Sometimes I really love my job. Most times, in fact. But that sense of appreciation, gratitude and good fortune has been particularly acute these past couple of weeks – and it’s something that I’ve noticed among my freelance friends, as well.
Scrolling through Facebook recently, I was nodding in agreement at a post from Fiona Russell who
blogs as Fiona Outdoors. Sharing pictures from a daytime run in the Kilpatrick Hills, she said: “One of those days when being freelance makes so much sense. Actually, there are not too many days when I doubt my freelance life but if I ever do I will look back at days like this…”
Another friend, Paul English, recently posted something similar. “Today, Paul Chappells and I went for a freelance walk up Mugdock Park, trying out his new freelance camera, freelance jumping over Glasgow, freelance pondering the dinosaur skeleton tree and having a freelance laugh at the sky.”
That properly made me smile.
I wouldn’t say that it’s easy, being a freelance – but I am so with Fiona and Paul. When it works, it’s totally fantastic! It’s really tough in the beginning but the freedom and creativity that it gives you is something else and I can’t think of any other way of being, now.
It’s certainly ruined me for proper jobs. Work office hours? In office clothes? With office people? And a line manager?! Ai-ya! No thanks.
Yes, of course there are people I answer to, but it’s not the same.
I’m in a good place with this right now but I didn’t see any of it in my future. And it’s all a far cry from the way life was 10 years ago – which has been very much on my mind, partly because of that 10 Year Challenge that was all over social media lately.
It’s exactly 10 years this month that I left Glasgow – my job at the Daily Record, my nice flat in the West End and my life in general – and drove up the A9, heading for home.
The plan, such as it was, was to try my hand at teaching (I never had used that qualification). But really to make a life with my boyfriend, who lived in Lewis and was not for budging.
My boss at the time, the chief sub at the Record, thought I was mad. “You are leaving your job and moving for love?!” he asked, seriously confused. “I can’t think of a worse reason,” he muttered.
“I can’t think of a better reason!” a pal said later, as we broke it down over wine.
Anyway, marriage and two children later, that’s not worked out so badly. Where I did struggle, though, was the work thing. I couldn’t get a job teaching, beyond some short contracts and supply. I couldn’t get a job with any local papers and there was hardly any work going for contributors.
What has emerged, though, and this blog has played a part, is my own business in public relations and communications. And that’s the bit I could never have envisaged because I’m not by nature an entrepreneurial type. Thoughts of setting up my own thing had never entered my head.
I have been doing PR work in Lewis since the early days, when Norma Macleod asked me to start writing promotional features for publishing company Acair, which could be supplied to the papers.
That helped set the business model but it was when community wind farm Point and Sandwick Trust asked me to do PR for them, three years ago, that things started to get interesting.
They quickly became a key client and I’m now viable as a company.
And I can honestly say that the PR business gives me such a kick, now, that I wouldn’t go back to newspapers even if it was an option.
And, ooh, the flexibility of the freelance life…
As if our location isn’t enough to induce serious lifestyle envy – the beaches, the clean air, that magical light, etc – I’m sure there are aspects of my working life that are pretty enviable too.
It can be challenging, don’t get me wrong. You need to be disciplined and the other side of that coin is that you need to have good boundaries (I don’t) so that you can switch off at a reasonable time.
Freelancing is the total Martini job. Anytime, anywhere. You have to work to deadlines, which are dictated by the news and publishing times – but beyond that, there is total flexibility.
I do have an office in the house (the spare room), but as long as the work is being done, it doesn’t matter where you are doing it. No need – usually – for hours of meetings or any of that rubbish.
And of course, have laptop, will travel!
I’m often a coffee barfly. When the walls are closing in, I pack up and head out for a change of scene, Artizan being my cafe of choice. Not just for the coffee and craic – shout out to Seonag, my favourite barista! – but also because of the almond cake (dairy free!). Mmmm.
By the way, I do realise I’m blethering but that’s because I haven’t blogged for a while… In fact, rather than actually blogging, I have been spending a lot of time lately thinking of blogging – particularly the kind of stories I want do more or less of.
There will always be turbine stories – look out for a new one soon – but cultural commentary in general doesn’t interest me like it used to. I’m also, after nearly three years as a blogger, in a different place.
I no longer need to build a profile as a writer and I no longer need it to promote my business. My list of clients is growing all the time, which is really nice, so the pressure has lessened. I’m free to do what I want with the blog. And with that in mind, I thought I’d canvas opinion. Here’s what some of my friends and family said, when I asked them what they liked to see.
“Guitars and music – well, you don’t blog about guitars… but you should!”
“I went over to your blog just now and I couldn’t find anything but turbines. You’re a people’s champion, Katie. Keep doing the investigative stuff – that’s what t’internet needs most.”
“I like reading the family stuff – what your da and the kids are saying.”
“I like titbits.”
“Local current affairs and especially council affairs are always really interesting and makes people actually stand up and listen to what is going on… won’t make you popular with them, mind… and the whole parenting blog is huge! People love the ‘I’m not the only one going through this crap’ – real life stuff we can all relate to.”
But the best advice?
“Follow your gut, write what you know and are passionate about. That’s what good writing is.”
I used to have big aims for this blog. Blog once a week at least, preferably twice and ideally three times.
Hahaha! I gave up even trying to do that a long time ago.
I had to, as work got busier and real life got in the way. Also, being a mum, family life will always come first and I’m now trying to set firmer boundaries so that work doesn’t bleed into the 24/7.
Remember that flexibility I was talking about? Well, being able to work at midnight when everyone else is sleeping means that you end up working at midnight when everyone else is sleeping!
I’m trying to pull back on that right now, in order to shape work into something resembling regular hours. At least twice a week I make sure I’ve turned off the computer by 9pm and I also try to do screen-free Sundays, a tip I picked up from Rangan Chatterjee’s book, The 4 Pillar Plan, which is all about how to live in a better way, and I highly recommend it.
I’m also trying to do more of what makes me happy this year – more cycling (I’m fairly new to road biking) and hillwalking are at the top of the list.
So can you imagine the joy when work and what-makes-me-happy coincided, last week, with a day learning how to mountain bike in Harris as part of a job?!
Granted, it’s not everyone’s cup of tea but it is mine. It all came about as part of a PR project I’ve been asked to do for Scaladale Outdoor Activity Centre.
The team at Scaladale are launching mountain biking holidays for families, which will help them fund subsidised biking sessions for the youngsters on the island – and I’ll be helping them get the message out about this over the next few weeks.
Tuesday was all about getting a wee flavour of what the holidays will involve, so I headed down to Harris for a lesson on mountain biking, up the Bowglass track.
This was not easy, I can tell you! Especially not with snow on the track.
I thought my heart was going to explode as I huffed and heaved my way uphill. Pretty brutal, really, but a fantastic day out, too.
For those of you who know the area, we left the bikes at the bealach to walk up Tom Ruisg. It was freezing but beautiful and it had been so long since I’d seen this view down over Loch Langavat that I’d forgotten I’d ever seen it before.
For all of us who were out last Tuesday – big shout out to Kate Lewis, Calum Blane and Finlay Emmott from Scaladale – this was a day in the office. And what an office.
And I also have to say a massive THANKS GUYS for all the help and tips.
In brief, here are some things I now know about mountain biking that I didn’t a week ago:
There’s a good reason why mountain bike handle bars are so much wider than on road bikes.
You get better balance when you stand up on your pedals, keeping them level and hovering your bum backwards slightly, towards the back of your saddle.
Look two bike lengths ahead to get a better line (‘what you are riding over is already history’). A wee bit of speed gives a bit of extra stability. Use your brakes wisely and conservatively, making sure to squeeze front and back at the same time.
Also, what a lot of fun it is – if a bit scary – and how it’s all over very quickly, when you bomb it downhill!
What can I say, with jobs like this in the mix? Living the dream, folks…