freelance life

How to deal with disappointment as a freelancer

Woman sitting alone looking out to sea, captioned 'How to deal with disappointment as a freelancer'

Disappointment is part of life when you work as a freelancer – whatever your industry.

Even within the narrow field of writing, opportunities for disappointment abound. There will always be a pitch that is rejected, an editor who doesn’t respond, a client who thinks your rates are too high, or a project that just doesn’t turn out quite right…

In order to succeed as a freelancer – and for the sake of your mental wellbeing – it’s important to accept that you will encounter disappointments both big and small. The best way of dealing with disappointment looks different for everyone, but I’m sharing some of my own strategies below.

This is a timely post, because last week I heard that I hadn’t been successful with a grant application. Even though the news was expected and didn’t come as a surprise, it was still disappointing to have it confirmed, and since then I’ve been working through some of these steps. Continue reading “How to deal with disappointment as a freelancer”

Copywriting, freelance life

Working from home as a couple

Work desk with books, pencils and glasses. Captioned 'working from home as a couple... here's how we do it.' by Ruth Dawkins

My husband and I have just survived our first year working from home together.

Actually, let me rephrase that. My husband and I have just finished a fantastic first year working from home together.

I’ve been a freelancer working from my home office for almost ten years. The amount of work I’ve taken on has increased as my son has grown older and spent more time away from me – first in childcare and then at primary school. But throughout that time I’ve had the chance to put systems and processes in place that maximise my efficiency, and I’ve developed the required discipline to ignore the piles of laundry that always need putting away and instead sit down at my desk, day after day. Continue reading “Working from home as a couple”

Copywriting, Feature Writing, freelance life

How to get out of a writing slump

Image of crumpled paper in a bin and wording 'How to get out of a writing slump' by Ruth Dawkins

Write a content calendar, they said!

Plan a year’s worth of blog posts in advance, they said!

So, I did, and yet somehow it’s May 7th and I’m only now publishing the post that I’d planned for early April… I’ve had two big copywriting projects on the go, both of which required me to work through the school holidays, so when I did have spare time it felt much more important to spend that with my family rather than tinkering away in the back of my website.

However, school is now back, my diary is a little more under control, and I’ve got a chance to share this post that has been sitting in note form in my drafts folder for several weeks.

Somewhat ironically, given how busy I’ve been, I decided that in April I would write about how to get yourself out of a writing slump. Continue reading “How to get out of a writing slump”

Feature Writing

SBS feature on Antarctica

Screenshot of SBS news piece on sexism in Antarctica by Ruth Dawkins

I was really pleased to have my first piece published with SBS a couple of weeks ago. I’d written a couple of pieces for their lifestyle section – SBS Life – a while back, but never for the news section.

Timed to coincide with International Women’s Day, it was a reported piece about the gendered barriers to conducting Antarctic fieldwork, pegged on a study that was led by researchers at the University of Tasmania.

Even though the word count grew significantly from the initial commission – from 1000 words to 1600 – there was still a huge amount that I was disappointed to leave out. It was fascinating and very inspiring speaking to a number of women who work in Antarctic research – some in humanities and social sciences, others in biology and climate science – and I hope I can do a follow up piece further down the line.

If you’d like to read it, it’s here: SBS News – Even in Antarctica, women are experiencing sexism.

Copywriting, Feature Writing, freelance life

Should you ever write for free?

Caption 'Should you ever write for free' above dollar bill

The question of whether a professional writer – or an aspiring professional writer – should ever write for free is one that comes up regularly in online groups and discussion forums, and it always provokes healthy debate.

One camp says no, never, absolutely not. A writer should never write for free: we should value our time and expertise; by completing work without payment we’re undercutting other writers; and besides, no-one can pay the rent with ‘exposure’.

The opposing camp would say that writers – especially those who are new to the business – need to build their experience and portfolio and writing for free is often a good way to do that.

Ever keen to find a compromise, I find myself sitting somewhat awkwardly between the two camps. Continue reading “Should you ever write for free?”

Reading

Reading makes me a better writer: here’s why

Stack of books and caption 'Being a reader makes me a better writer... here's why.'

It’s no great secret that I’m a big reader. I’ve published several posts on this blog about my favourite books, and over on Instagram I run an account called @ruthreadsbooks which functions as a visual reading diary.

You can imagine then how pleased I was to find this recent study, which concluded that reading makes you a more empathetic person.

I’ve long-believed that being a keen reader makes me a better writer, and developing empathy is a key part of that. Whether you’re writing creatively and trying to put yourself in the position of a reader who wants to be engaged and entertained, or whether you’re writing copy and trying to make sure what you deliver keeps your client happy, the ability to see other perspectives and viewpoints is crucial. Continue reading “Reading makes me a better writer: here’s why”

Copywriting, freelance life

Getting Digital Ready for 2019

Laptop on Table captioned 'Getting Digital Ready for 2019 Ruth Dawkins'

It has been a busy November and December here. I know that in the northern hemisphere, a lot of writers find this a quiet time. From Thanksgiving onwards, a lot of organisations and publications slow down for the holiday season. Then, come January, it’s back to business as usual.

Here in the south, it’s almost the opposite. January is when everything shuts down for the summer so there’s a mad rush to get things tied up before then. The Tasmanian school holidays start in less than a fortnight, so I’m desperately trying to get my desk cleared (and invoices submitted!) in that time.

I’ve just finished a really interesting piece of work for a tourism organisation: ten short pieces of writing focusing on different activities around the state. It made me realise that even after five years here we have barely scratched the surface. It also made me slightly embarrassed to realise that when we have travelled around Tasmania, most of our focus has been on beaches, wineries and short walks, rather than anything more adventurous. Perhaps 2019 will be the year when I finally go canyoning at Cradle Mountain, or mountain biking at Maydena. Or perhaps not… Continue reading “Getting Digital Ready for 2019”

Feature Writing, freelance life

From brainstorm to byline: the story of a story

washington-post-logo-white

Last Friday, I secured what is undoubtedly my biggest byline to date: The Washington Post. I had an essay published in their Soloish column about being catapulted unexpectedly into the role of Agony Aunt for couples all over the world.

You can read the essay here.

Along with the New York Times, WaPo is probably the ultimate publication for most op-ed and essay writers. It is a well-respected, prestigious newspaper with a huge readership and fantastic editors.

The acceptance email from the Soloish editor Lisa Bonos – which I read on my phone as I was making my son’s school lunch – prompted me to do an actual happy dance around the kitchen.

Was there whooping?

There may have been whooping. Continue reading “From brainstorm to byline: the story of a story”

Copywriting, freelance life

2018: A New Freelance Year Begins

happy new year 2018

Happy New Year!

I know, I know… I’m almost seven weeks late to the party. But since moving to Tasmania, I’ve had to recalibrate my internal calendar.

Back in the UK, January was the time for getting stuck back into work after the excesses of Christmas. It was always a little tough to find any enthusiasm for ambitious plans and new projects when it was still cold, dark and wintery outside.

Here in Australia though, January is all about the joys of the summer holidays – swimming, sunshine and ice cream – with work dropping much lower down the priority list. Continue reading “2018: A New Freelance Year Begins”

freelance life

Boredom Box Ideas for Work at Home Parents

150+ Boredom Box Ideas by Ruth Dawkins

When people ask what the best and worst thing is about having only one child, I never have any problems answering the question. The best is that I’m able to give my son lots of attention and we have an absolute ton of fun together. The worst is that there are times when I’m his only playmate and honestly, I just don’t want to start that second game of Monopoly, or that third game of Police Chase.

Boredom in kids can be a really good thing because it can spark their imagination. One of my favourite ever guest posts over on my parenting blog DorkyMum was from my friend Chris Mosler, who normally blogs as Thinly Spread, writing about why letting your children experience boredom is so valuable.

But that statement comes with caveats. Unlike Chris’s children, my son doesn’t have siblings to keep an eye on him. In contrast with my upbringing on a tiny island, we now live in a city with a lot of busy roads nearby, and not many friends within walking distance. He is only eight, and I don’t feel comfortable yet just kicking him out of the house in the morning and welcoming him back for dinner.

The flexibility of freelance life means that I feel very lucky having so much time to spend with my son, and I intentionally keep school holidays very quiet on the work front. Even so, the thought of seven long weeks of holiday stretching ahead of us is a daunting one, and I know that I will need the occasional hour to myself to catch up on emails.

With that in mind, I’m doing something new this year and creating a boredom box. It’s nothing fancy: just a decorated shoebox containing a couple of notepads, stationery and craft supplies, and two jars full of suggestions for activities. Continue reading “Boredom Box Ideas for Work at Home Parents”