The realities of freelance life: Franky Shanahan of Love Audrey

The realities of freelance life_ Franky Shanahan of Love Audrey

A few weeks ago, I asked people to tell me more about their lives as freelancers. It’s not something I’m planning to do just yet, but since I technically now have a ‘multi-hyphened career’, figuring out how other people do this thing full time is really interesting to me.

It feels like so often freelance life is portrayed as the dream, but what about the lack of a consistent income? Or how do you deal with it if you actually enjoy working in an office environment? I asked a few full time freelancers to share their thoughts, and am sharing them here with you!

Today’s post comes from Franky Shanahan, better known as Love Audrey. She is a copy-writer who specialises in working with creatives. Here she shares her freelance journey, and how a personal tragedy allowed her to pursue her dream.

What made you decide to take a freelance route with your career?

I don’t remember making a conscious decision to ‘go freelance’. Alongside studying at university, working part-time in retail and raising our two young children, I’d been blogging since 2009. After submitting my MA dissertation in September 2011 and getting married the following January, it all happened quite organically. I used to joke that I went from being a poor student to a poor professional, but I know not having to deal with a significant drop in income probably made the transition easier.

In 2012, I was offered a role at a successful wedding blog. As well as content creation, I was responsible for a lot of admin behind the scenes. Liaising with sponsors and other industry professionals helped me make good contacts that eventually led to more work. In some cases, this didn’t happen until years later.

We relocated to Bristol in September 2013 and things really started to snowball, partly because my youngest child was now in full-time education. I wrote my first full website in 2014 and by the end of the year I was employed by a number of clients on a retainer basis. Apart from a nasty blip in 2016 when I was seriously ill, my client base has continued to grow and evolve. I now work with a wonderful mix of creative business owners in both the wedding industry and the health and well-being market.

What elements make up your freelance income?

The bulk of my income comes from copywriting in a traditional sense. I write thousands of words every week! I’m usually working on copy for at least one or two websites at any one time. I also create a lot of digital content for clients including regular blog posts and marketing emails. Alongside this, I offer a range of services designed to help business owners find their voice and create their own written content.

With my friend and colleague, Kirsten, I also run a series of workshops called The Wedding Sessions aimed at wedding entrepreneurs. They’re incredibly down-to-earth and relaxed, but we cram in an awful lot of knowledge and advice.

I don’t make masses of money, but I earn enough for us to live the kind of life we want. My husband is self-employed too, so neither of us have a stable, reliable income. A big factor in us being able to live this way is that we own our house outright.

Although I always share this information if someone asks me directly about the financial realities of freelance life, it’s not something I broadcast publicly, partly because it’s a painful subject. After our dad died in 2005, both my sister and I were able to buy our own homes. I got the timing right, bought outside of London, and didn’t need a mortgage at all. It’s an enormous privilege, and something I’ll never take for granted, but I’d rather pay rent and still have my dad in my life.

Of course, we have to earn enough to cover our bills and feed our children, but we’ve definitely been able to exist on a lower income than others would in the same situation. My dad was a film editor and freelance himself towards the end of his life, so I like to think he’d be pretty chuffed to know he’d made it easier for two young creatives to follow their dreams.

What is the best thing about being freelance?

The flexibility. Given that I have two children, I’ve always appreciated this aspect, but after developing Chronic Fatigue Syndrome in 2016, it’s the only way I’ve been able to continue working. I love having complete control over my schedule, so I can go slowly when my body needs me to.

What is the worst thing about being freelance?

The lack of financial security. I’m not going to lie, I miss having a regular payday! Not being able to accurately project your income across a year makes it difficult to plan big purchases like holidays or house renovations.

How do you plan your finances for times when work is scarce?

Aside from when I was seriously ill in 2016, I’ve never really struggled to find enough work. However, we’ve both had issues with late payments and sometimes the gaps between invoices being paid has been longer than we’d like. At the beginning of 2017, a long-standing client of mine went into administration without paying me for work I’d already completed. That was a very difficult start to the year!

As a general rule, we try to keep our monthly outgoings {both business and domestic} as low as possible. I also save a little money each week throughout the year, so we have a small financial buffer if needed. If we don’t have to dip into these savings, I use the money to cover childcare costs during the summer holidays or put it towards the extra food spend at Christmas. We also have an overdraft and a credit card which we can use if things get really desperate!

Having had to live on very little money when my eldest was born and while I was a student parent, I also know it’s something I’d be able to do again if work suddenly dried up. I consider a lot of our current lifestyle a total luxury rather than essential for survival. I’m pretty good at being frugal, so it would be relatively easy to cut back if our income fell.

Is there anything you wish people knew about freelance life?

I don’t think this is unique to freelance life, but success isn’t linear. A good year can be followed by a bad one. However much you’re learning and growing, you won’t always feel like you’re moving forward. If you’re expecting a clear, upward career trajectory, this can be disheartening.

In a similar vein, people don’t tend to talk openly and honestly about their mistakes and failures. If you compare yourself to other freelancers and business owners online, it’s easy to feel inadequate because you’re probably only getting half the story. Everybody screws up occasionally! It’s what you learn from these experiences and how you move forward that matters.

What are you working on now and what’s coming up for you next?

It’s my busiest time of year right now, so I’m working on a lot of website copy for an incredibly diverse group of clients. One day I’ll be writing about luxury wedding planning, and the next I’ll be brainstorming ideas for a life coach. I’m enjoying the variety a lot!

Next year, I want to host more workshops and build the mentoring and support side of my business. I love helping business owners find their voice and overcome any hang-ups they might have about writing. Lots of people seem to lack confidence and struggle with this aspect of existing online. I’m also looking forward to launching a new podcast with my friend, Charlie Swift.

Thank you so much for sharing your story with us, Franky! Franky is an experienced copywriter and digital content creator who’s spent the last seven years working with small creative businesses primarily in the wedding industry. You can find out more about her and what she does on her website, and follow her on Instagram and Twitter.


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The realities of freelance life_ Franky Shanahan of Love Audrey

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