“Get out of your own way” — as someone who’s come up with Plans B, C and even D just in case Plan A didn’t work out, this has to be one of my favourite motivational quotes.
And this New Year I’m doing it, having made the decision to go fully self-employed. That means there are no longer any barriers to making my living 100 per cent from freelance writing and PR consultancy.
Since coming home in 2009, redundant from the Record, I’ve made a go of a number of things — mainly teaching as I thought that was a pretty good Plan B — but it didn’t work out. I couldn’t get a permanent position anywhere.
All that time, though, I was consistently writing. There were one or two faithful clients, beginning with Acair after an approach from former managing editor Norma Macleod, and what was a faint flicker has been growing stronger.
Lately, I have been doing a lot of public relations for wind farm charity Point and Sandwick Trust, had a commission for An Lanntair, joined a team at Stòrlann to promote Gaelic across schools in Scotland and written the publicity to launch Stornoway Port Authority’s draft masterplan, a development vision for the next 20 years.
I didn’t seek to be self-employed as such. The life of a freelance is one of rampant uncertainty but I’ve got to the position where I now have too much freelance work to be able to commit to anything else. It’s a good problem to have but it has meant that some serious decisions needed to be made.
Making your living from more than one type of work is a good idea in one way but in another it can be very distracting and the source of conflict and even self-sabotage. It might seem sensible to have a Plan B to fall back on but it could well stop you from making a success of Plan A.
It might mean that the writing job you had scheduled to do the next day gets put off when you agree to do a day’s supply teaching at short notice, for example.
Protecting your time is so important. It is more important than anything else and sometimes you have to go to extreme lengths to do it. Recently, I have taken to putting the snib on my front door, closing my bedroom curtains and hiding inside with my laptop — what I’ve done right now, in fact — in the mornings when James is at nursery and I don’t have any meetings scheduled.
I may well get a visit from a relative, wondering if the coffee’s on, but there won’t be any sign of me. They might suspect I’ve palmed my child off on daycare just so I can have a lie-in — what a bad mammy — but at least I’ll have got my work done!
Arguably the biggest step I’ve taken protecting my time, though, has been to take my name off the list of teachers available for supply. I did this after an illuminating incident last week, when I gave up two days I had set aside for writing in order to go into the Nicolson.
That meant one very late writing session at the computer, followed inevitably by a very disturbed night, with multiple visits from the kids and even the cat. All was chaos the next day — unproductive chaos at that — and I thought: “Something’s got to give”.
Being available for supply is a tricksy situation. It’s not regular work and you can get phoned at very short notice. As daily rates go, it’s decent pay, but there is no retainer — boo hiss, zero hours contracts — and there isn’t that much of it available nowadays anyway. What it can do, though, is throw your plans into disarray at any moment.
So time to throw away ‘the safety net’ and give Plan A a chance.
Recently, my husband said to me: “You’ve never even advertised and you’ve had all this work. Why don’t you advertise and see what comes of it?”
A radical suggestion. Even when you’re in the business of public relations, you don’t necessarily want to be plugging yourself, but it was an excellent point well made.
I am getting better at pushing through the self-consciousness since starting this blog and made myself announce, on Twitter and Facebook, that I had been shortlisted for the Best Use of Digital Media in the Highlands and Islands Media Awards 2016.
If you’re in the business of PR, you had better be able to do PR for yourself at some point. It’s about marketing not bragging (note to the Twitter friend who replied “big wow”…).
I’ve now put together a Hire Me page, where I set out my stall. Please have a look and don’t hesitate to get in touch if you think I can help you with any kind of writing or public relations. Full contact details are on my Contact Me page.
In the meantime, thanks for reading and a particular welcome to new followers and subscribers. All the best for 2017, folks. I have we all have a good one.