Writer Sara Hodgkinson's love of writing goes back to her childhood. She highlights time management, good communication and being proactive in pursuing opportunities as the keys to being successful as a freelance writer.
What inspired you to become a writer?
I have always loved writing. When I was growing up, I used to write fiction - obscure little short stories - in my spare time and I read voraciously. During my time at university, I wrote the odd article for different blogs and so on, but it never really developed into anything beyond a hobby though until last year. I had moved to Perth, Australia, to start a PhD but after a few months of trying to settle into it I realised it wasn’t the right thing for me. I returned home to the UK, starting to think about what it was I really wanted to do and I realised I really wanted to write. So I began looking for freelance work that might allow me to get a foot in the door and I came across a job advert for Quill. I applied, thinking I wouldn’t stand a chance, but happily got the job! Since then, I’ve worked on a handful of different projects for Quill and have also secured other freelance work alongside with other clients and companies.
Has freelancing changed your attitude towards work?
In some ways, yes. I’ve always been quite self-motivated, but it has been a learning curve in terms of how to manage my time and how much to take on. When you’re a freelancer, you have no set working hours which can be both good and bad. It’s great to be able to set your own schedule and work from wherever you have an Internet connection, but when you’re never officially ‘off the clock’ you might find yourself working more than is healthy. I try to make sure I have at least one day a week where I’m not on the laptop, not answering emails (or Slack notifications!), to do something fun and totally different to work. It’s important to keep your drive and be organised, but it’s equally as important to make time for yourself beyond your commissions.
How important are soft skills for freelance writers, in your opinion?
Very! I think in freelancing more than any other form of work it is hugely important to be able to get along and communicate effectively with people from all backgrounds and cultures and to be mindful of the fact that those you are working with might be on different schedules, different time zones, and with different commitments beyond whatever project you’re on. When you’re working remotely, efficient and amiable communication is key to making sure everyone is on the same page and keeping things on track.
"When you’re working remotely, efficient and amiable communication is key to making sure everyone is on the same page and keeping things on track."
What are the challenges or benefits of working as a freelancer in the UK?
As I’ve touched on above, it can be a challenge to make sure your life isn’t entirely taken over by work - the temptation to ‘just pop online and sort a few bits’ is always there, but an intended 15 minutes can turn into 2 hours of hard slog and before you know it you’ve gone two weeks without a day off. The benefits though are, in my opinion, huge. You can schedule work around other things in your life - if I’m awake really early, I can work from 7 and finish early afternoon, or have a long lunch break and then carry on into the evening. I enjoy hiking, so sometimes I’ll grab my backpack and take an hour or two to hike the hills around my home, ending up in a cafe somewhere to then work on my laptop for a few hours. There are so many options of where and when to work and the flexibility is great. With Quill, I particularly like that my ‘colleagues’ are all over the world and feel I personally benefit from interaction with other writers and editors via Slack. I also love the feeling you get at the culmination of a project, seeing something you have helped to create being sent out into the world.
What do you feel is the key to success when working remotely as a freelancer?
Time management and flexibility. Also, being proactive is pretty essential - if a new project comes off, there’s often quite a short window to pitch for it, so being on the ball is important.
What do you like to get up to outside of your work?
I love being outdoors and am lucky enough to live in a place with plenty of beautiful countryside nearby, so I enjoy going for long walks as much as I can. I’m a real foodie and love a good coffee, so tend to work at least one day a week from one of the local cafes (there are some really good ones!). Travel is a huge passion whenever money allows, and I am an unashamed bookworm so when I’m not writing or walking I’ve probably got my nose in a book.
What advice would you give to someone who is considering a career in copywriting?
Be prepared to be flexible and accept the fact that work will fluctuate month on month. Be as proactive as possible in pursuing new projects and try to be as communicative as you can when collaborating remotely with others in different locations. Also be sure to be kind to yourself - allow yourself proper down time to go out and party or simply slob in your pyjamas with Netflix!