This week’s interview is with freelance copywriter, marketing strategist and author Kerry Needs. Kerry has worked remotely as a freelancer and wrote the book ‘Freedom Seekers’ to help others follow her path.
Who are you and what do you do?
I’m Kerry, a freelance copywriter and marketing strategist. I’m originally from Nottingham and am based here, but I work 100% remotely so I like to travel a lot and work on the move! I’m also a writer and have published a book on remote work and lifestyle design, Freedom Seekers, as well as writing poetry and articles on Medium.
What led you to start freelancing?
I was never a fan of the office; staring at the same four walls has never inspired me as a creative person. I love to be in control of when and how I work, so I made the decision that I wanted to work for myself, remotely. I started in 2015 by testing out Elance (now Upwork). I set up a profile and did a few jobs – I found it pretty easy to make my first $1k, and so after that it made me realise that the ‘digital nomad’ dream I’d always had was achievable.
By coincidence, a friend of mine asked if anyone would like a remote job. I jumped at the chance, and worked for a design agency as a remote based project manager for around 9 months until I went freelance, working with online job sites and getting leads through Linkedin and word of mouth.
What three things do you wish you’d known before starting out?
– It’s a financial rollercoaster – be prepared! I wasn’t, and I think I took the hard route by not having enough saved up. I wanted it so badly that I sometimes worked all hours, applying to ten jobs a day, because the work had dried up. The work comes in cycles – sometimes lots, sometimes hardly anything, and you have to be prepared for that by having a big enough financial cushion. Especially when companies think they can take six weeks to pay you! Thankfully that doesn’t happen often.
– There is a season for everything – ‘Make hay whilst the sun shines’ is really true as a freelancer. You have to make the most of the situation you’re in. It naturally waxes and wanes, as does your energy. For example, on days where I feel really energised I don’t mind working hard or doing a longer day, as there will be a time when I have a lot of appointments or feel rubbish and I naturally won’t do as much.
– It’s all a balance – I’m still learning just how much I should be working as a freelancer. Because my main goal as a remote worker was to have time for creative pursuits and travel, if I’m working a 40 hour week I don’t really feel like spending more time in front of the computer. I’ve met people who, when working abroad, spend most of their time in the office. I have really learned a lot about myself as a freelancer – that I like to work in 2-3 hour blocks, that I need time to write or produce something creative, and that I also need time for learning, planning, and growing the business in the context of how I’m designing my life. I’m always asking myself ‘What’s important to me – am I spending my time wisely?’
What three issues have you had since starting up?
– Being paid on time – This is a disappointing one, because even if you have a contract in place the client can be naughty and delay paying you. It really doesn’t feel good having to chase payments yourself. That’s why I like working on the freelancing platforms; I can see exactly how much I’ve earned that week and I know I’ll be paid within 10 days of completing the work.
– Overcommitting – This is a personal thing I am working out. When I was in Gran Canaria, I would get up early, work, go to the beach, work again, go for dinner, and then come back and work again before bed. It made for incredibly long days as I had a client in Australia at the time. It wasn’t that stressful though, as I was taking breaks and socialising inbetween.
– Loneliness – I am a big advocate of remote work and freelancing, but I do get lonely. My environment really shapes how productive I am. If I’ve been ill and am working from home, I find it hard to switch off. I am really energised when I go to coworking spots, Restation in Gran Canaria was inspiring. It’s about being around people that inspire you, and push you to be better I guess. I do miss that in Nottingham as there isn’t many people of a similar mindset. I set up a Digital Nomads group when I first went remote, it was great and I met a couple of really good people but there wasn’t enough people that were focused on the lifestyle design aspect at the time.
What’s the best thing about freelancing?
Freedom! I arrange my schedule. I choose the hours I want to work, and I plan it in my calendar. I love copywriting because you can do it any time of the day or night really.
For example, this week my sister had a baby girl, and we didn’t know when we could visit her in the hospital. I could easily arrange my diary so I could nip to the hospital and meet my niece with my sister and my nephews, which was a really special moment. I’d have missed that if I was in a regular 9-5 as it was at the drop of a hat.
How would you like to develop your freelance career in the future?
I’d like to focus more on workshops, and helping more people design their lives. I’m really passionate about helping people become self sufficient in every way – so to be in control of their work life, the food they eat, their health, their time – everything! It’s so freeing and will really change things if more people are empowered in this way.
Anything else you’d like to tell anyone thinking of or currently freelancing?
It’s not easy – but where there is a will, there is a way. The internet has everything you need to know. Do your research, test it out, and work as hard as you can!