Case study

Freelance writer — James Robinson

James talks us through the highs and lows of his freelance digital copywriting role

How did you become a freelancer?

I took an online course to learn how to set up my website Words Innovated and how to approach clients. Learning how to market your services is essential as you have to work at attracting new clients.

How relevant is your degree to your job?

My degree in English and American literature is probably not as relevant as you would think. The ability to structure an argument within a word count is useful, but you also need a completely different skill set to run your own business.

Having said that, degree-level study teaches you to handle complex assignments, and it's that ability to work independently that has proven so beneficial when working as a freelancer.

What are your main work activities?

I can break it down like this:

  • 10% marketing;
  • 30% researching;
  • 60% writing.

Each job starts when I contact a client. The'’ll usually ask me to think up some topics relating to their area of expertise, so I'll spend some time checking out their competition, researching what's currently trending within the industry and coming up with interesting headlines and outlining content.

After they give the go-ahead, I'll take some time to research each topic more rigorously, and then spend time writing.

What skills are needed as a freelancer?

Social butterflies are going to struggle; you really need to be comfortable working on your own. Working alone has always been ideal for me, but it's easy to miss the casual friendships that develop in an office.

Beyond that, you need to be able to face rejection. You'll receive a lot at first, and that's exactly when you'll be feeling most unsure of yourself.

How has your role developed?

I started by writing lots of low-paying articles each day. I now write four to five articles a day, but each job is better paid. My aim is to continue that trend.

In terms of career development when you are freelance, there are plenty of online courses available to take you into different areas, so you'll never lack assistance.

What do you enjoy about being freelance?

The great thing is that I have 'jobs' instead of a 'job', so there's plenty of variety. The flexibility is great too, but the best part really is finishing a job, reading it through, and knowing that you hit this one out of the park.

What are the most challenging parts?

It can be tough, having to motivate yourself. People think that it's great to be your own boss. It is, but suddenly the person making you stay late to catch up on work isn't someone else - it's you.

What advice would you give to others?

Keep freelancing as a side-line for the first few months; it means being able to find the right jobs without having to worry about putting food on the table. I'd also highly recommend taking an online course. You'll receive the support you need, and taking a course usually means being put in contact with a whole network of past and current students.

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