The realities of freelance life: Rachel Burton – Author
I’m not at all a full-time freelancer. I’m not really even a part-time freelancer. I work four days a week for a London publishing house, and am just starting to do my own thing on my fifth day. But I guess I’m one of those people who’s thinking about creating that increasingly common “multi-hyphen career”. Once my current contract ends, doing more freelance work is something I’ve been thinking a lot about.
But so often, I feel like articles about freelance workers are written by people with rose-tinted glasses on. I know there are people out there who are making a full time wage from what was once their side hustle, and that is incredible, but I also know many more who have some other form of income support. Some people thrive being on their own, others crave the energy that comes from a buzzing office.
So, I thought I’d start a semi-regular series to highlight some amazing women working for themselves, and ask them to share a bit more about how they make it work. The ups and the downs, and most of all the reality of freelance life. First up is author Rachel Burton.
What make you decide to take a freelance route with your career?
I first gave up my career as a paralegal in the City in 2007 when I went full time teaching yoga and eventually opened my own yoga studio in Cambridge. However it was incredibly hard work and in 2016 my partner was offered a job opportunity in Yorkshire and I decided to sell the studio. When we moved, I went back into law because I didn’t have the energy or the wherewithal to start another business from scratch.
However, two months after moving to Yorkshire, I was offered a three book deal with Harper Collins after submitting a book I’d been writing on and off for the previous three years. I spent most of 2017 working full-time in law editing my first book and writing/editing my second. Now here’s where I get honest… I have chronic illness – M.E. and fibromyalgia – I am tired and in pain a lot but over the last decade have learned mostly how to manage it to the point where I can work. What I couldn’t do is work full-time and fulfil a three book deal, so in early 2018 my partner and sat down and worked out a budget that would allow me to go fully freelance.
What elements make up your freelance income?
My freelance income is made up almost entirely from the royalties I get from the two books that have been published so far (my third is out early 2019) and I have been very lucky as my first book sold really well. I also do some work mentoring unpublished writers. Due to health reasons I’m not able to teach yoga at the moment but that has always been an element of my freelance income before.
To be brutally honest, I wouldn’t be able to do any of this if my partner didn’t do the job he does. We are able to live comfortably on his salary so on months when my royalties are low (or non-existent – writing books can be a precarious game!) I don’t really have to worry. There is no way I could support myself on my freelance income, let’s be straight about that. My partner and I are a team and this works well for us, but I don’t think it’s something that we speak about as freelancers very often. Money can be tight and very up and down and I would not have taken this step at all if I hadn’t had the buffer of my partner’s income.
What is the best thing about being freelance?
Being able to pick my own hours, being able to run errands in the week when the shops are less busy and being able to have an afternoon nap if I want to!
What is the worst thing about being freelance?
Not knowing from one month to another what you are going to earn.
Is there anything you wish people knew about freelance life?
I spend most days completely on my own. I worried about this at first, especially as my partner travels for work, but I’m a huge introvert and love my own company and I am really happy spending time this way. It’s not for everyone and it’s something I am honest about when I talk to people who are thinking of going freelance. It’s nothing like being in an office (which is great for me!) so if you like having people around you a lot of the time you have to work round that. I know a lot of people who go to coffee shops to work and that kind of thing but I’m happiest at home. When I feel like I’m getting too much inside my head I’ll go for a walk or go swimming or meet a friend for dinner.
What are you working on now and what’s coming up for you next?
I’m currently waiting for the final copy edits of my third novel which is out in early spring 2019. It’s called The Pieces of You and Me and is a the story of two high school sweethearts meeting again after ten years. That’s the final book in my current contract. I have a couple of other projects on the go at the moment but I can’t talk about them just yet!
Thanks so much for sharing the pieces that make up your freelance life, Rachel! Rachel’s first book, The Many Colours of Us was a Kindle bestseller. You can find her on Twitter, Instagram or Facebook, or visit her website for more details.
Want to tell your freelance story? Get in touch.
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