Freelancer interview: Claire Baldwin, copywriter

This week’s interview is with Nottingham based freelance copywriter Claire Baldwin.

Who are you, what do you do and how long have you been freelancing?

My name is Claire Baldwin and I run my freelance copywriting business Elytra Copywriting. I mostly write digital copy, such as website content and blog articles, but I’ve also written print copy for posters, leaflets, letters and more, as well as various proofreading and editing work. I started freelancing in October last year.

What led you to start freelancing?

I love writing and it’s always been my dream to write for a living. I finished university right in the middle of the recession and it was hard enough to get any job, let alone my dream job! After a few years of awful jobs, great-but-temporary jobs, and mediocre jobs that weren’t quite what I wanted, I finally decided to set up my own business so I could be as sure as possible that I’m doing what I actually want to do.

What three things do you wish you’d known before starting out?

    1. That it would actually be fun, interesting and enjoyable. I’d considered freelancing for years but was put off by the fact that it would be hard. Sure, it can be hard sometimes, but it’s also incredibly rewarding.
    1. Not to be too trusting or too eager to please. There’s nothing wrong with charging a deposit up front, or saying “Actually, no. I can’t do that.” It’s my nature to be nice to everyone and to do whatever I can to please them, which are good qualities, but I’ve had to settle into the business headspace a little more.
  1. This will sound terribly naive, but I hadn’t realised that you still had to pay tax even if you’re not VAT registered. It’s not an issue, it’s just something that I’d never had to know before. I don’t know why they don’t teach these things in school!

What issues have you had since starting up?

One of my very first clients still hasn’t paid me for the work that I did, and I’m currently in the process of court proceedings. It was quite a disheartening situation for a while, but I’ve learned a lot and grown from the experience. We’d all like to think that other people have the same moral code as us but unfortunately that’s not always true. No matter what business you’re in, at some point you’ll come across someone who doesn’t want to pay.

What’s the best thing about freelancing?

The obvious answers are the freedom and flexibility, but I also really enjoy meeting new people. Going to networking events terrified me at first but I really look forward to them now. There are so many fascinating and creative people in our community, and speaking to other people who are in the same boat makes you feel less alone.

How would you like to develop your freelance career in the future?

As long as I’m enjoying myself, doing work that I love, and meeting interesting people from time to time, I’ll be happy. I currently have a part-time job three days a week, which is great in terms of stability, but I’ll probably want to work for myself full-time eventually. I’m still only a freelancing caterpillar at the moment but I’m hoping to become a freelancing butterfly one day.

Anything else you’d like to tell anyone thinking of or currently freelancing?

Freelancing is harder than you think but it’s also better than you think. It’s scary and you’ll always feel like you don’t know what you’re doing but every day you get a little better and a little more confident. Then all of a sudden it actually feels like it’s your job and not just something you’re playing at. And the sense of pride that you get from doing it by yourself is just amazing.

“Deep Work” and how it will help your freelance business

In this blog we’ll discuss the concept of ‘Deep Work’, why it’s important to your freelance work and offer some tips on how to actually do this Deep Work.

What is deep work?

Deep Work is a term coined by author Cal Newport in his book “Deep Work: Rules for Focused Success in a Distracted World”. It’s the opposite of being distracted by phones, emails and social media – focusing on one task for a period of time. With multitasking a myth and just meaning doing more than one thing in a less effective way, and the ‘cognitive switching penalty‘ putting us back to square one, deep work is a single focus to produce better results.

Why is deep work important for a freelancer?

As a freelancer our time is valuable. We may be getting paid by the hour or by the task, and either way we need to get on with the important paid tasks as we’re not getting a salary to turn up and sit at a desk as is the case with many jobs. It’s a rare company that accurately monitors productivity and its easy to coast if we’re not feeling like working hard when on a salary. As a freelancer, wasted time is costing you money.

If you’re doing any kind of creative pursuit, getting into the right mindset is vital to do your best work. Settling down for a few hours can mean the difference between a blank page and a great result that your clients are delighted with.

Close the browser, put down your phone, and roll up your fucking sleeves. The creative process takes time, effort, and courage—not Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.
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How can you do deep work?

Doing Deep Work is a case of focusing solely on what you’re doing. To this end, you will need to remove all other distractions. This could be your phone, email program, TV, kids or whatever else is taking your attention away from your task. This can be scary at first, with worries about people not being able to contact you and that fear of missing out. The more you put time aside to focus on work however, the more you realise that people can (usually) wait and that the world will still be there in a couple of hours.

This concept fits well with the 7 Habits of Highly Effective People and Getting Things Done approach – choosing the most important tasks and getting them finished before allowing distractions and other peoples agendas to dictate your actions.

If it’s too much to focus for an entire morning, start off with say 30 minutes to complete a smaller task. The Pomodoro technique can be helpful with this.

If your job is not online, turning off your internet can help focus you on the task at hand instead of checking social media or emails or browsing random fluff instead of getting on with your work.

I also keep a note taking app open while working so I can dump any stray thoughts into that and deal with them later.

Summary

In this article we’ve discussed what Deep Work is, how it will benefit your freelance work and offered some tips on how to actually achieve this Deep Work in daily life.