The Daily Jigsaw

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One of the first challenges I faced as a freelancer was how to structure my day. I’ve spent all of my working life, in one way or another, tied to primary school life: there have been clear start and end times, and there’s never been any flexibility. If I wanted to go for a run, I’d do it before work. If I wanted to go swimming or shopping, or pop to the bank, I’d do it after work. Now I don’t have to do that: any of those things can happen in the middle of the day, if I like. And I do like. I love an empty swimming pool or a quiet towpath, and so I’ve been structuring my day, by and large, in two shifts: I work in the morning; I have a long break in the middle of the day; and then I work again until about 7pm. It’s one of my favourite things about my new life, and if I have to go back to normal work day structure, I’ll really miss it.

I actually thought that the tricky thing about structuring my own work day would be making myself do the work. The reality is, I’m too anxious not to have a strong work ethic, and so I have no trouble with this at all… my problem is not working. I’m pretty good at making sure I have one day off a week (usually!) but rarely do I feel like I can justify more than this. Balance is something I have to strive for going forwards. It’s tricky here at the beginning of the journey though: while I’m still trying to build up work and earn enough to get by in the process, I feel that I should be working all the time. Even my big break in the middle of the day feels over-indulgent sometimes, even though I know I’m clocking enough hours throughout the day.

The other element I struggle with is balancing projects. It’s quite helpful that I have a set editing commitment Monday to Thursday, and this is a job that requires a defined amount of time. But other projects, I struggle to timetable efficiently. How much time a day should I give this project? Would it be better to spend two solid days on that one? Am I spending too much time on this job? When I was at school, if a thing didn’t get done within the working day, it would simply have to be picked up again the next day. This doesn’t always work out in my new life: now, if something doesn’t get finished in the time I put aside for it, it’s on me, and it has an impact on other projects. Luckily, my work ethic means that it’s only me that suffers when I get it wrong. I will always deliver on time. I just might miss out on an evening or have to work solidly all weekend to achieve it. I hope this is something I’ll get better at going forwards.

Apart from when it doesn’t work and I have to abandon all my plans to hit a deadline, I strive for this by implementing certain rules for myself: I have to stop by 7pm; I have to go out in the world every day; I have to exercise every day: these are the ways I protect my physical and mental health and aim to draw the line between work and life. But it doesn’t work if I haven’t balanced the projects well. Hopefully, as I move forwards, I’ll begin to get a better feel for how long a job will take me and how best to fit the pieces of the day together to complete the puzzle. But for now, this is a work in progress, and one of the biggest challenges I face as I begin my freelance journey.

Beginning at the Beginning

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It has been almost five months since I officially became a freelance writer. I say ‘officially’… I actually just accepted that this is what I’m doing, and pulled myself out of the blind panic that comes with jumping off a cliff. In September last year, I sat down at my desk and thought, Right. I’m doing this.

I have been working in education for over 15 years, writing constantly on the side. I loved working in education, and I learnt so many skills that seep into my work as a writer, but it’s time for me to try something new. It’s time for me to focus on the work I love the most: writing. I reached out to other freelance writers I know, asking for advice on how to get started. I signed up to online writing communities and newsletters, and I started listening to Hot Copy Podcast at every opportunity (a great resource for working writers). In fact, it was on the advice of Kate Toon and Belinda Weaver, who I’ve come to think of as my virtual mentors (despite the fact that neither of them know they’re mentoring me) that I decided to start a blog to track my journey.

I’d kept a blog for years, which remained, until very recently, neglected on my website. It was more of a journal than anything else, and lacked the focus I want to demonstrate. I’m hesitant to start a brand new blog at the same time as looking for work and completing projects, especially when it will show clients how close I am to the start of my journey. But every great journey starts somewhere.

I know I can write.

 I need other people to know I can write.

 I want other people to know I can write for them.

My blog is a tool – I am a highly experienced writer (just not highly experienced at making a living from it) and I need to show that. I believe in honesty and openness, and so, it is with slight trepidation that I launch Track Changes, in which I aim to share my insights, experiences and resources as I begin this terrifying journey into self-employment.

Welcome to Track Changes.