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Freelance journalists - are you happy you did it?

(10 Posts)
PrincessOrElsa Sun 31-May-15 18:38:31

I recently went back to work after maternity leave. My work are happy to let me do three days a week - my son (1.5yr) does two days a week with childminder, one with GP. I'm starting to fantasise about going freelance - more time with son, no commuting time/cost, could get a dog etc.

I have a niche and quite a lot of experience and contacts, but I know it could still be hard going. We could probably survive on DH's income if it came to it.

Would I be mad to leave a three-days-a-week staff job? I'm thinking it will pretty hard to find a similar job where they'll let me do three days a week straightaway.

Would love to hear your thoughts - freelance journos, are you glad you did it? Thank you!

MrsMargoLeadbetter Sun 31-May-15 23:01:10

I am not a journalist (helpful) but I would say:

- How long have you been back at work? I think it is normal for it to take a while to settle back in. Sorry if that sounds patronising, but I know I spent the first few months back dreaming about being a SAHM - which I'd be terrible at! 3 days a week is the Holy Grail to some...

- I find freelancing (marketing, so not the same as a journo) very feast or famine. Obviously you can turn stuff down but that could affect your future relationship with that contact, so I tend to say yes to everything which means a terrible worklife/balance at times. I do also benefit by being able to get to school events which are generally in the middle of the day more easily than if I was employed.

- I too dream of getting a dog - like this one (pics only visible on the desktop should you not know)! However, I find I need to go into London for lots of meetings, some of which last all day....so we haven't bitten the bullet yet. As adding in 'book dogwalker' to my list of things to do to get prepared for a meeting isn't something I can quite take on!

Hopefully somebody from your field will be along.

Good luck with whatever you decide.

MrsMargoLeadbetter Sun 31-May-15 23:02:36

Sorry should point out I went back to employed work post DS. I became freelancer a couple of years later as I left a job I didn't like and felt it was worth a go. That was 4 years ago and 1 additional baby later.

TwelveLeggedWalk Tue 02-Jun-15 14:22:43

Yes, you'd be mad grin. But I think you can do both...

I have freelanced for 7 years now, and I'm not about to go back to a staff role any time soon. BUT, I did that with the safety net of doing my old staff job on a freelance basis for 6.5 of those 7 years. This was the best of both worlds in some respects - I had regular retainer work, I also had a title I was on the masthead of that I could use to secure contacts and invites (much easier as a staffer than a freelancer often). I then did other, mainly corporate and event, freelance work around it.

It was far from ideal, the negatives being often having too much work, being reluctant to turn down well paying occasional work but still having the low-paying regular work, so often swamped, working lots of nights and weekends etc. But organising childcare around freelancing is almost impossible otherwise. The past 6 months I've been reliant on generating my own work, and although I'm busier than I'd expected I have kept my childcare up which wold have been a financial hit if I'd had a longer quiet period.

I presume you know how much your title pay freelancers? And how many commissions they are likely to individually get per month? Could you live on that?

My suggestion, if it is any use to you at all, would be to increase your GP days to two a week, and use your 4th working day to begin freelancing - if writing for competitor titles while you're still employed might be a problem, then writing about your niche for other outlets, corporate work, copywriting, whatever you fancy/think you could pitch for.

Then as that builds up you might be able to go down to 2 employed days, and swop the GP day when you're in the office for a 2nd freelance day. But, assuming you are only paying for the CM days, you wouldn't be losing money.

Only when you find yourself turning down large quantities of work would I quit your regular job. And even then I'd ask if you could do it on a freelance basis instead!

And don't forget - as a part time worker you still have paid holiday, sick leave, maternity leave, pension... As a freelancer you'll get nada.

Estjab Thu 04-Jun-15 22:01:03

Absolutely - best thing I ever did. I'm in a variety niche area and that's the key, I think. I earn far more than when I was working full time.

What's your niche (if you're at liberty to say? And do have anything published as yet?

P'S I'm a mum of 4 (ages 15, 13, 7 and 4)

Estjab Thu 04-Jun-15 22:03:12

Sorry, 'very' niche - blasted prescriptive text!

PrincessOrElsa Thu 04-Jun-15 22:39:40

Thanks for all your thoughts. I've been a journalist for 13 years, so lots of articles, including some freelance. Though can't freelance under current contract - not sure they'd let me do both.

Sorry to be paranoid, but slightly cautious about saying my niche on the tiny off chance someone in my office is reading!

LauraChant Thu 04-Jun-15 22:56:52

Hello! I am a freelance journalist, also with a niche, have been working from home since I had DS2 five years ago. For me it works very well. I am lucky that DH does the same thing so we can juggle childcare depending on who has the most work. I don't earn nearly as much as I did working full-time in London but I don't have to pay transport or childcare, I have flexible hours and can be around after school and during holidays which is important to me.

I mostly work for my previous company but have been diversifying in subject matter and form (bit of PR, but of copywriting) which makes things interesting. I no longer live in London and any job I could do here (there are some) would not pay enough to make giving up freelancing worthwhile for me. For me going freelance was the only option but it is also the best thing in terms of work life balance.

iamwomanhearmesnore Wed 17-Jun-15 07:14:45

Another freelance writer in a niche area here. Not sure if I'm exactly glad I went freelance - I moved countries so an in-house role wasn't an option anymore - so the decision was made really.

I did a get two gorgeous dogs though - and children grin - and that part is lovely. The lack of benefits and pension etc is not so great. If I was still in the UK I might be tempted to be in-house but freelancing does work for me at this stage of the game.

PeppermintCrayon Wed 17-Jun-15 07:24:59

I make more as a freelancer and enjoy having the freedom to write about different subjects and do more or less as I please. I had another staff job for a bit and it drove me bananas that I got paid the same no matter how hard I worked. It's hard not having any employee benefits though.

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