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Freelancing – scary world or comfortable one?
08 Feb 2017
by Harriet Ernstsons-Evans

When I started my career in journalism, freelancing was almost talked about in hushed tones.

As if it was hallowed ground you could only reach once you had a contacts book bursting with thousands of numbers, a portfolio full of front page national exclusives and decades of experience behind you.

Seven years on and about to finish maternity leave, it seemed like the best option to give me the chance to stay at home with my little one while still bringing in some money each month.

In some ways, it could have been a silly move – and a scary one at that, I hadn’t got those decades of experience, I’d recently relocated to a new area 50 miles away from where the bulk of contacts from my reporting days were and I didn’t have the time to completely devote myself to building up my business while juggling the new world of motherhood.

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But in other ways, it seemed a natural move. I had nothing to lose, it was something I could easily do for a few hours while baby slept and all I needed was my laptop, a phone and a notepad.

The thing which I remembered very quickly was just how small the world of media, communications and PR is. While there are plenty of former journalists out there, we’re the kind of people who really like talking to other people – so much so we’ve made a career out of it.

That meant I wasn’t necessarily cold calling people asking them if I could write for them, instead I was reminding them of a time we’d met or worked together in the past, or someone else I knew pointed me in their direction and was able to vouch for my strengths and abilities.

And the beauty of being married to a former journalist turned comms officer who does have those decades of experience is that, if someone didn’t know me, they certainly knew who he was. There’s not many times I’d relish being reduced to being known as ‘the wife of…’ but in this instance I was happy to make an exception!

Soon I found I had a steady stream of work coming my way so for me, it’s been a mostly comfortable ride. Far less scary than going back to the 14 hour days filled with meetings and deadlines I was used to before I had a baby waiting at home for me, and also less intimidating than starting a new career from scratch. It feels like taking some of the best bits of my old job and having much more control over other aspects – like how often and where I work.

It definitely takes a certain amount of discipline to sit down in front of a laptop and plough through a to do list and I know many people who just wouldn’t like the amount of flexibility freelancing allows you, but for me the fact I can choose not to work on a certain day and take my little one to the park instead, or I can get up at 6am on a Saturday and work in my pyjamas, is an outright advantage.

I pick and choose what I do when and that to me completely overrides any of the apprehension I could have had about taking the freelance plunge.