My first twelve months as a freelancer

Matthew Drzymala

Indelible Think Copywriting | Copywriter & Brand Voice Consultant

Hurrah – it’s my twelve month anniversary as a full-time freelancer.

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This time last year, I was sitting down to my first day’s work, ready to get stuck into thirty-three product descriptions. The sun was shining. I was smiling and all was right with the world.

But did it last?

Well, read on and find out.

Off to a roaring start

June 2018 was immense, not only did I start as full-time as a freelance copywriter, but it was also the start of the World Cup.

Not that that should have been too important, I had work to do – and a lot of it.

I’d been made redundant at the start of the previous month and during my 4-week notice period, I landed a massive job on retainer. And retainers are hard to come by, so with the initial work, plus what I’d been paid from my old job and the first month’s retainer pay, June was a pretty sweet month financially.

I worked non-stop for my new client and picked up a little bit of work around it.

Honestly, I couldn’t have had a better start to freelance life.

However, just a couple of days into the World Cup, most of the initial job for my big client was done and work tailed off pretty sharply.

I wrote one article and watched Football for two weeks.

Pitched battle

I didn’t just watch the footie, I pitched like mad. I went to networking groups and tried to get my name out as much as I could, but within a few weeks of starting, I’d already hit my first ‘famine’.

However, with the month being a bumper payer, I didn’t feel it so much.

The Honeymoon is over

In the August, I got married.

Best day of my life, frankly.

Followed by the honeymoon.

Brilliant, but also two weeks without pay.

To say August 2018 was a horrendous payer is an understatement, but as all freelancers know, we don’t get paid for holidays.

However, as soon as I got back to my desk, I had a flurry of work, and it was all down to my months of:


     Networking, and

     Begging, pleading and crying (not really)

Work just got busier and busier.

I was utilising LinkedIn better which enabled me to pick up work from my target audience as well as from other copywriters with big workloads.

I added more freelancers to my network, which ended up with even more work heading my way.

At last, the months of hard work promoting myself, building my contacts and changing my online tone of voice to sound more like it was me talking really started to pay off.

High and low

By Christmas, I was absolutely rockin’ – in a good way.

I picked up several big projects, the best I’ve been paid for, and life was grand. Every time work went slow, and I considered looking for a temporary job, I’d have a message from a writer or client in need of my services.

However, the highs of December were to come crashing down in January.

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Ah, January.

In January, my retainer client brought our work to a close, which meant a significant drop in income.

I’ve always maintained I know how lucky I was to land it, and it helped make those first seven months more comfortable than most freelancers have it.

So, for it to end came as a crushing blow.

How could I recover the amount they were paying me?

Down, down, deeper on down. Then up again

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February was horrendous.

I made £400, if that.

Now was the time to look for temping work because I’d reached the bottom of the barrel.

Then I landed a fantastic project writing product descriptions for ‘Experience Days’ with a huge brand, Silent Pool.

They supply 53 countries worldwide and are the official Gin supply to the British Royal Family.

I have to be honest, it was probably most fun I’ve had working on a project to date. They gave me free rein to write in a laid-back, chatty tone of voice which is what they’d been after for a while, but couldn’t quite do themselves.

I’d managed to find work just as I was about to drown.

The next few months were crazy and I landed work with two more high-profile clients.

I was back!

Drier than a desert

Or so I thought because, from mid-May 2019, everything went completely dead – you can read more about that on feast or famine, writers life, copywriter , need a copywriter, working with a copywritermy blog post: Things To Do When You’ve Less Work On Than A VHS Factory.

By now I’m sure you’ll have noticed a pattern:

  1. lots of work
  2. no work

Feast or famine.

It’s happened a lot in my first twelve months – and it’ll happen even if I’m doing this in twenty years.

It’s just the nature of the beast.

What I’ve learnt

So, in my twelve months, just what have I learnt from it?

1. Feast or famine can and will strike at any time

You’ll be riding high with work one minute, but it can drop dead the next – and it’s times like these I make sure I use my free time to the max.

Sure, I’ve watched the odd film or three now and again when it’s completely dead, but I’ve also used it to cold e-mail businesses, attend networking meetings and, most importantly, let my writing network know I have availability for work.

2. Writers are my biggest allies

Making it known I have the capacity to take on work has landed me a ton of jobs in my first twelve months. From short press releases to hefty articles – I’ve done loads.

There are so many copywriters out there with different specialities that have handed me work that’s not their cup of tea, or they’ve replied to a query they’ve had but have no time to do and given them my name.

And I’ve increased my network by joining in #ContentClubUK at 11 am every Tuesday on Twitter.

It’s a place freelancers of all kinds can meet for half an hour and answer questions set by the host.

I know more copywriters, graphic and web designers than I can shake a stick at – and each one will prove invaluable as my career progresses. Either to give me work or for me to pass work or referrals onto them.

3. Imposter syndrome affects us all

Whether you’ve been a freelancer for one day or twenty-five years, I’ve spoken to writers from one end of the experience spectrum to the other and the one thing we all have in common?

Imposter syndrome

Feeling you’re a fraud can be crippling. It’s something that stops you dead in your tracks and makes you feel you’re just making it up as you go along.

So, I decided not to worry about it.

Suffer from imposter syndrome?

Me too, just let it go, it’s one stress not worth putting yourself through.

4. I love being my own boss

I know there are many freelancers out there who miss working with people.

I’m not one of them.

If I want to be surrounded by people, I work in a cafe or pop to a co-working space where I can pay just for the time I’m there.

However, more often than not I’ll work from home.

I don’t miss the office gossip or the endless time-wasting by colleagues, only for them to have a go at you if you remotely stop for 5-minutes (Read my post Shit I Don’t Miss About Working In An Office for more on that!).

Day 1 vs Day 365

Here’s me on Day 1:

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Happy, but hell, I was tired and the image came out a bit blurred.


Here’s me on Day 365:

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I’m still smiling. I love being a freelancer and the flexibility and freedom it gives me in my life.

Sure, I’m worrying a lot about income, as I’m typing this I have no large projects in and my summer holiday is coming round quicker than I would like, but that’s the freelance life.

What happens next

I’m still willing to take a temporary job if I can find one that allows me to work one or two days per week.

It doesn’t mean I’ve failed. It means I’ll do whatever it takes to pay the bills until I’m landing great paying work regularly.

However, my main goal now is to make it to this time next year with the aim of making more than I did in the last 12-months.

So, there it is.

The story of my first twelve months, where feast or famine plays a huge role.

Anyway, enough of my babbling, time to get back to looking for work.

This article first appeared on

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