#ad – This wee post is sponsored by Just Work Tutoring, an incredible company started by University of Cambridge grad, Joanna Wilson.
I’m super excited to be writing this post. Not only because it’s in collaboration with a company started by a grad MY age, who’s absolutely killing it in the whole side hustle, creating your own working lifestyle for yourself dream – but because a few people have actually got in touch on Instagram asking me to write this very post. Because my life during the week is very boring (because it seems all I do is work lol) a few of you may know I freelance as well as working full-time – because it’s virtually all I post about on Instagram during the week (lol cry). If you know me well, you know I’m an aspiring lifestyle journalist. My dream is to get paid writing about taboo topics and things that affect my generation – trying to evoke change in society through writing article after article. I’d also adore to write a book, but what banter that pipe dream is – because God knows how I could ever manage that. But pipe dreams aside, because I’m trying to make it in this insanely competitive creative world, I decided to spend this year getting my fingers in as many work pies as possible. And somehow, that means I’ve managed to secure a long-term freelance gig, a marketing role and I also still try and work on my baby, this blog, as much as I humanely can.
Now, none of this is particularly easy. I get up super early, work ’til late a good few nights a week, and often have to write the odd blog post on the weekend. But, as a young grad having just left university and having moved to a city where my dream jobs are very few and far between, topping up my income with extra side jobs means I can finally put away the kind of savings I’ve been dreaming of my entire life, and it means I can diversify my skills and ramp up the experience for the ol’ CV. Whilst some choose to take a gap year to broaden their life experience after university, sadly I didn’t feel I had the disposable bank balance to do that, so instead I’m broadening my work experience by getting as involved with as many thaaangs as possible. In this post, I thought I’d quickly break down A) why I’ve chosen to pick the work roles I’m in, B) how I secured my freelance gigs and C) how I manage my workload between full-time work and freelance!
Why have I chosen to work in marketing when I want to be a journalist?
After graduating in July, I didn’t yet feel ready to throw myself into the scary world of journalism. This is because my degree had utterly worn me out and I was ready for a break for a while. When I really utterly care about something, I put waaay too much pressure on myself to do well which in turn wears me owwwt, and I wanted to take on something I enjoyed but wouldn’t lose toooo much sleep over. Marketing felt similar to journalism with a lot of transferable skills, and because it’s not my dream career, I was hoping I’d be able to take work with a healthier mindset and ease myself in to the world of working. That kind of worked, because I do feel a lot less stressed than I was at university, but I still very much care about my role and find I get stressed out sometimes. But on the whole, I feel like although I wasn’t in a lucky position to take a year completely ‘off’ and go travelling the world, this kind of feels like my own mini break in its own way. My current role has extremely flexible hours and incredible holiday allowance, allowing me to free up time for me to pursue my loves in other ways, such as writing this blog and freelancing. I try and aim to post on this blog two times a week to keep my creativity up, and I freelance around three evenings a week generally on two clients to increase my editing and writing portfolio.
How did I secure my freelance gigs?
There are so many good websites and ways to pitch yourself to clients who are looking for freelancers, but I personally never felt confident enough to do so, even though I wanted to so much. Story of my life, much?! I luckily fell into my freelance gigs. After working over the summer as a paid marketing intern for a marketing agency in my hometown, they offered me freelance sub-editing work for when I moved to Bristol. I am utterly grateful for this opportunity, as my manager at the time not only helped me understand the rates I should be charging for freelance work, but also how this could be a very real opportunity for me. I work with two clients: Virgin StartUp, the not-for-profit arm of Richard Branson’s Virgin, and Basilico, a London-based, luxury pizza company. Two very different, yet very exciting clients. I essentially sub-edit weekly newsletters, press releases, journalistic articles and social media content for both brands, splitting what would be a full day’s work throughout my evenings during the week when I am able to. I am very grateful that they are incredibly flexible with when I can work, because attempting to fit in a day’s work in evenings is one hard slog – but it’s worth it for the top up of my salary, and the experience I’m gaining for my CV. I’ve since gone on to secure paid opportunities for my blog, and have even worked with Hearst Magazines on a freelance piece of sub-editing through a contact I had there.
If you’re looking to secure any freelance gigs, I’d suggest keeping in mind any contacts you’ve kept in touch with from internships throughout university, or ask around family and friends to see if anyone they know are looking for a freelancer with your expertise. If you’re an aspiring journo like me, do the very thing I’ve been meaning to but am too scared to do for confidence reasons, and pitch to editors asking for pieces on Twitter. There are so many call-outs for freelancers all the time – and if you have the time and confidence to pitch, do it. What’s not to lose?! I also know People Per Hour is a great website for all things freelance, from journalism to proof-readers to graphic design.
How do I manage full-time work and freelance?
This one’s the biggie. I wouldn’t say working full-time and freelancing at the same time is the healthiest work-life balance, but if you’re prepared to put in the short term hustle for better finances and career progression gains, I do think the hard work pays off. I’d love for my freelance work to either help set me up for a journalistic role in the future that is well paid so I don’t feel the need to freelance on the side, or that my freelance work leads to more, which could then enable me to become a full-time freelancer and my own boss. I have no idea which I’d prefer at the moment long-term, but I do tell ya the idea of working remotely, being my own boss and setting my own parameters does sound like a rather cushy situation – one I’d maybe like to try for a bit in my life. I’d love to up and move to Paris and work remotely for a few months – but again, it’s another pipe dream. But if you’re looking to work freelance around full-time, here are my main tips for doing so:
1 – Be strict with your routine
There are three ways I do this. Firstly, on a Sunday, I ensure I always think ahead to the upcoming week. I plan when I’m going to freelance around how busy each day is going to be in my full-time role. If I have a day chock-full of intense meetings and events, I’ll try my very best not to freelance on that evening, as I know I’m going to be knackered. If I’m freelancing in the evening, I’ll ensure that (luckily) thanks to my work’s flexi-time, I can choose to go in later the next morning so I can reward myself with a little bit of a lie-in.
And then the important thing to do, which doesn’t really naturally occur to me, is to schedule in menial tasks such as food shopping, washing, ironing etc. I’m very prone to wanting to either ignore chores when I’m busy, or I get into the ever-so-productive counter-proactive, lazy mood of wanting to do allll my chores to avoid really having to work. If I ensure my chores are scheduled into my days beforehand, I just have to get on and do them the time the day comes.
Secondly, this may sound a little OTT but it is a LIFESAVER – Just Work’s Academic Planner, which I was ever so kindly gifted, breaks down your day hour by hour in list-form, so you can slot in every single little task into your day – and ensure you’re planning in breaks, too. It may seem like a waste of time to painstakingly fill out your day hour-by-hour, but my goodness me, it actually helps! You may think you don’t have enough time to get everything done, but when you see your day laid out in front of you hour by hour, you realise you can achieve.
And finally, be strict with when you ‘switch off’. I have a cut-off for myself when freelancing: no work after 9:30pm latest on week nights, no freelance on Fridays and Mondays, and I make sure I have weekends off from client work. Being strict with planning when you work is great, but you also need to be strict with when you STOP – to make sure you don’t burn out.
2 – Remind yourself of your goals when the going gets tough
I’m not denying that working full-time and freelancing is tough going. It really can be. I feel I get very tired during the week, I often wish I had more time to myself in the evenings to just relax and it’s frustrating staring at a computer screen for a whole lot of your day. But, the full-time PLUS freelance is only a short term thing for me, as I know it’s not sustainable to keep it up forever for your own bladdy mental health’s sake. The benefits very much outweigh the costs for me at the moment though, as I’m able to earn more than I thought possible and save for my future, plus I’m hoping showing my dedication to accruing journalistic skills will help me professionally when I decide to try and take the plunge into those scarily competitive journalistic waters.
Using Just Work’s Academic Planner is a great way to visualise your goals and remind yourself every day where you’re headed. The Planner has sections for: your biggest achievements to date, to reflect on when you’re feeling challenged; your definition of happiness and success to help evaluate whether this hustling life is still benefitting you emotionally; and then there’s a section for your dreams – from three months down the line, to your entire one-year plan. I’m not one for having strict plans, because I feel like life throws up twists and turns along the way, but having a loose idea of what you hope for yourself can be just the mood-booster you need when the going gets tough.
3 – Set parameters and be able to say ‘no’ when necessary
Another hugely great help about the Just Work Academic Planner is that its sections break down your time into month views and day views. Throw in the Just Work Weekly Tracker, too, and you can break down your time week-by-week. Planning your time out briefly in three different ways may again seem like an excessive thing to do, but you’re quickly able to glance at your month, whilst getting down into the nitty gritty of your actual day, so you can quickly determine if you have scope to take on extra work, or if you’re working yourself too hard and need to take some nights off.
Sometimes when I’m busy, I find that I jam-pack my days so much I can’t really remember at the end of the week just how much I’ve done, so this ensures I keep my workload to a manageable amount. Also, the nature of freelance is that sometimes things will come to you at the very last minute – especially as my work is to do with sub-editing: ensuring a product is ready to be marketed. And sometimes it can be hard to say ‘no’ to something, even if it’s come in late – as as an eager graduate grateful for any opportunity, I’m a bit of a yes gal. However, you need to learn to set parameters and realise when to say no. If something isn’t benefitting you professionally and/or financially anymore, it’s okay to want to reconsider.
I hope this bumper blog post has helped some of you that asked me to write this piece. As you may realise with working full-time, freelancing and attempting to carry on this blog, the post may seem a little haphazardly written, because I’m having to fit it in alongside everything else, but I really wanted to make sure this was a comprehensive thought process for any of you thinking of taking the plunge into freelance alongside your employment. If you’d like to hear more about freelancing, whether that’s rates you should charge or how to up your confidence to pitch yourself to clients (I’m still working on that one lol), let me know! I’d love to keep this conversation going.