Bloody hell, I’ve been at this for ten years

Ten years ago, I embarked on a self-employment experiment. And I did it all “wrong”. First, I didn’t tell everyone to support my business as you’re supposed to; instead, I was so convinced that I would fail that I told a handful of my closest people. Second, I didn’t do that smart thing where you work a full-time job while trying to gradually build your freelance clients on the side; instead, I just launched full-time from scratch.

I had some savings that could support me if my business failed and I did expect to have to live of them but, to my surprise more than anyone else’s, I got clients, people hired me, and I made a success of it.

Ten years ago, I did it all 'wrong'. Yet here I am, 10 years later, running a successful writing and editing business. Click To Tweet

From that day to this, I have supported myself entirely from my freelancing income. Writing, editing and proofreading has paid my bills and kept me fed and watered and entertained and secure and more. My self ten years ago would be astounded.

I tried, I learned, and I made it work.

At the start, I gratefully took on any work that people flung at me. It felt a bit like a baptism of fire but it meant I learned to research and write about an unexpectedly broad range of topics. As time has gone on, I’ve been able to get a bit more picky about the work I take on and focus more on my specialisms – digital marketing, LGBT+ topics, disability and feminism – which are the topics I really love to write about. I still take on the odd curveball, I do believe it’s good for me to expand my horizons, but my focus means that I am a writer and editor who is in demand in the areas I work on the most.

My work days are always varied, which I love. I write blog posts, mostly on digital marketing topics, and mostly for SMEs, and I create content for charities and non-profits. I proofread a lot of student essays and CVs and job applications and I am the editor in chief of Global Comment, a website that showcases the writing of excellent journalists around the world.

I also have a rapidly growing portfolio of manuscripts I have worked on as a disability and mental health sensitivity editor and an LGBT+ sensitivity editor. I have worked on everything from independent self-published projects to giant, traditionally published bestsellers and am now regularly approached by major publishers for my authenticity reader services. I love being able to influence projects so that the perspective of disabled or LGBTQI+ people are represented before the books are published.

Things got a bit precarious in 2020, if I’m honest, as businesses and organisations shut down in response to Covid. It was understandable – if nobody was working, they didn’t need their regular blog posts – but it was an anxious time. But it also led to two incredible opportunities:

  1. I started doing comms work at Disability Sheffield, a brilliant organisation that supports disabled people in the city in a range of ways. My work has been focused specifically on making information about Covid accessible to disabled people with a range of impairments, and it’s great to play a tiny role in the effort to help fight this disease and the impact it has
  2. I started work as a community correspondent at Now Then, a progressive Sheffield magazine, where my focus is reporting on issues affecting the disability and LGBT+ communities. Now Then is part of Opus, which has an exciting vision for improving the world we live in, and I can absolutely get behind that.

I am a firm believer in the importance and relevance of local news and local charities, and I love working with two organisations that are so firmly rooted in, and influenced by, Sheffield, the city I adopted in 1995 (or did it adopt me?).

How long both of those specific pieces of work will continue is unclear, but if a decade of freelancing has taught me anything, it’s that I’m able to create new opportunities whenever something ends, and it’s not like I stopped doing other freelance work in the meantime. My inbox is busier than ever. So whatever happens with those roles, it’s an opportunity for new and exciting things. But I’m in no rush to leave either organisation; both inspire me, I work with brilliant people, and working as part of a team is a skill I had long forgotten.

I can’t wait to continue learning, writing, fixing other people’s writing, and doing my bit to change the world in 2022 and beyond.

Image credit: Millo Lin