by Catherine Heath, Freelance writer, blogger and websmith
I’ve had a particularly sudden and sharp trajectory from 9-5 office worker to running my own freelance writing business.
However, the reality is that I’ve been preparing to take this leap for many years.
I’ve loved writing for as long as I can remember, but lacked any idea of how I could make it my profession, until recently.
The only role models of writers I’d ever had were authors whose books I had devoured, journalists writing the newspapers I worriedly consumed, or poets and essayists who were often long dead.
Getting a job after an English degree
It's one thing to study an English degree and quite another to become a professional writer.
Luckily, I managed to get a job as a digital communications professional after working for a couple of years in operations and data entry.
The increased level of creativity appealed to me, but I still wasn't satisfied.
This is because I was still doing what I was told by management, and fulfilling organisational objectives that have little bearing on my personal aspirations, or don’t relate to my idea of excellent writing.
Despite feeling frustrated, little did I know, I was developing the essential digital skills that would enable me to quickly market myself as a freelance writer online.
Using the internet to succeed
We live in the age of the internet and all new freelancers should make use of social media and websites to build their careers. Unless you have 15 years’ prior experience as a professional journalist, you just won't have the contacts you need to get any clients.
I started off learning from my one friend who has already taken the plunge in becoming a solopreneur himself.
He pointed me in the direction of learning about lifestyle design, which is simply the art of creating the systems in your life that enable you to leave the 9-5 behind, in order to pursue a life of freedom and creativity.
But that was only the start.
My first business community
I decided I was going to try to become a freelance blogger in April 2016. I handed in my notice on 19 July 2016. So I’m proof that going freelance is not only possible, but actually possible to do extremely quickly - in basically four months. And this has been me being quite patient and cautious.
I’ve seriously benefited from being part of an offline community of individuals in the tech industry. I’m actually really shy and nervous, but I’ve slowly built up my courage to now feel comfortable talking authentically to strangers about my work.
I’ve learned that no one can pursue their dreams sitting alone in their room with their laptop, though it's a good place to start.
Getting out of the house, completing two website coding courses and volunteering as the community blogger for Code First: Girls introduced me to business networks, and lots of aspiring new starters. Everyone is incredibly lovely, welcoming, and helpful to beginners.
Holding you accountable
One of the most important lessons I’ve learned is that your dreams can’t be real until you become part of a community.
If chosen well, your community holds you accountable, understands what it’s like to be working on your own business, and also can link you to some valuable opportunities.
I'm always looking for new groups to join, and I often come across familiar faces which is a great feeling.
I’ve made friends with a mixture of professionals already quite far along in their respective fields, and less experienced people my age or younger. Many people have helped me in ways like giving advice, tips, advising on groups to join, courses to take or events to attend.
I hope I’ve done the same for others, and also helped people to come up with business ideas and improve their writing.
Stumbling across the NOI Club
I found out about the NOI Club in another online business group.
NOI is exciting because everyone is so passionate and keen to help each other - especially the founder, Paola.
This kind of community is only going to accelerate the collaborative benefits one can gain from 'networking'. I translate this to mean making friends with like-minded individuals working in the same industry.
If, like a lot of people, you feel uncomfortable about asking people for things, start your journey by helping someone else. Even if you feel like you have literally nothing to offer, there is always someone who is just behind you on their own journey.
Are we allowed to help people?
People in the freelancing industry can be very against working for free, but I think they're missing the spirit of volunteering and how rewarding it is to further a great cause.
This mentality partly stems from the macho, 'winning at all costs' philosophy, which is far removed from the collaborative and supportive framework with which I approach life.
It's okay to help people who aren't aiming to make a profit, but simply adding value to the community. You can help someone to build their group, or increase awareness of inequality in the industry. You’re not really ‘working’, but doing good deeds.
If you want to be successful as a solopreneur or freelancer, build your community by helping others, even if you have not amassed what you consider to be any successes yet. This could take the form of sharing advice, cheering people on, or constructively critiquing some of their work.
And don’t let insecurity stop you. When your passion takes over, you’ll feel less self-conscious and people will naturally be drawn to you. The momentum will start to build, and soon you'll be unstoppable.