#BikeLife 4 – First Year of Freelance

So this isn’t exactly bike related, but in a roundabout way it is because writing about bikes is my job, and while this may feel a little out of place I wanted to put together a little something that could potentially help others and remind me why I do what I do. 

Where did it all start?

I graduated in July 2014 and shortly after, in August I registered as self-employed. A relatively pain free process seeing as I was registering as a sole trader, not an actual business, so that part was easy enough. Some more information here if you’re considering doing the same. 

I suppose I came into the whole self-employment thing in an unconventional way, but it’s something that made the most sense for me. My focus in university was to gain as much experience as I could in my chosen field. Aside from knowing I wanted to be a journalist, the mountain bike side of things didn’t really happen until the end of my first year. I started my website (with the help of a friend, without whom I’d be still trying to figure things out), began asking people for work experience and things developed from there. Once I’d finished studying I’d built up a good contact base which enabled me to go on to ‘be my own boss’ once I was finished.

I won’t even begin to pretend to be an expert, although a year is a relatively long time there are so many things I could be doing, and quite possibly still need to do in order to make the most of working for myself. I’m lucky to work with a number of clients on a regular basis having built up a good relationship with a few people, and I’m grateful to those who have given me the opportunity to work with them. This definitely makes things easier because I’m not having to deal with pitching often, that and the mountain bike industry is relatively small so you usually find that most people know each other in some capacity.

Feast Vs Famine

This is undoubtedly something you will hear every freelancer talk about, and something I’ve experienced for myself. Sometimes you have nothing, and other times you’re inundated with emails asking for help. It’s a bit of a weird thing to get used to, but pretty amazing when you find yourself with a healthy bank balance. The downside is lack of stability, it’s hard to plan for things financially when you aren’t completely sure what you’ve got coming in one month to the next. The other side of this rock and roll lifestyle (If only..) is the fact, aside from the three months I’ve just spent living in Morzine, myself and my partner currently live with his parents, this will most likely continue for some time until we decide to travel again, or have enough money to actually move out. I’m not one to sugar coat things, and I’m certainly not wanting to seem ungrateful, without their support and a roof over my head, I would have failed as a freelancer at my first hurdle. If you’re considering giving it a go, take a look at your finances, and as many others have advised, have some kind of back-up plan or at least some savings to keep you going. 

Pros & Cons

I’ve done some pretty weird and wonderful things in the last year, for one job I travelled to Montreal, Canada for a day – I flew over, went to sleep, woke up and went to do an interview before having some dinner and heading back to the airport to catch my flight home. I’ve done more travelling in the past year and half than I did through my late teens and early twenties – I have the time to do it, but rarely the finances. I was also named as one of BikeBiz’s ‘Women of the Year’ which was a massive honour. 

I spend an unhealthy amount of time in my pj’s, it’s hard to get motivated to get dressed when you know you’re not leaving the house, and as much as I hate to admit, sometimes I don’t for a few days at a time, something that I’m going to have to change because it kills creativity and makes me feel like some form of cave-dwelling, Gollumesque creature. I also don’t really get to interact with people that often. I have regular ‘meetings’ and catch-ups via Skype and email, but it’s not the same as being in the office with actual human beings, it can get kind of lonely, but on the other hand, it’s nice to have peace and quiet to get on with things when a deadline is looming. I’m quite aware I’m not exactly painting the best picture here, but freelancing is a different experience for everyone, and indeed I’d imagine differs by industry. 

I mostly find myself doing editorial work which is, in itself quite terrifying after only a year, but I don’t have a lot of the bigger responsibilities editors do, not yet anyway. Writing is something I don’t get to do a lot of in the bike industry, in fact a career as a journalist in the mountain biking industry isn’t a particularly good route to follow, unless you have a range of skills; photography, social media – if you’re the whole package then it’s easy to adapt and provide skills that will pay the bills (that was unintentional, literal, but still..) 

One thing you’ll hear time and time again is the positives about being able to work from anywhere, and this, indeed is something I love, if I want to head home, or spend time with friends and family, all I need is my laptop and an internet connection and I can be anywhere in the world and still get my work done. 

What’s next?

I’ve considered giving up on quite a few occasions, but there are times I’ve been reminded why I love doing this. I’d like to think the next step is another learning curve, a time to develop ideas, branch out from my niche and continue to shape the future into an organised, successful career. For now I will continue to do my best; ask Google multiple grammar questions daily, agonise over my work, somehow get through my first tax return and look forward to the next few months, because one thing I do know, is that I never know what to expect.