Thursday, 29 January 2009

my work

In a comment on this post, my friend Deborah of [ddot] wrote: i'd love to read more about how you established yourself as a freelancer and how you continue to develop your work/portfolio.

So, that's what this post will be about.

When I finished high school I didn't really have a plan for my future, so I started studying English at the college in Stavanger. After a year I moved to Bergen to study at the University, and to cut a long story short, I have a master degree in media studies.

By the time I started writing the master thesis, I was really tired of my part time job at the newsstand selling newspapers, chocolate, cigarettes and hot dogs. It was time to come up with an idea of what I wanted to do when the thesis was done, and I found out that it would be nice to get some sort of hands on experience with working in media. Sølve was - and still is - a very important supporter, motivator and coach in this process. He's the one who has taught me everything I know about sales.

Most of Norwegian media - TV, national newspapers and magazines - are based in Oslo. Very few media, except local, are in Bergen. Also, few jobs are announced, so it's hard to get a job in an editorial staff. That's why I started freelancing. I thought "why not just give it a try?" Sølve supported me 110 %.

I have always enjoyed writing and I have always read magazines - especially women's magazines, home decorating and travel magazines. This combination lead to me trying to freelance for magazines. I had no idea what I was doing in the beginning. No one told me how freelancing works, or how to write a magazine article, for that matter. Neither did I know of blogs nor websites writing about freelancing (mentioned here). It was a fumbling start back there in 2003, but I learnt by doing.

I learnt that sale is a very important part of being a freelancer. I learnt that calling the editor is smarter than just sending an e-mail, and I quickly had to overcome my fear of phone calls. I learnt that it is important to keep regular contact with editors so they get to know me and remember me. I learnt to be patient and to accept refusals.

For a couple of years the freelancing was my part time job while I wrote the master thesis. When I finished the thesis in June 2006, I felt that my freelancing job was worth persuading as a full time job. At least for a year. If after that year my income was decent enough, I would continue freelancing, if not, I would have to apply for a regular job. Now I have been my own boss in my own full time job for a little more than two years. Its hard work, but I love it.

I still learn a lot every day. Sale is still important, even though it is easier now because I have contacts who know me. It happens more often now that they contact me and ask me if I want to do this or that job. It is also easier because I have a solid portfolio to refer to. I have become more focused on the fact that I run my own business, and that my business needs to develop. I have also learnt the importance of making plans so that I know where my next pay will come from. I have learnt that I don't need a master degree in media studies to work as a journalist and copywriter. I don't think I have ever been asked about my education, but it gives me a professional ballast that I'm very happy I have.

In a perfect world I will keep freelancing until I retire. It's really, really fulfilling to create my own job.

How about you? Any thoughts on freelancing vs. having a regular full time job? Anyone else working freelance who wants to share their story?


  1. Astrid, this was a really good story of how - and why - you became a freelancer! Being a freelancer to, I felt like I could told most of this story myself. It´s really great to decide your own work day, but it can be so rough sometimes! I started to freelance while having a 5 month old baby, and I loved those days. Really! My daughter quickly became a part of my freelancelife, and it all worked out very well, until she got more active, gave up her naps and generally needed more attention :O) Then I nearly quit.
    Now she´s 26 months and goes to kindergarten four - soon to be five - days a week, and it so peaceful and quiet around here, and I enjoy to get my work done without Thea home :-) I love freelancing, and actually: I´m proud to be one!

  2. Thanks for sharing, Cathrine. I'm impressed with how you combine the two roles. I wonder how it will be one day to do the same.

  3. Most of people are. But I´ve always been a person who needs to have a few things going on at the same time - I guess I´m a bit restless - and my first priority was to be a mom. It was the combination of those two; earn a living and be a mom, that tempted me, and like I sad; it went really well :O) I almost impressed myself... And best of all, I loved the job! So it was just to keep on going - and now I´m really glad I did!
    To have children while be a writer/ journalist, gives you a lot of inspiration, Astrid :-) You´ll see for yourself some day.

  4. By the way: I love your work space! (I envy you... Want my own office!):-)

  5. Yes, I'll see one day... ;-)

    Having an office is perfect, I'm sure you'll get one too one day. I worked at home the first 2,5 years.

  6. Thank you so much for sharing this, Astrid. There’s a lot of helpful hints, especially about selling yourself and your work. I think if I had tried to start freelancing before I had worked in marketing, I would have had no idea that that aspect was so important – now I’m a little bit more clued in on the fact that everything is a product – even your writing.

    That said, it’s only this year that I’ve decided to really give it a go – before now, I haven’t really been published much, and it’s my goal this year to at least attempt to sell a few stories – because if you don’t even try, how will you ever know?

    I am incredibly jealous of your freelancing life (and your pretty office) – realistically, it will be a long time before I can give up my full time job! But I am a firm believer that if you work hard enough, you’ll get there in the end.

  7. I have never had a regular full time job, but I imagine it's hard to give up the steady income to become become a freelancer. Yes, hard work will get you there. Good luck!

  8. this is such a wonderful and realistic post! i've been watching your photos on flickr for a while and i liked them but i didn't knew more about you. now i know : )

    in the last 2 years or so i've been searching for motivational stuff, for stories like yours or something to keep me going in a direction. finally i've chosen politics, it's my first year at University (i like it) but I don't know actually where this will lead me, and i know i have to find a job sooner or later this year and i'm really thinking what should it be or what could i find..

    anyway, your story gave me some ideas :D i really love your work, and i'll come again here :D


  9. thank you for listening and for answering astrid. i really enjoyed reading your experience in establishing yourself as a freelancer. it's inspirational and something i am going to try to work towards with small steps over the next few years.

    you're right, it is very difficult to move from full-time work that is well paid when one has real life pressures to deal with. but i think when you do what you love, the hard work comes naturally and therefore so does your success.

    thanks once again!

  10. This was so interesting to read Astrid. I always wonder how freelancers start working.

  11. This was very inspirational, thank you for sharing! I have to admit that I'm a bit jealous of your freelancing life! ;)

  12. Thank you for writing about this, it is very interesting. You have also cheered me up, I was feeling a bit down in the dumps because someone I work with is moving on to another job. But you have made me think a little more about what I actually want to do all day and maybe I should get on with doing something about it!

    : )

  13. It's really funny how I just stumbled upon this blog post of yours - I'm going through the same thing. I'm a freelance graphic designer, but was working for a company for the last 3.5 years, until now. For the last few months I've been working from home for different clients - it's SO hard. No office drama, no distractions, just work-work-work. I find I need to get up, get outside, buy fresh flowers, meet a friend for coffee, just to get the social part of working back in my day...
    I also have a 5 year old daughter, and once she's home from school it's almost impossible to get anything done, I just shut-down and start up again the next morning.
    love your blog, btw! amber

  14. So nice to read about other people's experience! I've been working as a freelancer for 5 yrs (I work for publishing houses designing books), after another 5/6 yrs as a full-time employee when I had a very crazy, hectic life - could never go back to that.

    The main reason I decided to go freelancing was to have more time, flexibility of schedule and freedom, both creatively and in my personal life. Having said that, I also believe that one of the most important things for a freelancer is discipline and creating some sort of routine. I work from home, where i created a special room and have no intention of having an office in another place, though I am looking for a bigger house to have a better studio space :)

    PS. Love the pictures from your desk, Astrid!

  15. This is an interesting article! I work freelance as a piano teacher - which isn't quite the same because you don't call people to ask whether they would be interested in piano lessons... But the part about getting more work as people get to know about you is the same.

    Love your workspace and your blog in general, good to see a cool and varied Norwegian blog!

  16. It's great to read about how you became a freelancer. I'm a full time editor employed by a book publishing company and I enjoy the regular work hours etc but I do wonder from time to time whether I would like to become a freelancer.

  17. Dear Astrid, I wish you all the best for your freelance career and have to admit that I envy you a bit for your way of working. As I have experienced both sides – started with a regular full-time job, then 2,5 years freelance, now back in a full-time job, I can only say: grass is always greener on the other side. I loved the freedom and being my own boss when I was freelance, but missed the safety of a regular income and REALLY didn't like the sales part of a freelancing, now that I am employed again, I miss my freedom... but well.

    As hard as the sales part can be sometimes, the good thing about it is that you are forced to come up with a USP for yourself, which means that you have to figure out what are your strengths and competitive advantages. Thinking about your strengths can be really uplifting! :) Once you've nailed this down, it becomes easier, now matter if you are freelance or employed, because some way or other, you always have to be a sales expert for yourself.

    Good luck and thanks for sharing your experiences!
    I really enjoy reading your blog.

  18. i enjoyed reading your story, astrid. :^)

    after working my way through university (20-30 hrs/wk during the school year, full time during summers), i started my own business as soon as i graduated. i freelanced as i built up my business. all the skills were the same -- except for the one, i marketed and managed myself, and for the other, i marketed my business and managed my employees!

    during the early years i worked 70 or more hours a week, but it was all worth it when my husband was able to quit his job and work in the business with me -- and when we had our sons, to be able to be with them all day.

    there really is nothing like the freedom of being self-employed.

  19. somehow found your blog today, and am so happy i did. i'm at the very beginning stages of jumping into a freelance life (despite the horror of those around me!) it's so overwhelming, but i want it so much, and am certain i will find the way....i can't wait to look through your blog. thanks for the inspiring words.

    and are you living in norway? i love love norway, one of my best friends is from oslo and i try to get there as often as i can. tucen takk :)))) c

  20. ps i instantly added you to my blogroll....such a positive attitude and inspiring blog!

  21. Astrid, thank you so much for posting this! I left a really unhealthy job situation last May, and I've been freelancing since then. I have to admit that your post made me realize how half-hearted I've been about it. Trying to get a job in the media in my city right now is a little like trying to catch a comet in a teacup, and you've helped me see that I should be more appreciative of the opportunities I have, instead of wishing for the ones that aren't there. Thank you for giving me a renewed sense of purpose!

  22. Astrid, thank you sharing your thoughts on your work. You are an inspiration!

    As a relatively new lawyer, I am unwilling to give up on all the time and energy I invested into starting this career. That said, I know that I have many competing passions in life and cannot make excuses for letting certain loves fall by the wayside.

    One day I may be bold enough to change careers and pursue a life as a freelance writer. For now, I think that your post and your blog have reminded me of how much I miss writing and celebrating simple pleasures. You've encouraged me to revamp my blog and return to flickr. Thanks, Astrid!



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