starting out as a WAHM in freelance writing

It struck me like a thunderbolt one day when I was talking to a friend. I want to be a freelance writer. I’d gone round to get some perspective on the panic that I was halfway through my time of being a full-time-mum, and I still had no idea what I wanted to do. My only conviction was that when my son started school in just two short years I didn’t want to return to a stressful office environment where my creativity was stifled and my self-confidence sapped. 

With no answers to my career quandary immediately forthcoming, the conversation moved on and my friend began telling me about a course she’d been undertaking, but that had been on the back-burner for a while. I browsed through the notes of her creative writing course with a growing feeling of excitement. I could do this. I could do this.

However, I’ve found getting published much harder than I expected. My two year part-time course is almost complete, and so far I’ve earned just a few hundred pounds (UK) for my writing. Since paid published is harder to come by than you might expect, I’ve spent most of my earnings on setting up a blog to get some exposure for my name. 

Exploring more opportunities, I started writing articles for a platform where anyone can publish their work. I continued to write for my blog, and supported it with social media. At the same time, I’ve been pitching ideas as often as I can.

To work effectively as a WAHM, I’ve had to set myself a few golden rules:

1. Don’t get caught up in laundry.

Yes, one of the benefits of being a WAHM is that some household chores can happen simultaneously to working, like pre-heating the oven for dinner. And just think, you may never again have to go to some bleak parcel depot clutching a dog-eared ‘we couldn’t deliver your parcel’ card. But being a WAHM isn’t carte-blanche for getting the housework done uninterrupted. If you were out at work would you be folding laundry or vacuuming? No. If you have a partner who’s out at work, are they simultaneously stacking the dishwasher or cleaning the bathroom? No. If you’re working, you’re working. Respect that.

2. Keep social media in its place

Stop scrolling. Put the phone down. (After you’ve finished reading this, naturally.) Now put your phone out of reach, far enough away that you have to get up to pick it up. This will remind you not to pick it up unless you really need to. Start typing. Of course social media is an important part of what we all do nowadays, but it’s too easy just to check that notification or see what’s the latest in your favourite groups; before you know it you’re scrolling through the holiday snaps of a distant acquaintance and half the morning has gone.

3. What would a ‘real writer’ do?

If, like so many freelancers out there, you struggle with imposter syndrome, then embrace it, and tackle it. Are you worried you’re not a real writer? Then ask yourself, “what would a ‘real writer’ do next?” Have you got the answer? OK. Go and do that. Whether it’s sending a pitch, calling an editor, writing an article, or getting your name out there with a blog post, do it. And do it right now. Keep on doing that every day until you forget to ask yourself what that ‘real writer’ in your mind would do, because you’re doing it as second nature.

4. Grab an opportunity with both hands. 

A job may not be paid, but if it’s a chance to get your name against some high quality writing, then you’re building a portfolio and getting exposure. If you’re short of paid work and, like me, unsure how to get more, then you need to keep your hand in by generating ideas, finding your voice and writing, writing, writing. So if you’ve done the work it may as well be seen, and you just never know where it might end up. Experienced freelancers with regular clients may well be in a position to accept only paid work from clients, and that’s something that we’d all like to aim for, but getting your foot on the bottom of the ladder is the first step in climbing up.

Does it really work?

To prove my point, here are a couple of my own recent examples:

Bread becomes dough

In trying to make a bit of extra cash by selling some things that we no longer needed, hubby and I sold the bricks left over from building our pizza oven. When the buyer came to collect, he and I got talking about bread. He was setting up a charity having found a way that he, a coeliac, could make bread from wheat. After attending his free course I pitched and wrote an article for a gluten free publication, my first proper commission.

From laptop screen to TV screen

The theme of my blog, creating delicious food on a tiny budget, was picked up by a news agency through social media. They ran my story, which ended up in a few tabloid papers. Tabloids are not necessarily my target market, but everyone has to start somewhere, and the fee almost covered the original cost of my blog. Incredibly, my newspaper coverage led to an invitation to appear on a popular daytime TV show with viewing figures of over one million. One six-minute slot grew my blog following and my social media following by about 50%. As a result of this, I was interviewed by local radio. I’m now looking for ways to capitalise on this success, and I hope to secure more opportunities to write about food, and other subjects. Keep your fingers crossed for me, and good luck with your own endeavours!

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