Each week, in the Freelance Heroes Facebook Group, we turn our attention to one specific freelancer, with the aim of hearing their story, learning from their experiences, being inspired by the journey that they have taken. We start this feature with Rose Parkin – freelance publisher, editor and project manager, who specialises in educational publishing. Author of “The Freelancer’s Cookbook”. This is Rose’s story…
- What is your name and what do you do?
I’m Rose and I’m a freelance editor – my main income is from working with educational publishers on their science and maths resources for schools. This might be traditional textbooks, interactive software, or videos. However, I’ve also recently branched out into food writing.
- How long have you been freelancing and why did you decide to become a freelancer?
I’ve been a freelancer for about three years now, and like many freelancers I decided not to go back to my full time job after starting a family. After maternity leave, I felt that not only I needed more flexibility but that it was time for a bit of a change. I’d been in my last ‘proper’ job for five or six years, and going away for maternity leave had created a fairly natural break. I knew quite a few people who had chosen to work freelance for educational publishers, and I thought I’d give it a go. Luckily my former employer was happy to hire me on a freelance basis, and then I added clients from there.
- What support did you have from family and friends? Did anyone advise you against becoming freelance?
Thankfully I’ve had the full support from friends and family throughout. Probably partly because the move didn’t seem much of a gamble, as the educational publishing industry is now outsourcing more and more. My partner was so in favour of freelance that he also decided to go take the plunge himself last year. This decision did prompt a few suspicious looks from the older generation – I think the prospect of us being parents to two small children and having no fixed income made them a little nervous!
- Did you use any professional support resources in starting your freelance business?
I didn’t – I was lucky enough to have a fairly slow, safe start to my business as my first client was my previous employer.
- How would you describe your clients or customers?
I usually work for fairly large educational publishing companies that specialise in producing books and software for primary and secondary schools in the UK and internationally. Publishing is a super friendly industry, so there never really tends to be a very corporate feel to it.
- Why do your clients/customers select you over your competitors?
That’s a good question. I’d like to think it’s because I’ve got good project management skills, an excellent eye for details, along with amazing personal skills – although I suspect it may be partly because editors with a science degree are few and far between!
- Is being a freelancer what you expected? Do you work more hours (or less) than you had first anticipated?
It’s not quite as flexible as I was expecting. Somehow the hours in the day just slip away when you’re not looking. Leaving no time for all those extra-curricular things I originally had in mind, like yoga, long lunches, and the odd afternoon baking a cake. None of that. Although this has had a positive side effect – due to the frustration of being so near to my kitchen, but with no time to cook, I’ve developed a range of meals that fit around my work with little preparation, chopping or stirring. This has now become my side project – The Freelancer’s Cookbook.
- What app or website could you not run your business without, and why?
For my educational publishing work it’s definitely Dropbox, as I’m often sending and receiving huge files! For the cookbook website, it’s Hootsuite. I’m often not around during peak times, so it’s great to be able to schedule a post or two in advance.
- What advice would you give to anyone who wants to start a freelance business, specifically in your field?
That, perhaps unfortunately for people starting out, having personal contacts in the industry is fairly essential. I’d say over 90% of my educational publishing work comes through people I worked with in my ‘proper’ jobs in the past. The majority of freelance publishing work does not get advertised, but is offered to an existing bank of freelancers. Other than making contacts at conferences and networking events, perhaps the best approach would be to join something like the Society for Editors and Proofreaders, as publishers may look for new freelancers this way.
- What are the most notable things you have learnt since starting your business; either about running a business or about yourself?
I’ve learnt that I find it hard to turn down work. Each work offer email makes me feel like I’ve won the lottery. Such elation! That someone wants me to do something for them – and so I must do it, because they’ve picked me. However, I’m slowly learning that to keep my sanity I should not accept every job. The deadline might be too tight, the payment too low, or simply that it’s not quite the right fit for me. Even though it might feel like it at the time, if I turn down work my luck isn’t instantly going to change, causing all work to dry up!
- What is it about being a freelancer that you most enjoy?
With my partner being freelance as well, we can be really flexible with childcare. I love the fact that I can hang out with my two little ones for the morning, then head to the desk for the afternoon. It means that there’s not too much childcare, and not too much work in any one day.
- What do you enjoy the least about being a freelancer?
I guess it’s that you don’t have quite the same ownership over projects as you do if you’re working in-house at a publishing company. In my previous job I was managing multiple projects from start to finish. This involved working with authors, editors, designers and developers to make the resource from scratch. Now I’m a freelancer there are fewer opportunities to be involved in a whole project – it’s more likely that I’ll be involved at the early development stage and then often never see the finished product.
- What is your ultimate professional goal as a freelancer?
I think I need to work on this one, as I’ve got two conflicting goals! One is to branch out and be a jack of all trades – doing more food writing and maybe a spot of academic editing. And the other is to develop my educational publishing business further, maybe taking on a few employees, so I can take on projects from start to finish for publishers.
- What one thing do you wish you had known before you became a freelancer?
How to price my services – at first I was way out. I tend to charge based on an hourly or day rate, but was soon finding that after tax and childcare, I wasn’t left with much at all. I did a bit of research, and a bit of cheeky haggling and realised that I could increase my rates significantly. I really wish I had considered that pricing isn’t about how much you think your time is worth, but how much your value your experience, skills and knowledge represent for the client.
To learn more about Rose and the Freelancers Cookbook, visit:
LinkedIn – linkedin.com/in/rose-parkin-4066041a
Twitter – @feltgiraffe
Freelancer’s cookbook site – thefreelancerscookbook.com
Freelancer’s cookbook Facebook page – facebook.com/Freelancerscookbook
Freelancer’s cookbook Instagram –freelancers_cookbook