matches with their private core.
  8. One must not compromise themselves for the world, neither must they be afraid to bare their soul.
  9. The insecurity will always come raging back but we must blindly feel our way, one step lit up at a time, and no more.
  10. It’s hard to stray from the beaten path because there is no roadmap, nothing to tell you if you are going the right way. Don’t panic, though, because others have been here before you.
  11. Try not to think about all the precocious success stories who make it barely seem worth trying. There’s a middle ground between that and abject failure – which is moderate competence, and that’s the path we aim to walk.
  12. There will be many failures as we try to learn new things in the world at large, actualising by experiencing and it’s going to hurt. But we must remember that everything is going to be okay.
  13. You have to physically embody your creative dream and not be afraid of how others will judge you.
  14. Try to ignore all the thousands of past opinions weighing down on you and remember that there is no reason why you can’t succeed.
  15. You just need to calm down, look around you, and find a way to make it happen.
  16. Forget everything you think you’ve been told about “the way to do things”.
  17. And sometimes, stop looking.
  18. Integrate all experiences as having some value.
  19. And, if you don’t ask, you don’t get. You need to ask for the working arrangements you want and believe you have a right to fulfilment and satisfaction.
  20. Don’t rush things, be patient, but at the same time commit to deliberate action.

I’ll write more posts on this topic as they come to mind. If there’s something specific you’d like me to cover, email me at catherine@awaywithwords.co. 

You can also check out my women in tech blog, Away with Words

imageCatherine Julianne is a blogger and content writer obsessed with the field of personality systems theory. She also likes tech, visual art, Eastern practices, adventures and being in nature. 

 

Image: Brooke Cagle, Unsplash

How I feel about quitting my job

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I haven’t posted on this blog in a while, mainly because I started a new women in tech blog, Away With Words.

This new post is for all the people who may be thinking about doing something scary, or are struggling to find a new path for themselves.

Why I quit my job

Though I’ve wanted to be a freelance writer ever since I was mature enough to understand I need to have some kind of job, actually quitting my full-time job was something I thought I’d do in my late thirties, or maybe never.

Being just your average person, I settled for getting a job in an office (my ultimate nightmare!) and this was mainly because I didn’t have a clue how to become a freelancer.

It turned out that working in an office is nowhere near as bad as I thought it would be (well, my first proper job was, but you live and learn). It was actually kind of fun at times, and of course everyone is lovely.

But something nagged at me, telling me that I wasn’t fulfilling myself. I didn’t feel I was ‘complete’ by doing the work I was doing, and I always wondered about what else there was ‘out there’.

Overcoming a lack of self-belief

Since I didn’t believe it was possible for me to become a freelance writer, I didn’t even try to look for other work.

Instead, I did a lot of volunteer writing, which taught me a lot. I also wrote on this blog, and some very kind people gave me great feedback about the posts I shared.

Finally, one day in April 2016, I’d had enough.

I had been searching for my next step on the career ladder, and I got rejected after having an interview for another job. I was really annoyed and decided to throw in the towel on the whole career ladder thing – extreme! This was because my heart wasn’t in it.

I spoke to one of my friends about how he’d managed to quit his job as a recruiter (grueling!) and started travelling the world while running his own business. His words of encouragement were resounding, and they started me off on my journey.

I was also emboldened by another friend, who had to cope after losing his job. My worst nightmare had evolved from working in an office, which I was already doing, and turned into getting fired, but their triumph and grace made me see that the worst is never really that bad.

That it’s always me and my own fears that are holding me back.

So, after trying out freelance writing for a couple of months, it turned out I could make quite a bit of money out of it.

And then I quit.

Well actually, I tearfully told my manager I was going to quit and then I went on holiday.

Then, I quit.

How I knew what to do

It’s been really sad but I know I’m making the right decision. The time is right to leave.

I learnt so much from my job and it is a hugely contributing factor to how I’m able to become a successful freelancer. I met wonderful, helpful people and learnt about business, marketing and workplace culture.

Telling everyone I know about my decision has been an ongoing process, and I’m stunned to be able to say that every single reaction has been positive. No one has asked me if I’m crazy, or what I’m going to do if I fail.

Everyone has been wholeheartedly supportive (at least to my face!) and been excited for me. Maybe it’s because I am an extremely cautious and sensible person so they assume I know what I’m doing (heh…). Or maybe everyone I know is also crazy.

Now what?

I’ve learned that there are many things you can do, even if you lack self-belief. You can build up that belief – you just have to work up the courage to take that single first step. That is the turning point between complacency and exhilaration.

So, if anyone else is thinking of making a big leap, I’d be happy to talk to you about how I dealt with the anxiety I felt (and still feel), and how I have systematically taken calculated risks to ensure I stand the best chances of success.

My next post will be about what I have learned from being self-employed. 

Image: Phoebe Dill, Unsplash

 

How to inspire creativity

It can get a bit boring just sticking to one medium all the time. Even though you may be a strong writer, it’s fun to branch out and expand your horizons. Creativity isn’t something that always happens at a desk, but can permeate many – if not all – areas of your life.

Visual mediums

Try turning your literary creations into something visual. You may naturally tell stories in the written form, but comics are also a great way to express a story. Different ideas suit different mediums, so for example a biting satire about modern life might suit visual form better because it’s quick and easily digestible.

You can also experiment with drawing a character from your story, or actually going to the place that you want to write about. Visit DeviantArt for character inspiration!

On foot

Keep a travel diary, so you can imagine what it’s like to be that particular character, even if it’s just in your own city. See your own life with new eyes, and this childlike wonder at experience will translate into your own writing. I’m based in London, so I’d head over to this incredible blog post for new ideas for inspiring places to visit in the city.

Non-fiction

If you want to explore a complex topic relating to existential philosophy, a long blog post could be the way to go. Non-fiction can definitely be creative, especially if it involves coming up with new ideas, new solutions or a different way of looking at things. WordPress is an amazing platform for blogging where you can easily set up a blog if you haven’t already.

Hands on

With all that writing, it’s sometimes nice to switch off your brain and do something hands-on. I really enjoy crafting, whether that’s cutting up some old patterned material to create a terrible cushion that looks like a child made it, or rearranging a room to make it look like somewhere new. It’s Nice That is a website that shares beautiful content related to crafting.

Eating

Experiment with different foods. It can be really fun implementing a new creative way to eat, whether that’s trying to think of healthier meals or incorporating more vegetarian dishes into your diet. Eating more healthily is great for creativity because when you’re feeling good, all those brain cells will be firing even more quickly and making better connections. I tend browse BBC Good Food for new recipe ideas.

Learn coding

Funnily enough, coding is actually a great way to be creative, and learn to code is not as hard as you think. CodeAcademy and General Assembly are the most amazing online resources for learning to code – and, they’re totally free! Any self-respective creative person nowadays can benefit from learning how the back end of the internet works, and becoming a bit more technical in their online knowledge.

Learning HTML and CSS means you can eventually code the front end of websites and blogs, share your work, and bring your creative vision to life!

imageCatherine Julianne is a writer and digital communications professional obsessed with the field of personality systems theory. She also likes visual art, Eastern practices, adventures and being in nature. 

Image: Unsplash

The secret of productivity

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There is really no secret of productivity except engaging in meaningful work. If you are motivated to complete the work you have set out to do, you will procrastinate less and work faster.

Nevertheless, here are some tips to help you be more productive:

  • Don’t do anything you don’t love (beyond normal life obligations) because then you will feel a sense of “not enough time” as you’re not spending it on the right things for you.
  • Don’t waste time imagining negative futures or living in idealised pasts because all you will ever have is now, and anything else is a waste.
  • Get your priorities straight because then you will easily be able to decide how to spend your time. It’s a fact that you won’t be able to do everything.
  • Establish a stable routine which will keep you balanced and reduce emotional stress, therefore making it easier not to waste time on negativity which is draining. Negativity is anything that doesn’t promote your own joy, growth and expansion.
  • Honestly get up earlier, it’s easier to get things done in the morning. Who feels like doing anything after a long day at work?
  • Don’t make the first thing you do one of obligation, like going to work.
    Have at least an hour per day devoted to your favourite activity, such as writing, watching a film, sketching, reading a book. This will set the tone for the whole day, if you start off with wonderful things you will seek wonderful things.
  • Reorganise your mind’s schedule to two weeks instead of one – seven days is a fairly arbitrary number and not enough to get through a full cycle of everything you want to do.
  • Keep your mind very well organised by prioritising everything you want to do. Make regular life plans, from 6 months to 6 years. You will subconsciously keep adjusting your course with less active effort involved, saving time.
  • Don’t try to multitask because this is literally impossible and you end up splintering your attention, reducing your joy in the task. Why do it if it’s not important enough to focus on? Also, you might make a mistake and have to correct it later, wasting time.
  • If you still feel like you don’t have enough time, cut out some less essential things. If you want to be a great artist, maybe your home can suffer being a little messier.
  • Really take time out. Time has a funny way of stretching when you counterpose periods of activity with periods of repose.
  • Make spreadsheets. If it’s making you feel stressed, it’s probably too complex to hold in your mind, so you need to break it down and structure it.
  • Meditate regularly. This breaks you out of the hamster wheel of endless conscious thought, and helps you enter a more relaxed state of mind which is more conducive to real productivity (rather than busywork).
  • Do a monthly online shop to stop you going to the small supermarkets every day.
  • When making to do lists, make sure you write down the concrete steps needed to complete the task. So, rather than “clean room” which is quite abstract, maybe write: hoover, put clothes away, change bedsheets, so you feel a sense of completion when these have been done.
  • Put everything that you may not naturally remember to do in your digital calendar – eg Google Calendar. This frees up valuable mental space to focus on other things, and reduces the stress caused when forgetting to do important tasks.

There really is honestly no secret to productivity apart from having what you want to achieve most at the top of your priority list. If you’re willing to devote the time to writing that book, making that video game or drawing that graphic novel, you will. If you always forsake dedication to art and spend your time on other tasks, you will never achieve your goals.

imageCatherine Julianne is a writer and digital communications professional obsessed with the field of personality systems theory. She also likes visual art, Eastern practices, adventures and being in nature. 

Image: Unsplash