• Elizabeth Harris

Freelancing 2019 - 5 Things I've Learnt This Year

In the past few months I’ve moved to a new city, taken on a host of regular clients and started working as the lead copywriter for Start Up Marketeer, a digital marketing agency based in Surrey, UK.

It feels like a lot has happened since the summer. Things have really accelerated and I’m so excited for the future. Looking to 2020, I still have big plans to grow my freelance writing business further and I’m going into the New Year feeling super confident about what’s to come.

Taking inspiration from Lindy Alexander over at The Freelancer’s Year, I’ve decided to write up my key lessons from 2019 and the things I’m looking forward to as I go into 2020.

1. You can’t do everything all at once

One of the biggest things I’ve struggled with this year is having too many plans.

I struggle with work FOMO, also known as the fear of missing out on the opportunity to write something.

Moving from place to place, I find there is so much inspiration coming at me from all sides. This gets me really excited to write but can also be a bit overwhelming. This year I found it was easy to have a constant feeling of FOMO if I wasn’t converting every idea into a story.

By slowing down and reminding myself that things take time, I’ve been able to focus a lot more on individual projects. I’ve also been able grow my client base in the process.

One of my top lessons from 2019 is that you don’t have to do everything (and write about every topic you think of) to be productive. A focussed approach is usually far more fruitful.

2. Don’t let bad clients bring you down

2019 started with a super difficult project that stretched on for almost half the year. What began as an exciting opportunity and a new direction for my writing turned into a draining, disappointing struggle.

Unfortunately, at the start of this year, I didn’t know what I know today - sometimes bad clients are just bad clients and there’s nothing you can do to change that.

As freelancers, it’s easy to feel like you’re the problem. Without a team or corporate structure to act as a buffer, any negativity from your clients comes directly to you.

Letting go of the one client who was bringing everything else down was an extremely freeing experience for me.

I now look back and wonder why I didn’t do it sooner. It can be tempting to push on, to try and prove them wrong but when you don’t have a compatible working relationship and you’re not being valued for what you’re doing, it’s best to move on.

I believe this is true for all relationships, not just client/freelancer interactions. It’s a lesson I will definitely be taking forward into 2020.

3. Taking breaks is just important as working

I think this is a classic problem for freelancers and freelance writers in particular.

When you’re writing 5 to 7 days a week, your brain has very little rest time.

That’s not good.

I’ve learnt that taking regular breaks is really important for my productivity. Instead of spending 3 hours solid staring at my screen, forcing the words to come, I’ve learnt that I accomplish far more in 3 x 50 minute slots with 10 minutes break in between.

Just getting up, making a cup of tea and having a quick walk can make an enormous difference to the quality of my writing and my overall mood. Breaks are important!

4. Every freelancer struggles sometimes

This point is borrowed from Lindy Alexander but it’s a really key one for me.

Thanks to other freelancers and The Freelancers Year in particular, I’ve learnt that rejections are totally normal. Ghosting is totally normal. The occasional edit is totally normal.

Even freelance writers who have been working for years and have built up an enormous network of editors and clients still face rejections.

When I learnt this I was so relieved. It’s not just me! It’s not just you.

Every freelancer has ups and downs and being ghosted by an editor does not define how good you are at your job. Don’t let it stop you.

5. Patience and perseverance pays off

Finally, I want to remind future me that patience and perseverance is really important.

For the big plans I have coming up, I’m going to need some serious determination. I’ll also need focus, energy and probably thick skin.

All these things have got me this far so I know they can work for me going forward. I just have to trust in my abilities and take the plunge.

Something tells me 2020 is going to be a big year!

Do you have any reflections on freelancing in 2019? What are you looking forward to in 2020? I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments!

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