Sian has many people's dream occupation: freelance writing from home. There's a lot more to her job than just writing too. She is juggling multiple projects and now has lots of people involved. Very impressive story!
I'm a freelance writer, working from home. I'm a founding editor of an interiors and lifestyle blog called http://www.domesticsluttery.com/" rel="nofollow">Domestic Sluttery which is my main love. We launched in March last year and have had a pretty busy year! We've just finished a photoshoot with Habitat, and we're launching in Australia in spring.
There's 13 of us now. Sometimes I'm still shocked that I get to spend my day testing cake recipes and talking to new designers, but it's so much fun. We've got so much exciting stuff planned for 2010, it's already looking like it's going to be a great year! If I'm not working on the website, I'm busy writing lifestyle features for SoFeminine and running events for Qype.
I also write content for Lastminute.com's iPhone app. And if I've still got time at the end of the day, you'll find me working on the final draft of my http://www.domesticsluttery.com/2009/03/domestic-sluttery-book.html" rel="nofollow">novel and running my jewellery business. Or having a beer.
Without fail, my day starts an hour later than it should (I'm really not a morning person) with emails and a cup of tea. Then I'll get all of the dull tasks out of the way first. I write better in the afternoons so I try and make sure I've got my writing head screwed on by lunchtime. So the mornings are spent trawling new websites, answering comments and emails, dealing with PR queries, and chasing things up with the other writers. And of course, pitching other work and fitting in the rest of my clients around the website. The rest of the day is blogging, blogging and more blogging.
Luckily I've taken on a deputy editor for Domestic Sluttery so I'll be able to manage my work. It's all about managing time effectively, and despite having been freelance for two years, I can still never quite get the hang of it.
I worked in advertising sales. After I finished uni, I skipped off to China to teach English for the summer. When I got home, I thought I'd just be able to get a job right away. No one at uni ever tells you how hard it is to find a job. Someone suggested I tried ad sales and after three months of interviews, I finally got a job.
I was actually pretty good at it and could have made a career out of it, but it wasn't what I wanted to do with my life (although sometimes I do still miss the commission cheque).
But I'm lucky in many ways. Working in ad sales means that I understand how advertising works and I'm much better equipped to make Domestic Sluttery profitable. I can negotiate when I need to and that's a skill that comes in handy more often than people realise.
Honestly? All my life. I've always wanted to write, ever since I could pick up a pen. I've always told stories, and thought that being an author was where I'd end up. But no one is going to pay you to write books straight out of uni. I realised that I still wanted to write, no matter what form that was taking.
Writing online was something that had never occurred to me until someone told me that Londonist were looking for writers. I started writing frequently. The more you write, the more you improve, and the more you want to write. There are still days when I wish I didn't have a pile of work to get through, but I really do have my dream job.
Six months before I went freelance, I got sick. I had a horrid virus, but it was the post viral fatigue afterwards that wiped me out and I had to take a month off work. I was going crazy sat in the house doing nothing. So on days when I was well enough, I was writing. There was nothing else to do.
I applied for a freelance role at Yahoo! on a whim and thought no more of it, until I got the job a month later. It was the first time that someone had ever offered to pay me to write. Then I realised that I could do it. Until then, it was just a hobby. I have no doubt that I'd have got to this point eventually, but being sick that summer gave me the time I needed to focus on what I loved doing.
It's strange how things turn out.
The job I got at Yahoo! Was only for six weeks, so I promised myself that I wouldn't leave my job until I had another gig that would cover the rent and bills. Unlike a lot of people stuck in their jobs, I actually liked mine. I was lucky, I guess. But the difficulty when you're going freelance is that you have to juggle that and a full-time job at the same time.
Or save some money and cross your fingers. As soon as I got a job that covered my rent and bills, I escaped the city!
Not very well to start with. Managing money really isn't my forte (especially not when I spend my day writing about pretty things!). Adjusting to a smaller pay cheque doesn't happen overnight so I went through my savings pretty fast. Then I lost my first job (long story, but the company is no longer) and had to act fast.
If you're a freelancer and you don't have enough money, you do what you can to get more work. But the chances are, you don't have a lot of contacts either. So you do what you can, pester the contacts you do have and you make damn sure to get more work, even if some of it is rather undesirable.
The work soon gets better, the clients improve. And as the clients improve, you have more time. You're not working yourself into the ground to pay the gas bill. But it takes a while to get to that point. And even if you are at that point, the chances are your clients won't pay you on time.
All that said, if I wasn't freelance, I wouldn't be able to make Domestic Sluttery work. We're making a profit now, but the work behind the scenes has to be done on top of paying jobs. Now we work on a profit share scheme. I work with a bunch of very talented ladies and would never feel right if they weren't getting anything back. The numbers are all going up so I'm happy.
Worst bits about going freelance?
Not having a life for the first year. Unless you've been killing yourself and working alongside a 9-5, you're starting from the bottom. And it's tough. No one ever tells you how tough it is. You work your ass off and do more 15 hour days than is healthy. But after a while it starts to pay off.
The hardest (and most exciting) thing for me was starting over again with my own website. I knew how hard it was going to be. Starting your own business when you have clients to manage is difficult. There were a lot of late nights in 2009.
The best: I get to spend every day doing what I love. Whilst drinking endless cups of tea.
It's not so much the advice that's helpful, it's the support from others that's important. Some people just won't understand how difficult leaving a stable job is ("you get to sit at home all day doing nothing!").
But it's the support from friends that you have to listen to. Once you leave your job, everyone will have advice about how you should be running your life and your business.
Instead of listening to that, I've found it's always better to listen to the people making sure you still believe that you can do it. Don't give up. Keep going.
Don't listen to the people who tell you that you can't do it (there will be a lot of them, and they're wrong). Believing in yourself is so important. So is making sure you still have a life. So at the end of the day, unless something is absolutely crucial, put the laptop away and go out dancing.
Because as much as you love your job, it's still work. Having fun is much more... well, fun.
As a blogger, reading other blogs by people I admire is crucial. Reading everything you can on the area you want to work in is the best way to get started. If you're not doing that, there's something wrong.
Use http://www.meetup.com/" rel="nofollow">Meetup to find out about networking events and Twitter to meet like-minded people. And if it's writing you want to get into, use the http://www.nuj.org.uk/" rel="nofollow">NUJ website to make sure you're getting paid what you deserve.