Interview: Angela Foxwood

Why did you want to go freelance?

Writing is a difficult industry which is difficult to get into. I’ve been getting a bit of money – not much – from some of the poetry that I’ve written, and I enjoy poetry so much that I thought ‘Wouldn’t it be great to be paid to do something I enjoy doing?’ I looked into freelancing, tentatively, and I’m working at the same time. Before the Creative and Professional Writing course I’d never thought about going freelance. David Kershaw talked about the money in Copy-writing and that creative side is very badly paid. I’d never thought about writing for industries, marketing and websites.

Now I’m in the second year, doing more copy-writing,and Nick Parkhouse (a very successful copywriter) was very encouraging about copy-writing as a source of income. I thought ‘why not have a go and see what happens?’

How did you begin?

I went on a couple of websites that he recommended. Freelancer and Peopleperhour. Signing up was a very simple process (which is good for me as I’m not that confident with computers.) Once you’re registered you can build up your own blog and portfolio. It’s difficult to start-off with because no one knows who you are. The trickiest bit is getting out there and getting that first paid job. Once you’ve got that the theory is that you’ll have testimonials and clients will be more likely to choose you. I’ve had to pull-out for now because of deadlines and modules – so I’ve had to put freelancing on hold for the moment. Plus I still have my day-job to do. My aim is to start again as soon as I can.

Have you been awarded any jobs on those sites yet?

No, and I think that’s because I pulled out too fast. I spoke to Nick about it, but I’m not getting any replies. His advice was to push on and keep going. The publishers I spoke to today gave me the same advice.

How do you define a freelance career? What is it you’re actually working towards?

I think it’s basically being your own boss. No one’s breathing down your neck. You make your own deadlines and you are rewarded for the work that you do. You’re not making money for someone else, you’re making money for you.

What were your first steps towards freelancing?

We were offered redundancy, and I opted for it so that I’d have three days freed up to be doing research, getting my name out there, and travelling to make contacts. Unfortunately, they turned me down. It’s a shame because there would have been a little bit of money there to help me with things like travelling. They didn’t let me go, so I’m still looking at different avenues. Once my deadlines at the university are over, I’ll be looking to get stuck in, get blogging and putting myself out there.

What is your current employment?

At the moment I work for the local authority. I do various bits of administration for the highways department. I’ve just been given the task of edit and sorting out all the highways webpages. It’s a big job, but the annoying thing is that I’m being paid council wages to do that rather than freelance rates. By doing this as my job – they’re saving a heap of money.

How has your working day changed?

My working hours have increased hugely. It’s a working day and a working night. I think my poor son is being severely neglected. Luckily he’s happy to do things on his own computer, but I do find that I’m having to ‘make time’ to spend with him. Sometimes I finish at ten at night, sometimes at one in the morning, it depends what assignments I’m doing of course, and I think every student has that.

What are the main difficulties you’ve faced recently?

I’ve been feeling guilty about not spending time with my son, I make light of it, but I want him to enjoy his childhood, even if I do want a better life for both of us. I make sure we have an hour together every day, and eat together – small things, but very important. I want to make sure he’s happy with what he does while I’m working, and that he can understand why I’m doing this. He’s at an age now where I think he does understand. Sometimes I sit with him and show him what I’m doing. He also loves writing and has started to do little stories and poems of his own. I’m a bit biased, but I have to say, they’re rather good.

What difficulties have you faced?

It’s hard at first, particularly with the freelancing. Sometimes you don’t even get a rejection – just no one bothers to reply. Its frustrating when you’ve prepared your pitch, and they don’t let you know what’s going on, and not what we’re looking for, or for what ever reason you’re just ignored. You have to get to the stage of not taking that personally. Keep on keeping on, because somebody somewhere will say ‘yes’.

How long have you been on the journey towards a freelance career?

Not long. Only since the second year of university. Everything was so new to me, and I had to get back into the process of learning again. The last six months have been spent considering this as a real career.

Cathy Grindrod said in an interview with Elaine Aldread that it took her five years before going full-time freelance. Does this surprise you?

Not at all. Not with all the juggling I’m doing!

Has having a family affected your decisions as a freelancer?

Yes, there are lots of things I can’t do. I can’t tell people what I really think and walk away. Bills still have to be paid, food has to go on the table. Having someone else to care for changes your priorities. If I’d have been on my own I might have just ‘gone for it’ and seen what happened. But I can’t afford to do that. My advice to students is, before they get those responsibilities, to go for what you want. Once you have responsibilities it becomes more and more difficult.

Has your employment changed?

Knowing what I do at university, I’ve been asked to do different tasks which I couldn’t have done before. It’s good practise for me. Doing this at my current job means I’m paid for what I do and it builds up my CV, I can quote what I’ve done, and be more efficient in future.

What are your future plans as a freelancer?

My ultimate goal is to become a published novelist. It’s the creative side that I enjoy the most. It takes time and might never happen, so I want to build a freelance career to make some money.

You may have heard of the duality of the writer and editor, what about the duality of writer and freelancer?

Yes, I actually wrote about this in an essay, that freelancing does involve creativity. Particularly as a copywriter generating sales in imaginative ways, working out how to bring in customers and understand what makes them buy products. I do think the creative and business sides of a writer must work together.

Will you be doing your own business accounting and organisation?

I do have a slight advantage because I spent over twenty years in financial services. I have quite a bit of experience with money and how it works. If it got to the stage where I was earning enough money to employ and accountant, I think I would, as I want to concentrate more on getting the business in.

Are there any resources you used you’d like to share with me?

The two websites I mentioned before, Freelancer and Peopleperhour, are a good starting point. As for books I have Andy Maslen’s book about copy-writing Write Copy, Make Money. I also went on to google and searched ‘setting up your own business’ and ‘being a freelancer’. Look on websites, there’s a mass of information out there. I also talk to people in the industry like Nick Parkhouse. I’ve signed up to Andy Maslen’s blog – as he sends you information on a regular basis. I think anyone thinking about freelancing as a career should get started as soon as possible, while they have more time and fewer responsibilities to think about. I think I gave up this first attempt too soon, when I found out I didn’t get voluntary redundancy. Right now, I haven’t got the time. I’m working three days a week and doing a university degree.

What would your ideal working week look like?

I would spend three days focusing on the work side of things, networking and putting myself out there. Use twitter, social media, anything! Blogging, self-publishing and basically being that pushy person – that’s the person who is successful.

I’m getting titbits of information through on emails, slowly building up my knowledge of freelancing. But right now my university assignments are getting bigger, and I’m pitching my novel idea, A Place to Speak to the Dead,to Little Brown books in a moment – cross your fingers. It’s a supernatural thriller with a crime fiction heart. A female private investigator in her mid 50s with a hard personality, is investigating murders from the past and the present. She has a vision of a girl which happened 25 years ago. The book follows the affect of this on her mind, and her mind unravelling. The reader won’t know if she’s a reliable narrator, but at the end we think she’s solved the mysteries.

I write poetry all the time, I’m always writing it. I’ve entered a few competitions, I haven’t won anything yet. I have to pay to enter, so I have to pick and choose, but my poetry is definitely getting better and better. I’ve been commissioned by friends, mostly for birthdays. I have a separate account for my writing, everything that I’ve paid in and paid out for – like business cards.

You can find Angela online at http://akfoxwood.wordpress.com/

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