Freelancer Diaries: Is 2018 the year you’ll give freelancing a go?

Friday, 19 January 2018, 9:21 | Category : Guest Blogger
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Emilie Lien is a consumer PR specialist and member of The PR Network’s consumer PR team, working on a range of our accounts including Zipcar UK.  Here she tells us why she’s a convert to the freelance life!

Just under a year ago I was nervously and reluctantly thrown into the world of PR freelancing with a lot of misgivings. Now, looking back on my first year as a freelancer, I can honestly say it was the best career move I ever made and wonder what took me so long.

Up until February 2017 I’d always been in a steady, 9-5(ish) job, having worked my way up through the ranks of in-house teams and PR agencies. When I was suddenly made redundant from my agency job without anything else lined up it was scary stuff, especially being the main breadwinner in my family. And not being London-based I knew that the senior PR roles coming up where I lived were few and far between.

So I decided to try my hand at freelancing, if only, as I told myself at the time, until the right permanent role came along. And it turns out that freelancing and I get along just fine! One year on and fully converted, here are the main reasons why I love the freelance life:

No two days are the same
My projects over the past year have taken me from car clubs, tennis events and jewellery shops to take-aways, baked beans and brain-training apps. One day that stands out for me is when I found myself drafting a proposal around the benefits of eating beef while drafting copy about being vegan – does it get any more varied than that?

I get to write and speak to journalists again
When you’re senior at a PR agency, you don’t get to do any of the things that first excited you about the job. Sure, I wrote a lot of proposals, in fact I was glued to Powerpoint for most of the day, but now I get to craft interesting copy that balances engaging stories with key messages for my clients. I also get to deal with journalists again: I get to pitch to them, discuss stories and write copy for them, and I’ve revived some of my old relationships while developing many new ones. All this has given me a much better understanding again of the ever-changing media landscape, which in turn is reflected in my ideas and proposals. Because yes, I still write lots of those too.

I’ve discovered the power of the virtual agency
The PR Network describes itself as the world’s biggest PR agency and that’s exactly it: it has a huge network of PR freelancers around the world and brings people in to work on clients based on their experience and location. After meeting the team at an event I was brought onto one of their longstanding retained accounts, working with two other people, one based in London and the other in Cornwall. While we all work independently we’re a tight-knit team, we speak regularly and meet every few months. It totally works and has become one of the best and most inspiring accounts I’ve ever worked on. The PR Network is led by a group of friendly, supportive Directors who have been in touch regularly with more projects and opportunities since and I can’t recommend them enough.

I work to my own schedule
I’ve discovered for that I’m at my most creative and productive from early in the morning, but that between the hours of 3 and 5pm I’m a bit useless. So I’ve adapted my work day accordingly: I set my alarm early and get loads of work done before the rest of my house awakes and emails start piling in. Then in the afternoon I do some admin or even house work and if needed I’ll pick work up again in the evening. I work just as many hours as everyone else but at a rhythm that works better for me. Managing my own time also means I can do more things that are important to me, like attend school performances and volunteer for local charities and film festivals.

I’m never lonely
Loneliness was one of biggest fears before I started freelancing and yes, now that I work from home I’m alone most days. But I’m never lonely thanks to regular calls and interactions with PR Network colleagues, meet-ups with fellow freelancers, trips to see clients and an amazing PR freelancer Facebook group where we come together to advise, support and encourage each other. I contrast this with sitting in a busy office feeling totally isolated a year ago and definitely don’t feel lonely. And I get to choose all my own music now too!

I have learnt SO MUCH
I’ve learnt how to design and create my own website and how to record all my invoices in a neat spreadsheet, I’ve learnt that Google Docs are the best thing EVER and how a thank you message can go a long way. I’ve also learnt what my best angle is on a video conference call, the importance of networking and that we’re lucky to live in a country that supports freelancers and doesn’t tax you on your first £11,000 earned. Best of all, after years of disenchantment with my chosen career and total loss of confidence, I’ve learnt that yes I do know what I’m doing and might actually be (whisper it) good at it.

So now the job alerts are switched off once and for all, and I’m a total convert to ‘freelancism’. I’m not saying that everyone should freelance because I don’t think it is for everyone, but equally I don’t think you know until you try. So if freelancing is something you’ve been considering I’d advise you to give it a go. If it works for you I promise you’ll love it and won’t look back!

Emilie Lien

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