A guest blog from Sally Mayor of Word Nerd
So, you’re thinking of becoming a self-employed copywriter? How wonderful! Working for myself is the best thing I’ve ever done.
That doesn’t mean it’s always easy, especially with the added challenge of managing my health. If you’re managing a health condition you might enjoy my guest post on women’s website Prowess, it’s about how I lost two jobs in two years and decided to set up WordNerd – it’s cheerier than it sounds!
Having an illness, long-term health issue or disability isn’t a reason not to work for yourself; in fact, it can be a very good reason to be self-employed. I hope what I’ve learnt in the last couple of years can help you as you start out on your adventure.
Whatever it is that you’re dealing with, it will probably curb your day-to-day activities in some way. And, if you’re anything like me, you’ll do your best not to let it! Having had fibromyalgia for almost a decade I’ve learnt to listen to my body, when it hurts or is tired it’s telling me to stop what I’m doing and rest.
The days of ringing in sick and still getting paid are gone, no one else will be able to pick up your work until you’re better. When you work for yourself, it’s all down to you and the best thing you can do for your business is to look after yourself.
Studies have shown that if you have fibromyalgia your brain doesn’t produce the right combination of neurochemicals for restorative sleep so I take meds to make sure I sleep deeply. The side effect of my drugs is that I don’t do early mornings. Whatever you’re dealing with, you have to work around it.
Spread your meetings out over the week and don’t arrange things at your bad time of the day. Even if you feel pressurised or other people think you’re weird, if you know it will ruin the rest of your day DON’T DO IT! I’ve spent so long hiding my illness or pretending I’m OK or over-compensating, it’s much easier just to speak up.
Managing other people’s expectations is hard but not as hard as being ill for days or weeks because you’ve overdone it.
As a successful copywriter you’re going to be juggling projects, deadlines, marketing, meetings, business development, networking, admin… you will never get to the end of it.
Just as you’re going to be self-disciplined enough to manage other people, you’re going to have to be strict with yourself. Shut your office door, clear your kitchen table, leave the library or wherever you work, draw a line under it all and go and do something else before you’re on the point of collapse.
Your work will never be done so learn not to worry about it or you’ll end up working silly hours and making yourself ill. Prioritise, write plans and lists, be focussed and work hard but know when to switch off too.
I’ve built good relationships with all my clients, there isn’t one I couldn’t tell if I was ill or who wouldn’t care (I hope!) and when I was off for six weeks last year my clients waited for me. That won’t always happen but you’ll find that most of them will be understanding and flexible.
Your clients will come to you because of your unique style, approach or personality so don’t worry if you have to tell them you’re ill or you have to ask to extend a deadline – nine times out of ten they won’t mind. When that other time comes along and they can’t wait, make sure you can recommend another copywriter to them or – better still – pass the work on and take a referral fee.
A bit of a deep one now but nothing is that important.
I know how difficult it is to set up a business and manage your health, to deal with all the physical and mental health issues a chronic illness brings with it. The last two years have been amazing but boy has it been tough at times too.
No copywriting job is as important as you or your health so try not to sweat the small stuff.
If it all gets too much – STOP. Take a deep breathe. Step away from your work and rest or do whatever your condition requires (for me it usually means taking some codeine and resting). If you’re not going to be able to work for a while, draw up two lists: one with the urgent things, the other with the ‘I’d like to get done’ items.
Go through the urgent one, cancel your meetings and talk to your clients or get someone else to do this for you – your clients won’t mind (see 4 above!) – and keep list 2 for when you feel better. Then switch off your computer and your mobile, listen to your body and put your health first.
Working as a freelance copywriter will be challenging, especially if you have a condition or disability, but trust me, it will be worth it.
If you can try to listen to your body, pace yourself, learn when to walk away from your work, build good relationships with your clients and remember that you and your health are number one you’ll be just fine.
Please feel free to contact me or comment if you have any questions or other tips to share.
Sally Mayor is a freelance copywriter and set up WordNerd in 2011. She is a grammar nut, addicted to TV quizzes, less geeky than she sounds and loves travelling and reading. You can hook up with her by email Sally@wordnerd.co.uk, connect on Twitter @wordnerdsally or check out her website www.wordnerd.co.uk