Going freelance

I’ve stepped out of the classroom for a year to do more writing.

While this is only a temporary thing for me, it’s still pretty daunting – ditching the steady income and taking a leap of faith! Aaargh!

I’m only 2 months in, but here are some random thoughts on the year so far…

Week 0 – Groundwork

Going freelance does involve prep. You know, building a network, getting a few regular gigs going so the diary isn’t completely empty, setting targets, etc. My main target this year was to take on a project I normally wouldn’t have time to do (being in the classroom a lot).

I’d identified one project I really really really wanted this year. I only found out about it after a fellow teacher (not writer) tagged me in a post about it on LinkedIn. There you go – spread the net wider when it comes to networking!

However, by the start of my year it seemed like the project had gone. I didn’t know that for sure, but things were eerily quiet on that front. I started to think I’d dreamt it up actually.

Week 1, Day 1 – Start by winning

I didn’t have many projects on the go at the start of the year. I figured I might struggle to find work at first – I mean, there are tons of good writers out there and I don’t really have a niche.

But I was ready for this! I’d saved a few invoices from pre-summer work so I could claim them in August. Why didn’t I just claim them and have the money there as a safety net to start with? Because, here’s the Pete logic, being able to invoice the moment my writing year started made me feel like ‘this freelancing thing is working!’. Ha!

Either way, it did put me at ease to think I was sorted financially for the next couple of months. That’s always the worry! Planning my finances in longer cycles rather than month-by-month though – that’s gonna be tricky. I think I might be growing up.

Staying true to my goals

That safety net meant I didn’t feel under pressure to take any contract that turns up. As I said, there was a resource I wanted to write, but had the chance gone? Is something similar out there??! And did I dream it up – am I pinning my hopes on a project that MIGHT NOT EVEN EXIST? Whaaaaaat? Crazy!

But wait! An update! Okay, phew. It was real. But the update wasn’t an offer, it just informed me that any decision would take much longer. So, what was my cut off?

Cut off / Bronze, Silver, Gold

At what stage should I just say ‘that’s enough. I need to rethink this’? I’d only half-thought this through – like most things in life. In this case I was blinkered – I kept visualizing myself writing that ideal project! Ha. GO AWAY RANDOM DAYDREAMING! Hang on, why does this visualizing always include me writing with a quill?! Weird.

I needed to consider other options. I did my little ‘bronze-silver-gold’ goal setting thing that I used to do when training for half marathons. Rather than thinking of completion, average pace and finish times, this time it was all about work goals…

Bronze – take any writing projects I can get. Make enough money to get through the year and buy my kids some Lego.

Silver – Find one or two decent long-term projects, have a few mini-projects on the side that keep the writing fun, and dedicate some time to a self-publishing project.

Gold – Get that ‘ideal’ contract that I’ve now confirmed does exist. Keep writing for Ellii, a truly Gold Medal company.

Platinum – Do the ideal project AND the self-published resource, plus Ellii. And make enough to buy… THIS:

This will BLOW MY FOUR-YEAR OLD’S MIND! And obviously he’s too young to build that truck so… pffff… I’ll HAVE TO HELP… Epic.

Where was I? Ah… cut off time. The medals thing still didn’t help me decide when to give up hope – it just distracted me for a bit. I knew I’d hold out for that project till the end, so I might as well not fight that feeling. I could be in for a Bronze medal year. I still get a medal though, so it doesn’t matter – start by winning, keep winning!

Wait, I’ve just put pressure on myself to get a podium finish now.

Week 2

Only Week 2? Blimey. Aha! Contacted by a publisher that is on my ‘haven’t worked with you but would love to’ list. I was recommended for the project too – BIG COMPLIMENT! Nice. More sample writing.

Idleness

Four weeks in. Pfff. Tick. Tock. Tick…. Tock.

I hate waiting for stuff, especially when I’m really invested in it. I had some work offers, but for some reason or another I couldn’t take them on. I could have started that self-publishing project while I had time, but for some reason I didn’t have that push. Not sure why. It felt like a mountain to climb. I’m rubbish at not feeling like I’m moving forward (unhealthy attitude). So…

The first thing I do in these situations is usually bother people. I contacted some of my former commissioning editors to see what was around. By ‘some’ I mean two. I always complain when people only contact me because they want something – I realised I was being *that* person now, so felt like an idiot.

I didn’t hold out much hope, you know, ‘I’m that bloke who snuck puns into your resources…’ On the contrary, people were great! Go and bother your old contacts!

Week 6

Lots more possibilities, but no solid, long-term project yet. Got fed up of thinking about writing contracts all the time. Built some Lego. Read Slaughterhouse-Five. Went to a pub quiz – finished third. Unbelievable. Got a question about dorgis (dorgies?) correct after reading about them on the way to the pub quiz. Guessed correctly that the Pentland Firth was near the Orkneys. This might be my lucky week.

CPD

I did the Avallain Author course. I forgot that it started in mid-Sept but this was great timing. Took my mind off waiting for the next pub quiz.

I think the training could help with some Bronze Medal stuff. Who knows, I might like Avallain so much that it becomes part of a Gold Medal project for me down the line. Worth doing.

Week 7

Publisher: I think Pete’s waited long enough. Shall we all just contact him about new contracts at the same time so he feels totally overwhelmed and has no idea how to deal with it?

Other publishers: Great idea!

Thanks. Now I have to choose. And these are like Silver-to-Gold level things. They’re not THAT ONE (no offence publishers), but they’re close. And most could fit in around THAT ONE anyway – just in case I do get it…

I’m not getting it am I? Damn it. Right, well it doesn’t matter now because there’s plenty of other work.

My mum is bound to ask me what happened about it. She always remembers. What shall I say?‘Which project? Oh, *that one*? Meh – it was just a backup anyway…’ No, she’ll see through that. I just won’t call her this week in case she asks.

Week 7.5

CUE CHARIOTS OF FIRE SOUNDTRACK!

I think I got it. I think. I. Wait – I need to read the email at least 63 times first before I’m sure.

I’m off to a pub quiz to celebrate.

Week 8

Probably the hardest working week of my life. I had to send an email saying ‘I accept the terms and look forward to working with you’. However, it was almost impossible to play it cool as I was too excited. I rewrote the email 86 times on Monday, 147 times on Tuesday, 65 times on Wednesday. Then I realized that by delaying the sending of a one-line email for three days, I probably came across as acting pretty cool about things, so was able just to write ‘I accept the terms and look forward to working with you’. Smooth, Pete. Smooth.

Then I spent Thursday and Friday looking back at the email I sent and wondering if it made sense/my grammar was okay/even if it wasn’t okay did it matter/etc.

Tough week.

Coming to terms with it…

Finding work is hard work! Doing the work is the next challenge – AAAAAH NO! Here it comes! The imposter syndrome. Great. My favourite.

Anyway. Great story, Pete. Needs more pub quizzes and Lego.

I do have one take home point though – rare for my posts, I know:

All of this stuff goes on in my head. While I do find it fun/funny at times, it can get draining. Precarity, worry, disappointment, etc. Luckily, there are groups (like Rachael Roberts’, *Robertsiz*) where you can seek support, guidance, have a rant maybe, help each other stay motivated, keep developing, etc. It feels good to have that there as a freelancer I think.



Categories: General, reflections

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