Working as a Freelance Copywriter: 3 Tips From my Kids

by Jemma van de Nes

My two monkeys are a blessing in more ways than one. Here are three things my daughters have helped me with as I begin working as a freelance copywriter after fifteen years as a teacher, and seven years as a full-time stay-at-home mum.

How to set your freelance hours. YOUR hours.

The kid

My 8-year-old daughter, Vivi, has regular homework to be completed from school. The expectations are very clear. The due date is fortnightly for a series of tasks. 

She loves school. But she doesn’t love homework. Unless grandma does spelling with her. Doing spelling with grandma is apparently fun. 

Vivi is what you might call a Homework Freelancer – she chooses when she is going to do it. We have the odd disagreement about meeting her deadlines, but as a Homework Freelancer she also has to be accountable for completing her work on time. She’s getting there. As long as it gets done by the deadline (fortnightly), we’re all happy. Her work hours are 4.30pm – 5pm most days, except Fridays, and weekends. The rest of the time, she’s hanging off the monkey bars, playing with her little sister, or drawing beautiful mandalas.

She’s eight, and she’s figured out a work/play balance (for now). 

The writer

The concept of freelance work sounds ideal. The reality of it takes some getting used to. I worked in a very structured environment when I was teaching. This is why a deadline is good for me. A deadline helps get my butt into gear and onto the seat at my computer. 

My deadlines are based on my clients’ needs. 

But my hours are my choice. 

As long as I get the work completed by the deadline, we’re all happy. I can write when the girls are at school during the day and when they’re in bed at night. The lure of a good Netflix drama on the couch with hubby makes night-time writing a tough choice, but if there’s a deadline looming and it’s been a slow day on the word count front, that’s what has to be done.

In between meeting deadlines, I’m supervising my daughters on the monkey bars, mediating arguments while they play together, and blue-tacking beautiful hand-drawn mandalas to my fridge. 

So far, working as a freelancer has been a pretty good experience that suits me and my family.

Fruit mandala on the fridge by my little artist, Vivi.

Be prepared … for opportunities, mistakes, and the unexpected!

The kid

For an eight-year-old, Vivi has a lot to organise before a school day. The prep starts the night before. 

  • Do assigned homework tasks / and or home reading
  • Get her school diary signed
  • Charge her iPad  
  • Set out her uniform (formal or sports uniform)
  • Check she’s packed what she needs for library, art, or musical theatre (depending on the day)

It’s a lot. And there have been a few days of forgotten library bags or an uncharged iPad. But she still makes it through the day. 

Be prepared for …

Opportunities

A forgotten school library bag means Vivi can wander the shelves without the rush of making it to the checkout desk on time (and make a list of ‘to read’ books for the next visit). 

Mistakes

Bringing home the wrong diary for us to sign means we get a sneak peek at how much homework that other kid is doing (kidding).

An uncharged iPad means Vivi can share with a friend, do the task at home, or complete it with a pen and paper.

There are always options when a mistake is made.  

The unexpected

Mum might just turn up at school with that forgotten library bag!

Vivi is learning to be more organised and prepared for school. But she is also learning it’s not the end of the world if she isn’t as organised or prepared as she’s expected to be (by her own standards, our suggestions, or the school’s expectations).

In a way, she’s learning to be kind to herself.

And with that skill, she’s prepared for anything.

The writer

I wasn’t prepared for how quickly the demand for my writing services would take off. I was quietly hopeful, but my preparation for freelance copywriting could be classified as ‘learning on the fly.’

  • How to price my services
  • How to present a proposal
  • How to handle rejection
  • How to write an invoice
  • How to put myself out there at networking events (still a WIP)

I’ve been watching Vivi ride the rollercoaster or ‘Expectations vs. Reality’ in the steep learning curve that is Year 3, and she is almost ready to take her hands off the safety rail and wave them in the air like she just don’t care.

She knows she’s got this. 

I’m also riding this rollercoaster when it comes to freelance copywriting. 

The peaks and troughs of freelance work are unpredictable in these early stages. I know if I keep working at it, I can achieve a consistency that works for me: I can get to a stage where I, too, have my hands off the safety rail (but possibly on a puke bag, because that’s rollercoasters for you if you’re a motion-sickness-kinda-gal). 

Be prepared for …

Opportunities

Prepare a one-minute video that addresses three questions for a chance at an SEO copywriting internship? Waaaaaaaaay out of my comfort zone.

But I did it.

I was successful.

And here I am, six months later, still on the freelance list and receiving regular writing work!

Mistakes

I mixed up a deadline and spent my youngest daughter’s kindy rest day (the one day a week she isn’t at school) churning out a 1500-word blog about the effects of divorce (for a client via an agency) while she watched TV and played games on her sister’s iPad. The mum guilt on this one was extreme. But the sense of relief when I hit ‘submit’ and then snuggled on the couch with my youngest almost made up for it.

The unexpected

On a laminated poster about ‘My Mum,’ my youngest wrote (with help obviously) that my job is: A Copywriter! She’s got the guts to say it aloud before I have! She also wrote my name is Violet … now that was unexpected. 

An unexpected name … but the correct job title by Miss 4!

How to dress for success. YOUR way.

On that note, let’s not forget Miss four-going-on-thirteen – Joslyn.

The kid

This kid loves fashion. She pirouettes in front of her mirror so she can view her outfit from all angles. We go to the chemist for medicine and come home with nail polish and sunglasses with diamantes on them. When we go to the big shopping centres, she loves to ride the travelator up and down (yep, people look at us funny) because it’s like one big catwalk. 

When she dresses herself, she always gets it right. To go to the park she’ll wear a nightie, knee-high bunny socks, glitter ballet flats, unbrushed bed hair, and a pair of sunnies. To visit grandma and grandad, Jos opts for a ballet tutu, odd socks, ballet slippers, and a headband. Stunning.

Jos often gets a compliment for her outfit choice. The best ones are ‘love your style’ and a fist bump from passers-by. She beams with pride. But she already knew she was rocking it. 

Her self-belief is one of her best qualities. But when it turns to stubbornness, well, that’s a trait from her dad!

The writer

I’ll admit, I’ve lived in maternity bras, trackies, and hubby’s t-shirts for far too long.

I’m still working on my personal style. I love discovering local entrepreneurs who create amazing accessories and handmade items that add a bit of pizzazz (how cool does that word look?!) to my otherwise standard working from home uniform: jeans, sneakers, and a hoodie.

Dressing for success, for me, is about dressing for empowerment. It’s an armour that protects my developing sense of self-belief. It’s a shield from imposter syndrome, a common struggle for many newly fledged solopreneurs (especially those re-entering the workforce after a considerable absence).

When I wear an outfit that makes me feel confident, I’m dressed for success. Even if it is a hoodie and jeans. But it will definitely, most adamantly, 100% never be a tutu, odd socks, and ballet slippers.

That one only works for my little Joslyn.

Smashing the word count in my working from home uniform.

So, there you have it, three ways my girls have helped me navigate some aspects of these early days working as a freelance copywriter, amidst the chaos of family life. If you’ve got some helpful hints you’ve learned from your minis, I’d love to hear from you.

Stay tuned for more ramblings. 

Coming soon … 

‘How to Write with Purpose’

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