Freelance Journalist Jenny Stallard is the creator of the wellbeing platform Freelance Feels, which she began in order to build a community from which she could also learn and benefit. We spoke to Jenny about the ideas behind her project – which includes a blog, podcast and newsletter – and asked about her tips for both managing a freelance life and how PRs can better work with freelancers...
Why does Freelance Feels use so much cactus imagery? We asked what cacti and freelancers might have in common, and Jenny believes that despite being portrayed as “cute”, cacti are “fierce and tough” plants. “They’re often seen as cute in merchandise, and I loved that. There’s a real protective nature to a cactus which is how freelancers need to be, when living the freelance life. For me, freelancers are like cacti: They can survive tough conditions but they still need love and water. We also need to make sure we give ourselves that sustenance, as well as looking for it from others.”
... freelancers are like cacti: They can survive tough conditions but they still need love and water.
On choosing the name “Freelance Feels”:
The word “feels” captures the idea that freelancing can give us a whole range of emotions on a daily basis, highs and lows, good and bad. Jenny also believes that “all the feels” sums up the emotional challenges of freelancing:
“… often we are in a quagmire of self-reflection, lonely or isolated, pensive or cut off from the world in which we work remotely. We can look on social media and over compare with others, or end up not seeing other people for days at a time. It’s debilitating and detrimental to our productivity.”
On the mix of people in the freelancing world:
“There are so many of us out there, numbers growing by the day – people who want to work for ourselves, who want the good things, but sometimes also find the bad. Finding like-minded souls online can be a lifeline."
What can PRs do when they pitch to make life easier for a freelancer?
“Be Honest – if the case study has been elsewhere, we need to know, and indeed if they are working with any other freelancers. Include hi-res images as an attachment or link! It’s so important to know if we can use pictures (for online they often need to be landscape). While I do try to reply, I’d say as a rule of thumb you need to assume if we’ve not come back to you twice we’re not keen this time.
But if we do, please be ready to follow up! For example, if we want to talk to the expert that morning or if we want to get clarity on the stats.”
... while freelance life has lots of ‘everyday’ challenges – invoicing, spreadsheets, juggling clients, attending events – they’re all underpinned by one thing: Our emotional and mental wellbeing.
On the topic of the practical and administrative problems freelancers face:
When freelancers voice worries about practical issues, these problems are “never just practical”:
“… while freelance life has lots of ‘everyday’ challenges – invoicing, spreadsheets, juggling clients, attending events – they’re all underpinned by one thing: Our emotional and mental wellbeing. Feeling ‘stupid’ for not knowing how to do our tax return, berating ourselves for filing something late, or having to pull an all-nighter to get it done. Sending off a pitch and worrying if it’ll resonate with an editor or be met with silence...”
Jenny’s networking advice for other freelancers:
“I’ve written about this a lot recently and it’s something I’m working on and exploring myself. I do think it’s like a muscle and the more you exercise it the easier it becomes to go networking. Some people don’t like the word networking, it can feel quite 90s! There’s so much we can go to in the media and creative industries – talks, workshops – gone are the days of the fussy name-badge meet and greet if you seek out alternatives. Events are much more than networking, they are meet ups, or workshops.
I know it can be hard – if it is, then try and set yourself a one-event this month challenge. Take a friend; like with a running buddy there is the accountability there. I try and operate a three business card rule giving out three at any event. Some people don’t use them but I find people take one when offered and you never know who they might pass it on to.”
Jenny also mentioned the usefulness of Twitter for connecting with other freelancers, finding experts, and using #journorequest.
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