Red Pen Diaries: Part One

Last week, Daisy and I sat down – she at 10am in Hungary, I at 8pm in New Zealand – to chat about our lives as freelancers working from home. We’re going to share our conversation with you over the next few weeks. In Part One, we wonder what kind of person suits this life of near-total isolation.  

INDIA: Let’s start at the beginning. When and why did you go freelance?

DAISY: I went freelance in 2009. Big changes were happening in my life; I was getting married to my Hungarian partner, and we knew our life would involve long-term travelling between our two countries, so I needed work that was supremely flexible

INDIA: And how did you go about getting clients/setting yourself up for freelance?

DAISY: Eek, getting clients was the tricky part (it still is to a certain extent). When I first went freelancing, I already had one client, through an old uni friend. Then, when I left my steady office job at a big publisher’s, that company became my second client; they hired me as a contractor. With that as my base, I set out “cold-calling” (cold-emailing) publishers and anyone else I could think of who was publishing stuff . . .

How about you?

INDIA: I had the idea to go freelance in 2014. I was working as a magazine sub-editor, but I really wanted to get into book editing. So I applied for a couple of jobs with publishing houses and didn’t even get an interview. I realised (well, I hoped) the reason was that I didn’t have any experience editing actual books. So I thought freelancing would be a good way to get some jobs under my belt. And I had a very good friend (wink) who was already doing it, so it didn’t feel like uncharted territory.

Through my magazine work, I knew some people in the publishing industry, and I was able to get some freelance jobs through them. I did freelance book editing on nights and weekends while still working full-time at my day job, and then when I felt confident there was enough work out there for me, I quit my job and went full-time freelance. That was February 2015.

Struck down by the giggles during a Coles & Lopez photo shoot.

Struck down by the giggles during a Coles & Lopez photo shoot.

I have another question for you. In what ways does your personality suit freelancing from home, do you think? And in what ways does it not?

DAISY: Well, my introversion, obviously, has always been a perfect match for my freelancing: I’m quite happy – more than happy – to sit on my own all day in a quiet room. In what ways does my personality not suit freelancing? I don’t know – I honestly can’t think of any ways in which this type of work is inherently harder for me. Do YOU feel like there’s a particular disconnect for you?

INDIA: Well, I’ve been thinking about this a lot lately. Apart from the fact I’m also very happy spending time alone, the things that help are that I’m super organised, I’m disciplined, and I’m good at time management. The things that make it hard are that I have a very low threshold for stress – all it takes is for one plan to go awry or for one last-minute task to be added to my list and I start hyperventilating. Literally. That’s a bigger problem when you’re a freelancer who works from home, because there’s no one around to help you put things in perspective or to share the responsibility. If I miss a deadline or do a sub-par job, I can’t pass the buck.

DAISY: Yes and also, really importantly I think, there’s no one there going, “Hey you did a really good job on that – I’ll note that down on your PDP” (or whatever they’re calling it these days); you have to be able to pat yourself on the back too, which is actually quite a rare skill.

INDIA: Yes! That’s why good feedback from clients is so precious – it really sustains me.

So what I’ve been wondering lately is this: are those two things inextricably linked? Is it possible to be an organised, responsible person who is also relaxed and adaptable? Basically, my personality is great for my work but terrible for my mental health.

DAISY: I think my personal solution to your conundrum is my Type B personality (that’s a thing, right?) . . . I’m KINDA organised and I’m PRETTY adaptable – I probably go halfway in both directions.

INDIA: Ahh, interesting. I’m Type A all the way – I dream of such balance. 

Next week, we continue our journey into the depths of my psyche . . . just kidding. Actually, we talk about freelancing from home when youre a mum and reminisce about our former lives as nine-to-fivers. See you then!