Diversifying as a copywriter

It’s more than a year since I made the decision to go freelance and hand in my notice at my old job.

In that time, as you can imagine, I’ve done quite a bit. The first couple of months were, naturally, spent working out my notice, building up some potential clients and learning to do my own accounts. But then I was out in the wild, left to bring in work by myself with no promise of a pay packet at the end of the month.

Somewhat surprisingly, it all went pretty smoothly. I didn’t starve, was able to pay my share of the bills and my husband has only had to help me plug the occasional gap while waiting for a client to pay. I’ve had steady (and lovely!) clients, a manageable influx of new work (although I could always have more!), plus the opportunity to be as flexible as I want to be.

The funny thing is, as I look back at the last year, I haven’t just been doing copywriting. As well as the expected press releases, blogs and articles that I knew I’d be producing for people, I’ve done so much more as well.

Teaching

I’ve collaborated a lot with wehearttech C.I.C. (where I’m also a director) over the last year, most recently on their Blogging 101 workshop in Wigan where I worked with my friend and colleague Hayley to teach sole traders and SMEs about the basics of blogging for their business. This week I’ve also started teaching on the iWell project, working with vulnerable adults and adults with learning disabilities to teach them about safe use of social media and digital wellbeing.

The work with wehearttech is something I always planned to get more involved in once I went freelance, since I’ve been a director there since its conception in 2013 and I have a background in teaching in Higher Education, but it’s something I’ve found particularly fulfilling.

Design

I have no pretensions of being seen as a designer. I’m creative and I enjoy design, but I am categorically not a graphic designer. That said, I have taken on small pieces of basic design work, mostly commissioned through wehearttech that have dove-tailed neatly with my work as a copywriter. This has included producing an infographic to summarise the social enterprise’s Tea & Tech project and designing and writing a leaflet to highlight Wigan S.T.E.A.M.’s Canal Fest, celebrating the anniversary of the Leeds-Liverpool Canal in Wigan.

While certainly not a main part of what I consider my job, I have to say that it’s always fun to do something that breaks away from the norm and the results have been great.

Social Media

Another client has had me managing their social media accounts for them, scheduling in content and keeping tabs on the different platforms – as well as suggesting ways to improve engagement. Again, this isn’t something that I planned on being a big part of my day job, but it’s fun work and helps me stay up to date on the tech aspects of my role, making it win-win.

PR

While press releases are something copywriters are used to whipping up (not literally, they do take some work!), actual PR work is something else entirely. However, my background is in PR and one of my clients is a former employer so, when they needed someone to handle some basic PR work for them for a couple of months, they approached me.

While I’m not quite at the level of planning big events anymore, I can certainly do some of the more basic tasks (besides the obvious writing of press releases and articles to be placed) and this freed them up to handle bigger things. It was great fun for me too and reminded me of some skills I forgot I had.

So is diversifying a good thing?

I would say so – for me, at least. While I’ll always be, first and foremost a Freelance Copywriter & Director at wehearttech C.I.C., I really like stepping up to the challenge of something a bit different. It breaks up any danger of monotony and it allows me to accept work that I might otherwise have had to pass on.

So, if you’re a freelancer reading this, think about other skills that you have and how you can make them work for you. If you’re a potential client, don’t be shy to ask me about tasks other than copywriting. If it really isn’t something I can do, I’ll always be honest and say. But if it’s something that’s within my skillset and I know I can do a good job then, equally, I’ll tell you so.

blogging workshop blogger digital marketing learning education skills training

Blogging 101 with wehearttech C.I.C.

As well as being a freelance copywriter, I have a second job on the board of directors for social enterprise, wehearttech. On top of my duties as a director, I also assist on projects for the company, which focuses on using technology for social good – everything from teaching elderly people how to use mobile technology, engaging adults with learning disabilities in social media safety or  working with young people to become cultural producers.

A big part of this is making digital training and education accessible to everyone, no matter their skills and background, and that’s why we’ve launched our Blogging 101 workshop! The idea behind Blogging 101 was to create an affordable and engaging workshop suitable for sole traders, SMEs, charities and not-for-profits who may not be able to afford an agency or freelancer to do their blogging for them. Instead, it enables them to take their blogs into their own hands and boost their brand and website visibility themselves.

The workshop aims to give participants the skills they need to set up their own blog (we use WordPress but the skills can be transferred to most blogging platforms), as well as the know-how to plan, research and produce content for said blog. We aim the day at beginners, but more intermediate bloggers will also find it useful in terms of getting the most out of their existing blog.

The first Blogging 101 workshop will be held on Tuesday 13 December 2016 at Wigan STEAM on Library Street, Wigan, opposite the town hall with plenty of parking and transport options nearby. It will be facilitated by myself and Hayley Trowbridge and, between us, we have more than 15 years of experience in teaching, tech, digital marketing and PR. As well as delivering the course, we’ll also be on hand to answer and blogging questions, go through some of your existing posts if you want and, basically, help you and your blog in any way we can.

The workshop will run from 10am to 4pm and places can be booked via Eventbrite for just over £80, including lunch and refreshments. Places are restricted so book yours ASAP or, if you know someone who would like to attend, feel free to share the link.

Sarah Henderson Liverpool freelance copywriter proofreader blogger blog

Why I’m not worried

When I tell people I’ve gone freelance, they keep asking me what my back-up plan is and the simple answer is: I don’t have one.

At first I was pretty worried. Should I have one? Should I have a pile of savings ready in case it all goes belly up? Should I have some job applications waiting in the wings? Conventional wisdom would say yes and conventional wisdom probably does have a point, but I haven’t subscribed to it. Instead I just went for it: quit my job, worked my notice and dived in head first.

Why aren’t I worried?

I’m not worried for a lot of reasons but here are the main ones:

  1. I’m good at what I do so I have confidence I will succeed. It might not be super quick but I will get there over the next few months.
  2. I have a lot of support. My husband, family, friends and colleagues have all been there for me with help, advice, referrals and kind words and that tells me that I can make being a freelancer work.
  3. People I’ve met over the last couple of months genuinely want to help and give me opportunities. I’ve not met one person who’s been horrible or unhelpful.
  4. I’ve got some exciting things on the horizon. Not everything can happen straight away and I know that I should stick with it because I have some fantastic things coming up with wehearttech in the near future as well as some collaborations with friends and former colleagues.

And the final reason?

I have to succeed. Not having a back-up plan means I have no other choice. I have to make this work and I damn well will.

Sarah Henderson copywriter proofreader Liverpool blog

Things I have learned so far working from home

It’s hard to believe but, at this point, I’ve been a freelance copywriter and proofreader for a month. The time has flown so fast it’s actually ridiculous but I feel like I’ve already picked up a few dos and don’ts for anyone else thinking of taking the plunge, quitting their job and going it alone.

Get out of the house

In an office environment, it’s easy to take breaks. You pop out to get coffee with colleagues and you stop through the day to have chats – whether official meetings or simply talking about that show you’re all watching. Working from home, it’s too easy to get wrapped up in work and forget about the rest of the world until your partner walks in and you discover you’ve been going without a break for the last seven or eight hours. I’m making a conscious effort to get out and about more, even if it’s just nipping out to post a letter or running an errand to the high street. I also make sure I take a proper lunch break and, where I can schedule in physical meetings, I make sure I do.

Have a proper workspace

On the subject of working from home, I’ve also found it’s important to have a dedicated space for work. Right now I don’t have the luxury of a proper home office due to lack of space, so in lieu of this, I make sure that I set myself up at the dining room table and put all of my work things away after I’ve finished working. This last part is the most important. Once I’ve finished work for the day I want it out of my sight so I can relax and enjoy my evening without thinking about tasks I have to do the next day.

Silence is not golden

This is probably not the same for everybody but I find working in complete silence kind of distracting. If the house is super quiet, I find every little noise in my street pulls me out of the zone. Equally though, I am not an advocate of having the TV on while I work. Instead, I’ve taken to digging out old records and giving them a spin, or reacquainting myself with some of BBC Radio 2’s daytime shows. Alternatively, popping out to a local coffee shop works as I can let someone else make my cuppa while I indulge in the hustle and bustle.

These are just a few of the things I’ve flagged to myself so far, and I’m sure plenty more will come to me with time. I’d be interested to hear other people’s top tips as well!