My First Week as an Official Freelancer

On Monday, April 7th, 2014, I left my job as a scientific recruiter to venture out on my own as a freelance writer and career stylist.

I learned quite a lot from recruiting, especially that I enjoy and have a talent for mentoring and career advising. Recruiting was often rewarding, but it could also be stressful and exhausting.

Why freelancing?

Freelancing was something I had been thinking about doing for a long time. I had been researching and talking to established freelancers for quite a while. Their stories ranged from completely “jumping off the cliff” to saving plenty of money and otherwise being very well-prepared beforehand. I opted for something approximating the latter. For a variety of reasons, the time seemed ripe. I had built up enough of a buffer to cover finances for about a year. I also felt reassured that I had the support of my wonderful S.O. if things didn’t work out quite the way I anticipated. I had a few freelance projects going on already, and stress at work was starting to sap the energy I had left to devote to them. I had a strong network, and an excellent mentor who was very interested in seeing me succeed. Events had also transpired in my family life that required me to build some flexibility into my schedule.

So, I had my exit interview and turned in my key. On the drive home, I noticed how beautiful and sunny the day was. I realized that it was the first time in over two decades that I hadn’t had a report-for-work-at-x-time-job. Isn’t it great, I thought, to be my own boss and decide how much and when I work? I gave myself a pep talk as I drove. This is no time to be burned out and slack off. NOW is the time to be aggressive, find clients, and build a steady stream of work. I had been lining up informational interviews even before I left my job. Consultants, other freelancers, grant writers, technical writers, etc. I also filled my calendar with networking and professional events. In short, I had plans to be busy from the word “go.”

Let’s back up. Here’s how that week went…

Saturday.

I start here because my S.O. and I had decided that I should leave my recruiting job. I had the first serious, face-to-face informational interview of this new chapter in my career, knowing that I’d be quitting my job shortly. It happened over coffee with the co-founder of a consulting company that specializes in translating scientific discoveries into devices, tools, drugs, etc. She and her husband, a technical writer, had some fantastic advice for me, and were kind enough to introduce me to several of their connections.

Sunday.

I woke up fresh and relaxed, and not dreading Monday.

Monday.

I had a great exit interview with my manager. She was genuinely excited for me as I described my new venture. When I got home after turning in my key at work, I gave my S.O. a hug, then sat down next to him and started creating [the previous iteration of] this website (Update, March 2018: I’ve since moved the site from Wix to WordPress, along with a complete redesign). I did my taxes, since I had been procrastinating that unpleasantness for a while. After they were sent off, I worked on my LinkedIn profile, then sent out a few tweets. I also spent some time investigating the cost of health care plans.

Tuesday.

I worked on a blog article I owed to a colleague, then designed and ordered my business cards. I continued working on the website—it went live at about 10 o’clock that night.

Wednesday. Freelancing and…brewing?!

Now, you may be wondering why I have a photo of a vial of yeast next to my post. On Wednesday morning, I brewed a batch of beer that I had planned to take care of the night before but neglected because I wanted to get my website up ASAP. I picked up home brewing last summer, and I’m on my fifth batch. Home brews are EXCELLENT! But I digress. Anyway, not only do I love the science-y nerdiness of this little vial of yeast, but it’s also a symbol to me of my new freedom to do things in my own time frame.

After pitching the yeast, I scurried to an informational interview with the delightful owner of a technical/scientific writing company in the Madison area, who, as it turned out, needed a part-time editor for grant applications. We shook hands on it and I expect to get started next week. (Update, March 2018: we are still working together, and business has been wonderful!)

I raced home, got dinner ready, wolfed it down, and then dashed off again to attend Nerd Night (a networking event for sciencey/techy types in the Madison area). Whew.

Thursday.

I worked on two blog posts I had been neglecting. Then I went to the UW-Madison campus to attend a career fair in search of potential clients. In the evening, I tweaked the website and worked to promote it on social media.

OH! I forgot to mention that I have taken at least 30 minutes every day this week to exercise. Up until this week I have been, again, too tired to work out before or after work—I am trying to get that aspect of my life whipped back into shape as well!

Friday.

I finished up a 2,500 word pillar article for a colleague’s website (link here), and conducted an interview for material that will go into my next article.

In summary…

This has been a crazy, whirlwind week. I am very excited to be up and running and to have some potential work and clients on the horizon. There will be a lot of hard work in the coming months, a lot of figuring out to do, and it’s all a bit overwhelming and scary—but I am looking forward to taking on these challenges.

Posted by Michelle Frank

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