Excited to have another guess blogger discuss a major first time on the blog. Her name is Jenny Stonham and she tells us about what she’s learned from taking the leap into freelancing (and working at a brewery) for the first time.
What I’ve learned this year as a first-time freelancer
There’s a first time for everything, it’s a truth about firsts, and this year I left a permanent 9 to 5 job to become a writer for the first time. It’s been a long standing dream of mine to become a writer, but I was quietly typing away in a marketing agency for most of last year and was not following up on the creative projects that I wanted to pursue.
I’ve just finished up my first month as a freelance writer, and I have learned a lot from it. Some things that I’ve learned are just common sense, like managing my time well and how to write more effectively. Other things are life skills that I never thought I’d learn from simply leaving a standard job and becoming self-employed. It’s amazing how quickly a new experience can turn your life around.
I’ll be having a look at my first time freelancing, and what I’ve learned so far. I’ll also be looking at the importance of trying something new for the first time, and why I believe new experiences can help change your life for the better.
How Things Changed
Just to highlight how different this year has been for me, I just wanted to share how my day to day working life has changed.
In my old role, I would wake up at 6:30 sharp, put on some vaguely smart office clothes and get to work for 9 – with enough time to buy overpriced coffee on the way through town. Then, I’d share the usual mundane pleasantries with my colleagues, work my way through a mountain of emails and spend all day writing bland marketing copy for even blander campaigns. After that, it was home at 5, with enough time to eat and watch some TV, then time to sleep. Rinse and repeat for the week. It was the same day in and day out, to be perfectly frank with you.
Now, my life couldn’t be more different. I work 4 days a week as a freelancer and 3 days a week part-time at a local craft brewery. I’ll spend some days at home in my office writing, with the freedom to head out at any point or work to whatever hours suit me. I end up working at crazy local events, like the beer festival that I was serving at last weekend. Not being in an office means I can work anywhere – this novelty still hasn’t worn off on me. One of my favorite things is I have direct control over my own money. If I don’t work, I don’t pay my rent. This has motivated me to work even harder and reach for newer, tougher goals.
Put simply, my life has flipped around and I couldn’t be happier. That’s not to say that it’s all been smooth sailing, though. The first months as a freelancer can be very challenging. I’ve dealt with clients not paying, or people trying to take advantage of my new status. I’ve also struggled with self-motivation and organization. It’s been a steep learning curve, for sure.
Taking the leap
The first major thing that I learned from my first time working as a freelancer is that it’s really important to just take a leap of faith every now and then. If there’s something that you want to do with your life, but you know it’s going to be a struggle to get there, I’d say just try it at least. Sign up for that class. Quit the job that’s underpaying you. Learn that new skill. If you don’t try these things out (with careful planning, of course-I’m not advising anyone to just walk out of their job!) then there’s no way for you to know if they’ll be good for you or not.
Quitting my old job was quite difficult for me, and I almost didn’t do it. It was a marketing apprenticeship, and I desperately wanted to get the qualification at the end of it, as I had decided not to go to university and start work instead. I was also too comfortable with my working life, and wasn’t in a rush to put myself in an uncomfortable, new situation.
The conversation with my old boss about me leaving wasn’t pleasant, and the weeks after were also not pleasant. I was suddenly tasked with all of the most mundane, manual tasks they didn’t want to complete themselves. I noticed a shift in attitude from a lot of people too; this was hard, as I’d hoped to be on good terms with everyone.
The good that came out of this is that it opened my eyes to the environment that I’d been working in, and the negativity I’d been allowing myself to get dragged down by. Often, taking a leap of faith like this will really highlight how your current environment has been affecting you, in more ways than one.
First Time Working in a Brewery…too
Going for my part time brewery role was new to me, too. I’d never worked behind a bar, let alone in a brewery. I didn’t even drink beer! Applying for the job was a spur of the moment thing and I was incredibly nervous going in.
Flash forward a few months, I couldn’t be happier with where I am. I’ve learned a huge amount about the craft beer industry, bar work, and customer service in general. It’s a lovely place to work, but it’s crazy to think that I would never have found it if I had just stuck to my normal areas of expertise.
So if there is a job that you’re intrigued by, or a promotion that you’ve been offered- I would say go for it. Filling your daily life with more ‘first times’ and new experiences is one of the best ways to make it more fulfilling and rewarding for yourself at the end of the day.
Accept new opportunities
Another key thing that I’ve learned while being a first-time freelancer is to always accept new opportunities when they come through the door. Originally, I was very reserved about what I could write about; it was pretty much just social media and marketing. But as the months have gone on, I’ve found that accepting new, unfamiliar opportunities to write has been both enjoyable and educational. If you’d have told me a year ago that I’d be writing technical blogs on AI software and paleo veganism, I don’t think I would have believed you!
To clarify this point, I don’t mean you should just agree to do whatever people ask of you. Performing surgery or an opera in another language might not be the best career move, if you’ve never done these things before. What I mean is you shouldn’t downplay your own skills when asked to do something, just because it doesn’t fit into your niche area of expertise.
For example, if you’re a modern fashion blogger and you get asked to do a historical piece, I’d say try it and see whether it works out. Doing this sort of piece would help you understand more about your industry, help you learn, and I’m sure it would help you improve your skills overall too.
Stepping out of your comfort zone by trying new things can be scary at first, but doing so, can be hugely beneficial for your skills and abilities. It can also be beneficial for your mindset too. I know I feel great when I see a good review from a client for a writing a piece that I wasn’t too familiar with, and it’s certainly helped to boost my confidence.
To sum things up, for me, stepping into the unknown to follow my dream of becoming a writer has been one of the most enjoyable, rewarding, and growth enhancing experience of my life so far. If you haven’t tried something new yet this year, I’d say go for it, you’re at the right place, sign-up for the #365FirstsChallenge! Whether it’s something as simple as a cooking a new meal or something as complex as a new job, I guarantee that it will help change your life for the better.
Emily Stonham is a freelance writer and artist, living in Reading, UK. She has a passion for social media, tattoos, and creative marketing.