Christine Schrum got her start as a copywriter at a large, direct-response marketing firm. Having completed a Masters in writing, the job allowed her to gain experience with everything from “radio scripts and infomercials to product packaging, press releases and web content.” It also allowed her to develop a network of industry contacts, which led to people approaching her for freelancing gigs. She’s now been freelancing off and on for over a decade.
Sometimes these jobs lead to full time work, but Christine finds herself returning to freelancing time and again. “I love the freedom,” she explains, adding that freelancing suits her personality. She enjoys being able to work on her own schedule and at her own pace, and “it’s never boring!” Because clients and projects are always changing, she might find herself “blogging about abstract art in the morning, writing a white paper about solar energy around noon, then writing an e-newsletter about the health benefits about meditation in the afternoon.”
Christine also really enjoys the fact that her office is portable, and she says that she couldn’t live without her laptop and Skype: “It’s the remote worker’s Holy Grail, allowing you to group conference, host webinars, share files and ping your coworkers with quick questions throughout the day.” She likes being able to work from anywhere in the world, and recalls one time Skyping with a coworker who was in Colombia while she herself was visiting Abu Dhabi. She also likes to make a point of logging some on-site office hours where possible, since it benefits her clients and also adds to the dynamism of her day.
One of her favourite jobs so far was working for a fine art fair called Artexpo New York. What started as a freelance gig turned into a full time one “that involved working with an amazing creative team and traveling to cities like NYC and Chicago. The shows were exhausting but exhilarating, and I had a blast working with artists from all around the world.”
The real challenge of freelancing is “definitely the feast or famine aspect.” Sometimes you have so much work, you have to turn clients away, she explains, while other times you struggle just to find enough work. “That’s why it’s key to save up for those lean times.”
When she finds herself overwhelmed by her workload, she likes to “follow the advice that writer Anne Lamott’s father gave her when she was a child and agonizing over a book report on birds. ‘Just take it bird by bird,’ he said.” She finds it helpful to create a prioritized to-do list and then work through it “bird by bird.”
For those just starting out in the profession, she recommends getting your name out there. “Print business cards and build a simple website. Let everyone know you’re in the market for freelance work. Network with your mentors, professors, friends and industry connections.” She also recommends setting up a LinkedIn profile that makes use of keywords.