Freelancing, even today, is kind of ambiguous. Over the years, I’ve had people ask me, “but… how do you really make money as a freelance copywriter and journalist? Surely you can’t earn a respectable living from your words alone…”
I still get these questions.
I’ve always felt that it’s ‘safer’ to work across a range of clients, rather than put all hope and dreams (and financial expectations) in the one company. Diversification has always been a smart investment strategy; the same can be said for work.
I thought I’d do my small part to make the world of freelancing less mysterious and tell you my story.
In my early 20’s, my dream was to be a travel writer. I wanted to continent hop, selling my adventures and insights to publications. I was never made for the office life and I’m thankful to have realised this early on. After finishing a BA in public relations and post-grad in journalism, I landed in the marketing world, and leveraged my paid holidays to see the world.
But, this wasn’t enough. Four weeks of annual leave was just scratching the surface, even when I stretched it to six. Knowing this, I spent nights and weekends balancing some freelance work, and in September 2014, just four years into my corporate career at 26, I became a full-time freelance copywriter in Adelaide.
I’ve never looked back.
I believe we should dial into our own style of working. Freelancing lets me craft my schedule in a way that supports my energy, instead of works against it. I’m better at 7.00am than I am at 3.00pm.
I’ve designed my schedule by theming days, so I’m not giving my writer-brain whiplash.
It’s these small adjustments that make the world of difference to what I produce. I know people who can’t imagine working alone and not having the structure of a team and someone telling them how to construct their days. Each to their own.
For the first five years, I focused solely on freelance copywriting and corporate branded work. Brands, agencies and websites need content, and a lot of it. From taglines through to books, I’ve done it all. I work closely with clients to tell their brand story, engage an audience, and do more business.
But at year six, I realised I was ignoring the speciality I went to university for (and always dreamed about doing professionally): journalism, and more specifically, travel writing.
This first half-decade of my freelance business coincided with a lot of travel. I spent two years galavanting around the world and building my business at the same time, which led me to the world’s sleepless cultural melting pot: New York City.
I realised that focusing specifically on travel writing didn’t encapsulate all of the things I want to report on – society, travel, immigration, the LGBTQ+ community, and more.
So today, alongside copywriting, the second arm of my freelance business, is culture journalism. It perfectly encapsulates all the things that fascinate me, including travel.
With gentle strokes of poeticism, wrapped in a conversational ‘she’s talking to me’ style, my words explore what’s unsaid and peel open the stories that need to be unearthed.
My words find a home in publications, newspapers and websites across the world – in Australia, America, Canada, the U.K. and Asia.
As well as freelance journalist, cultural commentator and copywriter, I’m also working on a book, The Inner Fire – an exploration of the phoenix cycle experienced by all travellers: new experiences growing into great joy, then fading, absence and grief, and back into something new.
I see this book project, and the many products that will follow, as the sculptures, fairy lights, fire pit and other items that make a backyard shrine to living come alive – with the freelance copywriting work and journalism by-lines as the ground’s foundation. The footing and fantastic arrangements both serve a purpose to keep things in place and beautify a space.
The best part about being a freelance writer is following that pull, wherever it takes me. I’m interested in so many topics, some mainstream, others obscure. I can seek out clients in these industries, sell stories covering these topics, and create products – books, courses, physical and digital assets – which all lets me have fun, answer questions and inspire others… while making a living from it!
I feel very grateful for the freelance business I’ve built. I continue to design it and let my heart lead the way.
We freelance writers don’t just do one thing.
Typically, we have multiple beats, all in flux. We love variety, spontaneity, freedom, and experimentation. I tend to seek this in the types of people I work with, too. To the public, I’m a freelance writer. And for me, this means I’m a culture writer, copywriter, brand storyteller, journalist, author, content strategist, observer and commentator, traveller, adventurer, and people watcher.
But ask me next year. I’m sure it’ll be different again.