Freelancers – value yourselves

Hello, my name is Jane and I’m a Freelance Copywriter (amongst other things); I write and people pay me. I use that money to go to shops and buy things like food and clothes, and sometimes bottles of gin. I also lavish my meagre funds on heating, electricity, water and the endless things school asks me for. I work hard each and every day to put food on the table. I pay my taxes (hello Starbucks, are you listening?) and my National Insurance and because I work for myself and don’t have access to a stationery cupboard, I have to buy my own paper-clips too. In short, my life isn’t given to me for free, nor will Mr Supermarket do me a deal for cash.

In my line of work I frequently get offered “amazing” opportunities to work for free or for buttons (quite literally) to apparently “help raise my profile”. It’s exciting to be asked to write for a magazine and to see your name in print, it’s a great feeling, but do you know what’s a better feeling? Being PAID to write and then seeing your name in print. I understand there is a whole chicken/egg scenario here, but I’ve never written for a publication for free in my life and I often see my name in print. If you don’t value your work, the words you sweat over, the research you have done, then no one else will.

Everyone has to start somewhere you say. I agree. But if you write for free now, you can’t turn round in six months and say “now I’m a proper published writer you have to pay me now”, because they won’t. They’ll just move on and find someone else who will write for free, because we’ve all been new and we’ve all been tempted. Not only are you devaluing yourself and your product, you’re making it harder for other writers (including you) to make a living.

But what if they want to pay you? Fabulous news, but what do they want to pay you? What’s your rate? You have two options, a notional hourly rate (I reckon that’ll take me two hours so if I work for £10 and hour that’s £20*) or a pay-per-word arrangement (for example, 800 words for £15*). I hear of writers (usually ones dabbling on the side of a “proper” job) who agree to ridiculous things, like 2000 words for £15. I saw one today which was 750 words for £8. If you’re working and writing for that amount of money, you’re pretty much giving it away for free. Your hourly rate probably isn’t even half that of the minimum wage.

It’s hard to know what to charge when people ask you to write for them. I’m as guilty as the next person for undervaluing my work, but I will charge the going rate based on my notional hourly rate. The best advice I can give is make friends with other copywriters and bounce ideas off them. If you have a gang of copywriters (I’m going to call a group of copywriters a scribble, a scribble of copywriters) then you’ll soon find they pass work onto each other, have each others back, even blacklist really shoddy clients; but it’s good to have “colleagues” in the same boat as you.

If you’ve got what it takes, you can and will earn a good living from being a Freelance Copywriter, it can be a lot of hard work, but if you devalue yourself, give your hard work away for free, then why would people pay you well, let alone pay you at all? Know your own worth and respect yourself enough to be paid for what you do. That’s what any other profession and professional demands. Don’t devalue your worth.

*Not my rate, please contact me if you wish to hire me and we can discuss pounds, shillings and pence.


Working from Home – The Reality

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Hello, I’m Jane and I work from home.

Sometimes I sit in bed with a cup of coffee and work. Sometimes I wear pyjamas for the whole day and I work. Sometimes I sit in a comfy chair, wrapped in a blanket and work. Sometimes I go to a nice cafe, enjoy their free WiFi and work. Sometimes when the sun shines I sit in the garden and work. Quite a lot of the time you’ll find me at 3 or 4 in the morning still working.

I’ve left the rat race. The scramble to find somewhere to sit on public transport; the open plan offices from hell and the requirement to wear proper, clean clothes on a daily basis. Those days are thankfully behind me.

Working from home is brilliant, but it’s not the skive people seem to think it is. People think I spend the day lolling about watching daytime TV. Honestly it’s never on unless there is some seriously significant breaking news I need to be aware of. People think I do very little, but my to-do list is probably longer than most 9-5 peeps.

The trade-off for working in bed, or wearing pjs or drinking nice coffee in a nice cafe is that I have to work ruddy hard. I start work when the boys leave at around 8am and its fairly non-stop from there. The great thing is no two days are the same for me, there are different things to see and do on every day of the week. I meet some great people and sometimes I get to collaborate with them on exceptionally exciting things.

Most days I do have appointments, meetings and events to go to. But factoring in searching for work, researching jobs, doing work, invoicing for work, admin, attending meetings and events, my days can be horribly long. I get very little family time, I often work well into the early hours, as I type this I’m nearing my 20th consecutive hour of work, I hardly sleep, my mind is constantly on the job. Even when we’re enjoying full on family time I’m always thinking can I blog about this, should I blog about this?

I earn very little, a pittance really. Would I swap it for a stuffy suit, a grotty open plan office and a game of sardines on the bus? Not on your nelly! I love my new found self-employed status, despite the long hours I don’t regret it for a single second.