The life of a freelance copywriter

Reversing a tractorI love being a freelance (or independent) copywriter.

It’s not without stress, and it’s sometimes difficult to maintain a work/life balance. You’re very reactive to when work comes in.

The great thing about being a freelancer is that it’s never dull. Boredom comes with repetition. I can honestly say no two days are the same. Not something I could have said during my years of working 9 to 5 in an office.

As a freelancer, one minute you have so much work you’re tearing your hair out wondering how you’re going to fit it all in (but you know you will). Then suddenly everything is calm. At last, a moment’s peace to reflect before the storm begins again.

For me, it’s what I do during the quiet spells that gives me a sense of balance. For many freelancers, this is the time to learn a new skill. I try and build on the skills I have (or I bunk off instead).

Blogging and excel spreadsheets

I enjoy blogging, and when I get the time I write new posts for this blog and Copy Cook. For me, this means plundering my spreadsheets.

I’m addicted to excel spreadsheets. Ideas for blog posts usually come to me when I’m far too busy to do anything with them, so they get parked in a spreadsheet for action later.

I think of my ideas spreadsheet as a spice rack. The tabs within the spreadsheet are different jars of herbs and spices. I label each one with a theme, and they hold thoughts and ideas on that topic. When I open up a spreadsheet I have a whole row of spices to choose from with which to flavour my blog posts.

Books and Tweets

Here’s a selection of books I dip into when I have the time, most are standard copywriter recommendations, so I’m not going to review them here.

David Ogilvy: Ogilvy on Advertising

Andy Maslen: The Copywriting Sourcebook

Drayton Bird: Commonsense Direct Marketing

And for fun, N.M. Gwynne: Gwynne’s Grammar and The Penguin Writer’s Manual.

Then I tweet a bit and get round to reading the links on tweets I’ve favourited.

Reversing a tractor with a trailer

I’ve just remembered, I do sometimes learn a new skill, though often it has nothing to do with the day job.

On Friday mornings, I can occasionally be found driving a tractor for the Last of the Summer Wine team. As their name suggests, the group consists mainly of retired folk who do volunteer work at my local nature reserve.

I’m currently trying to master the art of reversing a tractor with a trailer attached (not as easy as it sounds; the rear of the vehicle goes left when you turn right). It’s such fun when you have half a dozen people shouting advice at you as you try to navigate the trailer backwards into an awkward corner. I never get grumpy or snappy.

However, it’s important to remember that freelancing is NOT the same as retirement. When there isn’t a fixed deadline you always think you have endless amounts of time to get things done, and consequently have no motivation to crack on with the paperwork. I just can’t leap out of bed in the morning thinking, ‘Yes, bookkeeping, invoicing, filing – bring it on!’ in the same way I do with a new writing assignment. So occasionally I bunk off to drive the tractor.

Nevertheless, self-discipline is the key to being a successful freelancer and even during quiet times you need to keep focused on the business and plug away at the boring admin chores. I’ve found the trick with freelancing is to stay as close to normal office hours as possible. This may not work for everyone; however, I’m a creature of habit. I do work evenings and weekends when a pressing deadline approaches, but I try to keep them clear if I can.

And of course, I do indulge in the odd morning off when the tractor calls. After all, that’s one of the perks of being a freelancer.