Advice on getting off my arse!

(30 Posts)
whatdoesittake48 Wed 09-Apr-14 12:17:02

I am a self employed freelance writer and I make a reasonable living. I have been doing this full time for about 5 years and have a range of clients who keep coming back - but for whatever reason I don't seem to be taking this forward.

I am stuck on my current income and don't seem to improve it. I currently work for around £20 an hour or £25 per 500 words. I can churn this stuff out and so manage to make between £60 and £100 a day. Obviously the rest of my time is spent on admin and TV smile

I think I am underselling myself...

I use sites like PPH rather than sourcing my own clients because it is easier - despite my experience ( am a highly ranked writer on PPH and one of their recommended people - I guess I make them lots of money )

I come up with ideas frequently to improve things - but never seem to do anything about it

I am also somewhat disorganised and can see that there needs to be huge steps in my time management, admin and so on to be able to do more. that said - I rarely miss deadlines and don't mess people about. In terms of the core work it is well written and on time.

I need some ideas - a plan of action to take my career to new places. I am a good writer (I have been described as gifted by clients who simply love my style) and I have an incredible amount of work and probably hundreds of clients to use as examples.

But I just don't know the steps to take. In the long term I would like to manage a small team of talented writers (freelancers) and work closely with clients on full campaigns and more detailed jobs. This already sounds like pie in the sky.

I have just ordered my first set of business cards in five years (yes, this shows my lack of ambition) and I just want some ideas on where to go from here.

I am treading water and want to swim...some of you sound so successful and I feel like I am incapable (yet I know I am not).

Phew sorry about the length - just wanted to explain fully.

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DIYapprentice Wed 09-Apr-14 12:19:42

You need motivation, and the easiest way to get motivated (especially in a job where you work on your own at home) is to physically get out there and meet people. So get to networking meetings, maybe some business conferences etc and meet people.

You will meet new people, get to hear about new companies, and most importantly you will get energised and motivated.

whatdoesittake48 Wed 09-Apr-14 12:50:45

OK - networking meetings. Any advice on how to prepare for these. the thought daunts and frightens the bejesus out of me. I am very presentable, look professional and have a good personality - but sometimes I just want to hide at home...

Number one on the list - networking

What next? What did anyone else do?

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whatdoesittake48 Wed 09-Apr-14 12:51:38

I have a website BTW and a blog and all that - just don't know what to do with it.

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IDismyname Wed 09-Apr-14 13:00:55

I've just finished reading a thread on MN about people who feel that they've missed the boat in terms of making careers for themselves... not going to uni etc etc.

It has also occurred to me that there are loads and loads of SAHMs who would be so so 'up' for working from home as a freelancer. I'm staggered at the number of women who have wonderful qualifications just going to rot behind their front doors - myself included!

(Used to write for interiors magazines - PM me if you need me!! grin)

mistlethrush Wed 09-Apr-14 13:04:24

I've just been to a Local CHamber of Commerce event on networking (free) - you might find that sort of thing is available in your area - and you also might find that the sort of events run by that sort of organisation might be suitable for doing some networking too.

whatdoesittake48 Wed 09-Apr-14 13:23:25

Aaah - didn't think about those free chamber of commerce things. that might be a really good place to start (again).

Thanks Ishould - it really is a problem isn't it. For me, my children are now old enough to be left for at least a couple of hours, but over the years my confidence has well and truly fizzled out.

I have had a couple of articles published in mags (kind of coincidences rather than by design) - but never know if I am following protocol by pitching my ideas.

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WilsonFrickett Wed 09-Apr-14 13:45:03

You need to take yourself out of your routine for a couple of days and really focus on your business and planning. It's too easy to just get sucked into the grind. FWIW I'm kind of in the same place mentally as you, but I earn £250 per day.

First focus needs to be on getting your rates up, which will then buy you time - if you earn 60 pd for four days you'll get 240. If you earn 250 for one day, you'll be a tenner better off and you'll have three spare days to develop your business.

Start with your chambers of commerce, also look and see if there's a business gateway course. You are obviously talented if you can make any kind of living at all from pph, but that is not the place to find the high-paying clients. In fact, they are costing you money. You are subsidising people who won't pay my rates grin. Thing is, you could earn those rates too if you just get off the treadmill.

WilsonFrickett Wed 09-Apr-14 13:46:28

And you need to be earning those kind of rates as a minimum to even contemplate running a copy shop, because you won't get good freelancers to work for half what you're currently earning, iyswim.

So your first objective has to be to get your rates up, and that means new clients.

cakeaddict Wed 09-Apr-14 14:16:33

What about looking around for a local mentor or similar? I know round where I am there are quite a few people offering coaching services to small business & freelancers, or 'business growth' specialists that offer accountability mentoring and things. (Never exactly sure what that is, but I think the idea is generally someone else is on your case helping to make sure you do what you set out to do!).

It sounds as though you have a great core skill set in terms of the actual writing, but need help with the business side of things. And that's OK - as freelancers we often try to take on all roles when that isn't necessarily realistic, but if you are prepared to invest a little bit by buying in some of those business skills it could help you longer term.

whatdoesittake48 Wed 09-Apr-14 14:58:08

Wow Wilson - how many words do you write for that money or is that your day rate? it is certainly how I imagined freelancing would be. Do you work at clients premises or at home and what sort of copy occupies your days, on average? I am actually amazed people are willing to pay those rates (not because we aren't worth it of course). Can I really ask for that?

Sorry to be nosy - but it might help other people too.I hope you find your new groove - just goes to show that we all feel despondent at times.

I think I need to get off the PPH treadmill (as you say) and give myself the space to add in new clients. Perhaps one or two days a week devoted to finding and working for direct clients.

I think I just see myself as a lightweight compared to other professionals in my field. I suppose I feel that I can't ask for more because I am not convinced of my skills.

Cake - I agree. Actually I have been a mentor for other people who want to make a success of PPH. Unpaid of course...then I watch them flourish.

Thank you all so much for taking the time out of your busy days to help me. It really is fab!

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MrsMargoLeadbetter Wed 09-Apr-14 15:02:02

Can you start with the end in mind?

It is worth spending some time thinking about what whatdoes freelance writers inc looks like? It could be difficult to move towards it if you don't have a clear idea of what it will look like and what it will take? Even a 5 year plan would be good?

I think lots of us on here are guilty of undercharging/over-delivering, I know I am. Try a higher rate and see. I upped mine when I was privy to a list of competitors rates on some documents I saw once I'd secured the role (marketing) and I was £0000s cheaper than most! blush

WilsonFrickett Wed 09-Apr-14 15:05:02

Put together your portfolio - it's always worth taking a look back to see what you've achieved.

That's my day rate, I don't work per word. I work at home, either directly for clients or through a creative agency. I can/do get more money going directly to clients but I have a fantastic relationship with my agency, so they effectively do a lot of business development for me. That's one of my issues atm really - one client providing 75% of my work, which is always a risk. I specialise in internal communications as I was an internal communications manager pre-going freelance - so I write copy for employees, basically.

The more nichey the better in my opinion, so if you are reviewing your clips, look and see if there's a particular channel you've worked in and make that your first focus area: whether that's tech, general public, start-ups, whatever - it helps to have a narrow focus.

TwelveLeggedWalk Wed 09-Apr-14 15:06:45

Ok, this is going to sound really critical, but bear with me...

If your rates are £20-25 per hour and you earn £60-100 per day then you're not full time.

Some of my hourly rates are similar or even a bit lower, but I consider £175 to be my absolutely daily minimum, and aim for - and frequently bill £250 per day. That means working more billable hours, or to put it bluntly, working full time.

Yes, your freelance rates need to accommodate admin and networking time, but £25/hour isn't a bad rate. You just need to maximise the work so you're working 7 or 8 hours a day - or even 5 or 6 if you have school runs to fit around.

The clients you are getting through PPH, can you deal directly with them to plan in more rolling/longer-term work to bulk up your hours? ONce you have some good bread and butter clients then you can look at finding new, higher value ones, but I think you might have better luck with existing contacts first.

sunbathe Wed 09-Apr-14 15:10:09

Do your clients from PPH know about your website?

TwelveLeggedWalk Wed 09-Apr-14 15:12:06

Oh and if you want motivation, here are some numbers:

£80 per day average at 5 days a week for 48 weeks a year is £19,200
£200 per day average at 5 days a week for 48 weeks a year is £48,000

grin

whatdoesittake48 Wed 09-Apr-14 15:41:15

Hi twelve - yep you are right. the issue I have is being able to sustain the creativity for longer than 4-5 hours a day. I wish I could do 8 hours a day. I have the time just not the brain power.

My brain goes on a go slow once I hit lunchtime ( I work from 6am). I certainly have had days where I make in excess of £100 - even up to £200 but it burns me out.

I can be writing up to 5,000 words a day which is brain numbing and hard to sustain.

PPH hate it if you steal clients from them - fair enough. I can't risk being shoved off the site because I went "offline" with a client. that said a few have found me offline and I now work with them at the same rate but directly.

that is an issue isn't it. They won't pay more because they know my rates already.

I suppose when I said I was full time - I meant I am at my desk all day - just not always working (like right now...)

Wilson - it is scary being so reliant on one source of income. At least I can say that the loss of one client would not be a disaster. Just a minor blip smile

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WilsonFrickett Wed 09-Apr-14 15:46:41

5,000 a day is a nightmare and very hard to sustain. Again, it all comes down to your rates though. You only need to write 5,000 because you need to charge multiples of your hourly rate to get enough money. I imagine bidding on PPH bids takes up a lot of time too.

whatdoesittake48 Wed 09-Apr-14 16:05:53

Luckily I don't have to bid any more - people come to me...it gets worse doesn't it?

I think my first step might be upping my rates with PPH.

Wilson I am so pleased you understand how hard it can be to write that much in one day. I think people honestly expect me to write constantly all day.

I thought maybe it was just me who couldn't hack the pace.

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sunbathe Wed 09-Apr-14 16:32:21

Why not use the new tax year as a reason to raise rates? You can also refer to your experience and excellent reputation.

TwelveLeggedWalk Wed 09-Apr-14 16:41:52

Ok, if you're that productive then you definitely need to put your rates up!
I've been writing in one guise or another for nearly 15 years now and there's no way I could sustain 1000s of words every day.

My rates vary depending on lots of things, including volume of work, deadline, reasonableness of client, and type of work. Fairly undemanding editing, social media writing etc gets charged at a much lower rate than technical copywriting or complex editing.

I think if you put your rates on PPH then you will see if they are coming to you because you are good or because you are cheap. Sadly many clients don't understand the difference, but it definitely sounds like you're at the stage to cut free some of the dross.

TwelveLeggedWalk Wed 09-Apr-14 16:43:09

IF you put your rates up on PPH

<hands in editor's resignation letter>

WilsonFrickett Wed 09-Apr-14 16:57:58

I've only written 100 new words today. They were very good ones though smile

While I do create copy, I am also involved in editing, working with a creative team, interviewing and taking feedback from clients, etc. While I could sit and churn out that many words (and indeed have done and occasionally still do) doing that everyday would drive me nuts!

TheBigBumTheory Wed 09-Apr-14 17:01:10

Have you read the War of Art by Stephen Pressfield?

It's a book shaped kick up the bum.

Turning Pro is another of his which is similar.

whatdoesittake48 Wed 09-Apr-14 17:10:04

yep - nutty writer sitting here...

Today I have done about 3,000 words. Luckily I am fast and I rarely need to edit much. I write off the top of my head and am a good researcher so things just flow. But it is still hard work.

I have just been over to PPH and increased my rates - by about a third. I have also set my availability as having fridays free - that will be my "work on me" day. if it results in a lower volume of work - then I will just have to find direct clients to fill my time.

I am making progress.

Wilson those must be some pretty impressive 100 words! (I have the jealousy monster on my shoulder!)

I have also looked into networking and discovered a "ladies who latte" meeting nearby. Once the school hols are over I will attend with my portfolio and website up to date.

I can't thank you enough. I feel like I have had some brilliant advice and really been spurred on.

In terms of finding a niche - I am a bit of an expert on renewables and energy (the more academic side) then I also love doing witty and fun product descriptions (my creative side).

I need to market myself twice!

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