When the world is on fire, don’t forget to delve within its depths…

The world feels heavy right now.

The climate is burning, our futures uncertain. household bills and energy costs are soaring. Stories of hate and discrimination are rife. We are divided on all levels, the rich continue to get richer whilst the vast majority of us are left behind, the their dust.

We struggle with the juggle, is it really possible to spin so many plates? We must be good parents, keep our homes, remain ambitious and loyal employees. We must find time for ourselves, enjoy our hobbies and look after our mental health. As if? As humans we know that this is not the right model. That this here model leads to one thing and one thing only; burnout. We’re more tired than we have ever been. More drained, sicker, more broken hearted and yet so much is expected of us. It’s paradoxal.

Yet, amongst the increased darkness, in between the rifts and the ravines of the gut wrenching, soul shaking headlines there is light. There are pockets of motherly gangs, working together arm in arm to fight against the bullshit. We have activist teams, burrowing away in their spaces, creating and fighting for what is right. Teams are building and bonds are being made. We are working underground, in the background, just waiting for our moment.

We rally around each other, advocate for one another and lead with determination but most importantly passion. We love and laugh and make good. We are what will change the world and whether the Tories, the Republicans or the billionaires like it or not, we are coming for you. We know what we want, we know our birth given rights and we will ensure that the rest of the world does too.

We are not asking for your acceptance and certainly, we do not need your permission. We do not need you to bend your rules for us rebels. We are the rebellion and we will create a better world for ourselves and our children. Just watch us.

A love letter to myself

It’s been a bit of a revelation this understanding of the feeling in the pit of my stomach.

For so long I’ve been wondering why, wondering where it comes from and how it catches me off guard at 4:00am. It’s difficult to describe, over the past decade, I haven’t been sad or depressed, per say. I’ve just been longing for something more. It’s felt as though a part of me was not being exercised or cared for. I feel silly now looking back and not recognising it sooner. Writing makes me feel so alive. It makes me make sense of the world and those around me. It allows me to adventure and explore from within the tracks of my own brain. I am able to walk paths un touched, ski first lines on blue bird days and write love letters to those close to me. It’s a place to paint my rage, white hot and searing. It’s where my memories are crystallised, forever mine. How did I go this long without fucking seeing it? It’s madness, laughable now, in hindsight.

As I sit here cradling my baby girl whilst she naps, the bright August sun shines through her bedroom window, illuminating the dust on her shelves. We’re slightly sweaty in the summer heat, her hair curling at the ends from the humidity and I feel utterly calm. I write these words so freely and effortlessly. I’m sure I’ll look back in a few months time and cringe at them but that’s how we work us humans, isn’t it? Always progressing and outgrowing our former selves…

I’m bringing back my creativity, letting myself be the writer I’m sure I’ve always been. I’m doing it. If not now, then when?

This is a love letter to myself, I’m leaning in to me and my needs the same way I lean into those I love in my life. I’m going to be my own best cheerleader and do the damn thing. Write the book, pen the poetry and publish the work! For me and for you, somebody out in the world to hopefully read and feel deep within them. Let’s enjoy this together.

I am a writer, remember?

It’s been almost a decade. Wouah, that makes it sound more dramatic than it is. 

Actually fuck that. It is dramatic. 

It’s been almost a decade that I’ve been depriving myself from living as my true self. If you know me you may be thinking, hang on a minute. You’ve been openly gay, married to a wonderful women and have an amazing daughter, we own a house that we love etc. You’re damn right, those things are true. 

But for the past 9, almost 10 years I’ve been jumping from pillar to post to fit into the corporate world and achieve the things that the tick box list tells me I should be. I work in sales for gods sake. I hear you when you say woe is me. Who am I to sit around whinging, how dare I? I am lucky I know that, I have food on the table and a warm wonderful family around that table. I have ticked the boxes and those are incredibly important factors in my life but in achieving all of those things, I have deleted a part of myself. I have dampened down those feelings, buried them below my love for others, pay rises, better cars and bigger homes. 

You’re probably wondering what this great reveal will be. I’m sorry to disappoint you, as I’m sure it will be a disappointment but I need to put it out there. I need to let it out into the world, onto the socials or wherever it needs to live. I’m talking about my creativity. More specifically my writing. Since graduating university in 2013, where I did so with honours in Film and CREATIVE WRITING I have done a whole lot of nothing with it. I have written in private, in secret almost. Tiny snippets saved on my phone, that I would be ashamed for people to see. Even my wife. Thats crazy to see written down but it’s how I’ve felt until now.

It’s as though I thought that when I graduated from university I’d get a certificate that said ‘Harriet you’re a writer’. I didn’t, obviously, and for some reason I have never allowed myself to say that I am a writer. Even though it’s something that I feel so deeply within my makeup and I am forever writing. In my mind, at least. I’m always hearing words, patterns and cadences that make me pick apart the language. I love to get into the minutia of words, where did they come from, why do we use them in one way when the French use them in another. I am obsessed with what words are saying but equally so with what they leave unsaid. 

When I think back to my younger years. Two traits of who I was as a child stick out. I was either running around throwing a ball or sat at my desk writing and illustrating books. It’s safe to say that the latter part of my creativity peaked when I was 8 or 9 and I am happy to leave the drawing there! 

When I think of my teenage years, again, I was either outside playing sports with my friends or at my desk dissecting song lyrics and writing poetry. My attention later turned to television writing and film. I wrote my wife love letters all throughout the years we first dated (note to self: I should be doing more of that.). Now, within my sales role I obsess over content and copywriting. Should my email have a call to action? Of course it should, but what should it say?

What has become apparent is that I have always been a writer. It’s quite clearly a deeply routed part of me and this unsettling, grumbling and ever reoccurring numb feeling that I get every other month is because I am not writing. I am not putting pen to paper, or finger to keyboard. Let’s be honest my hand would fall off if I tried to write more than a shopping list in wet ink. The feeling of not knowing who I am or where I fit into the corporate world is because I don’t. And that’s okay! In fact, it’s a good thing to be aware of. The reason I find it so difficult to feign interest or remain consistently engaged is because I’m not. It seems so simple now. 

All of the hours I have spent stewing over what my role is, how people perceive me and why on Earth I feel so out of place in our Canary Wharf London office is just that. I am. I am not meant to be confined by corporate limitations. I do not like the rigidity, the coldness nor the indifference that I do often witness in the office. I work around some incredibly talented, driven people. Many on whom I really enjoy, but, they are not my people. They don’t talk in blasts of colour, they do not describe the world in ways that make sense to me and they do not debate endlessly how to sign off their client emails. What is better ‘Best Wishes’ or ‘Kindest Regards’? It’s the same messaging, really. We are simply politely saying goodbye but we want them to know that we did so with a little smile or a wave. It’s a friendly goodbye – with more than just regards. 

I suppose the real question now is, what do I do with this information? This is a good start, I guess. I’m writing, after all. Where do I go from here though? 

Should I start a blog to contain the upcoming steps of this journey? Do I want to write a novel? I’m not sure. Do I gravitate towards children’s books? I don’t think so but it’s pretty much all I read at the moment with my 1.5 year old.  

The great Cheryl Strayed always suggests list making when having to decide on what’s best. She recently coined them a new name on a podcast with the glorious Glennon & Amanda Doyle and Abbey Wambach that these lists aren’t To Do lists, rather To Know lists. They help you see what you can’t yet know and what you may never know but they can help you make weigh up and prioritise your decision.

I’ll make a list. 

I have this funny feeling now, whereby I’ve been writing for almost 30 minutes. I feels good, it feels warm and soothing. It’s cathartic. I don’t want to stop because I’m afraid that if I stop I won’t ever start again. I do need to stop however, as it’s almost Nursery pick up time and I’m just returning from the gym so should really shower before picking up baby E. 

I think this needs to be a blog. It can become a place to bring back my creativity, to dive back into my writing. A blog can be serious or fun, posts can be long or short. I can make this up as I go. There is less pressure and as I dive into this new body of water, this new, truer me, the less pressure the better. 

Does this mean I’ve just written my first post?  

Shit. I better bring back the creativity. I’m a writer now, remember.

How do you stay productive during a Global Pandemic?

The world of a freelancer can feel fairly solitary and isolated at the best of times but you’d usually have dinner with the family at your favourite restaurant, planned adventures and a long list of exciting things in the calendar to keep you both busy and motivated to plow through the days and weeks ahead.

Until now! When you find yourself in a Global Pandemic and your extracurriculars go out the window! Are you struggling to find your mojo during lock down? Do you wake up in the morning, make your third cup of coffee and plonk yourself down at your desk only to think: Now what?

Fret not! You’re not alone! Here are a handful of tried and tested ways of keeping your productivity levels up during this pandemic:

Keep to your Routine but be adaptable

It’s easy to be distracted by the morning news, the jobs around the house, the puppy at your feet and the odd changes you’ve no doubt noticed in some of your clients but by trying to stick to your normal routine you should ensure a level of productivity.

If your normal routine would see you working 9-5 with an hours break for lunch at 1:00 try to stick to this throughout your workweek. Sure, this may need to be a little more fluid than normal if you have kids home from school to whom you’re teaching Algebra you had long forgotten existed, or, if you’re working with clients who now themselves are part-time teachers, carers and housekeepers

Your routine if your jam, it’s your blueprint, it’s what sets you up for your day, or your night! Whatever your work routine looks like doesn’t really matter. It’s making sure that whatever you include in those work hours keeps you on track, allows you to reach deadlines and improves your workflow. 

Reward yourself with regular breaks

Whether a break for you is sitting outside in the sunshine with a cup of coffee or working through your house work in between client calls, set yourself some break times and stick to em’. You could focus on client work in 1.5-2 hour increments (depending on the task), then reward yourself with 15 minutes or so of doing ‘something else’ some days that something else could be sitting on the couch scrolling through IG, other times, it might be putting the next load of washing in the dryer or changing the beds, that’s not important . 

What is important is taking those mini breaks. You may choose to take fewer longer breaks or many short breaks throughout your day, either way do your best to prioritise these to avoid burn-out. It is proven to increase concentration and productivity when you set yourself ‘sessions’ throughout the day broken down into blocks that you can easily accomplish. It feels good even just reading that hey?

During a study for Inc.com researchers found, the ideal work rhythm was 52 minutes of work time followed by a 17-minute break. You can read more on that here.

What does Productivity look like to you?

This is important to establish from the offset, as a freelancer especially. You need to be open to the fact that productivity can come about in many different forms. This may depend on your overall schedule that week, it may vary depending on which clients you find yourself working with and it may simply take on a different shape if you happen to be juggling a busy home life/work balance. 

Many freelancing weeks look the same, they follow the same time-table (mostly) and have a similar rhythm. However, at the beginning of every week, on a Monday or Sunday night if you’re feeling really adventurous! Why not spend 5-10 minutes just bullet pointing what Productivity looks like to you that week. 

Most times your list may be 5 or 6 bullets revolving around starting, finishing or finessing certain client projects but other times it may include chores or DIY jobs you weren’t able finish off around the house over the weekend. You’ll likely find that more often than not, it’s a mixture of the two with a few gym or fitness bullets thrown in for good measure! 

Assessing what being productive looks like to you allows you to then measure ‘what good looks like’ and allows you to feel a real sense of achievement about your work week. 

Focus on what you can control and ignore the rest

Working as a freelancer usually means that you find yourself at home or working from a coffee shop. Although both of these places can be lovely and spark creativity of all kinds, they can also be hella’ distracting! Top that off with social media, the news, opinions of others, a difficult client and bad weather and well what started off as a pleasant and work worthy day can soon descend into mass chaos.

Do not lose hope though, it doesn’t always have to be that way, you don’t have to let the day run away with you once it begins to unravel. No, now is the time to focus on the things that you can control:

  • Ignore social media, hey, turn your phone off if needs must
  • Address the difficult client, put them at ease and manage their expectations, then move on
  • Move locations, if your current spot isn’t working for you you’ll waste less time packing up and moving to a more suitable place than trying to push through
  • Ignore outside distractions, your evening plans, family WhatsApp group and the news can all wait until later. They will still be there during your next coffee break, lunch or even the end of the day, madness I know
  • If your headspace is better suited to drafting rather than editing that day then don’t fight it, harness your mood and make your day work for you

In doing the above you’ll create a space (both menatally and physically) that works for you, a space with minimal distractions that allows you to work your butt off when necessary, knowing that you can switch off at the end of the day with a completed To Do list. 

Don’t stress about things you cannot control; i.e the wet weather or the sound the old guy next to you is making when drinking his cappuccino, but do make every effort to change the things you can if they will lead you to a more productive day. 

Be kind to yourself

As a creative you’re likely an overthinker, it’s how you get some of your best work done, let’s be honest!  BUT overthinking can sometimes lead to a downward spiral of misery. On those days when your head is just not in it, you’ve got a client deadline looming and you worked until the late hours the night before; be kind to yourself. 

Take a step away from work, give yourself an hour of ‘you’ time and do something unrelated. Speak kindly to yourself and do the little things that make you feel better. When the days are rough allow yourself an hour of wallow. Whether you end up in YouTube hole watching Beyoncé live performances or Masterchef re-runs, give yourself that time but once those 60 minutes are up so should be your pity party. 

From time-to-time we have to realise that being kind to ourselves and allowing our minds to wander for a moment or two is better than gauging our eyes out in front of our laptops muttering cruel words about ourselves, our work and our lacklustre performance that day. Have your moment, then dust yourself off and get back to it. You’ll thank yourself later.

Keep Active

This probably warrants a whole post of its own, damn, many profs have written about the benefits of staying active when working from home, or from the Freelancers favourite position: seated. Activity is worth mentioning nonetheless.

Try to move around as much as possible, stand a little (use your kitchen counter as a standing desk), take walking phone calls whenever possible and if it’s your kinda’ thing don’t scrimp on the lunchtime gym activities, make them a priority!

If you don’t tend to do very well sitting still and never have done, don’t fight it. If you’re feeling stuck or uncomfortable having been sat at your desk for hours on end, why not take an hour and go to partake in some yoga, play with your kids or take the doggos on a walk? You know as well as all of us that once you have you’ll be able to settle into whatever job you have in front of you.

Get those steps in when you can, stretch and move your body. Your brain will reward you! 

Remember, this Pandemic will end

Over the upcoming weeks and months you will slowly begin to move out of lock down, you will be able to visit friends and family. Businesses will begin to emerge from their forced hibernation, clients will be spending money once again and you will acclimatise to the ‘new normal’.

It’s worth taking a moment to think about where you and your freelance business want to be when the lock down does lift. Try to tie up any of those niggly bits that you don’t normally have time to do; edits on your website, updating your portfolio and general housekeeping around your accounts and finances. Strategise, plan, review and re-set.

Be sure that when the world does emerge on the other side of this that you’re ready to hit the ground running. Put a plan in place that will ensure that you’re engaged, excited and prepared to take on the work that will land on your desk. 

And lastly

It is clear that the Coronavirus Pandemic has hit the freelancing world, however, more fool it! As a Freelancer you are dedicated, adaptable and bold by nature! You jump through hoops bigger than Coronavirus most weeks!

Now is the time for you to up your Pandemic Productivity and show Covid-19 that you’re not to be played with!

Going Freelance during a Global Pandemic

Are you taking the plunge into the vast Freelance Pool during a Global Pandemic? Don’t worry, so am I!

Having dabbled in the Copy and Content Writing world for the past few years on a part-time basis, I find myself with, if nothing else during the presence of Covid-19; some extra time! Being locked in the house, with a non-existant social life and without exhausting myself at the gym everyday, I can no longer use my preferred excuse of ‘I couldn’t possibly do this full-time, I just don’t have the time to get it off the ground.’!

So, here we are, at the beginning of week 6 in ‘lock down’ and I have finally hyped myself up just enough to (yes, now is a time to be your own hype man, or woman!) do the work! I find myself knee deep in a whole new world. This new world consists of things I didn’t even think about; invoice systems, job boards, figuring out how many hours I truly have in the day (no I’m not Beyoncé!) and whether or not my Niche, really is my niche!

I’m organising my previous jobs, trying to collate a substantial but varied portfolio. Should I pick long, intricate White Papers, or Articles, those that showcase my thorough research processes and my attention to detail. Or, are my chatty blog posts a better representation of how I morph into my clients brand, tone and voice? Are my proposed services enough, or are they too little?

If you’re brave, or crazy enough to be going full-time Freelance during this time then here’s a quick cheat sheet for you to get your started:

– Just start, I know, it seems glaringly obvious but just take the plunge, you’ll feel so much better! Go on, pick something from the list below and do you thing!

– Browse through some online job boards, this will give you a good idea of the types of gigs that are out there. They aren’t all paying pennies in exchange for your life, many of them offer great rates and re-occurring jobs. You can try places like Pro Blogger or All Freelance Writing

– Ensure that your Social Media and/or Website are succinct and reflective of your current position. Tell people you are open for business and have time to write for them.

– Begin to think about your offering: What do you want to do and why do you want to do it?

– Think about your fees. Be bold but not silly, believe in yourself and your work and ensure that you get your worth but don’t price yourself out of the competition. Remember that as you gain more experience and more exposure your chargeable fee can increase.

– Write yourself a cold pitch, this is what you’ll use to get jobs rolling in. Cold pitches can be daunting and there will no doubt be some that you never hear back from but they are character building and if done right can nab you well paying writing jobs with companies or brands that you’ve reached out to. Be sure to tell them why they need you writing for them!

– Explore some guest writing opportunities. This are a fab way of gaining exposure and getting your By line out there on sites with heavy traffic and good readership. Some will pay you to do it too, its just about being savvy. Think of it like charity shopping – you know there is gold to be found, but you gotta’ weed out the moth eaten granny dresses first!

-Take this time to brush up on your skills, read more, explore your style using prompts or learn more about SEO. Be sure that you can be confident in your offering!

We’re all in this together, both the Corona Virus lockdown and the move into the Freelancing world. Be sure to share your findings and any tips and tricks to securing enough paid writing work to call yourself a Freelance Writer! Or, fake it until you make it – yeah, let’s hashtag that: #fakeittilyoumakeit – oh it is ugly!