Meet Lana Burgess. The first freelancer to take part in our brand new blog series; Meet the Freelancer. Each week we'll be chatting to a self-employed someone about their business, their top tips for going freelance and the many ups and downs of being your own boss.
Lana Burgess is a freelance writer and content strategist from Brighton, UK. Lana helps publications, brands, and entrepreneurs publish purposeful content over at http://lanaburgess.com. Lana is also part of the team behind Brighton Digital Women, a not-for-profit company that’s striving to make digital more inclusive.
Can you tell us your why…why are you a freelance writer? Why do you do what you do?
I’m a freelance writer because I feel blissfully lost in flow when I write. I also create content strategies for my clients because I enjoy showing people how to grow an engaged audience using content.
Tell us about your journey into the world of becoming self employed...
I dreamed of being freelance for years before I took the plunge. I was frightened that I wouldn’t be able to find sufficient work. When I finally took the leap, I realised these worries were totally unfounded. I went freelance four months into an editorial role that I’d moved to from an inbound marketing manager position at a digital marketing agency. I realised during my probation that the new role was not the right next step. I needed to be my own boss. I went freelance without any clients and let my network know I was looking for work. The referrals came flooding in. I’ve been fully booked throughout my first year and wish I had done this sooner!
What one piece of advice do you wish you knew when you first started out?
I wish I had known that working from home is not sustainable. I actually liked working from home at first but it didn’t suit me. My confidence around people reduced and I started losing the ability to strike up conversations easily when I did see people. I wish I’d realised sooner that I needed to be in a co-working space. It’s important to have a community around you as a freelancer, especially if you’re someone with a tendency of getting stuck in your head.
What does a normal day look like for you?
I get up around 8 and make coffee for my boyfriend and I. We greet the seagull chicks on the roof outside our living room window as we sip from our mugs. After coffee, I go running along the seafront and do some yoga in the living room to stretch out. I rock up to Platf9rm (my co-working space) about 11. I get two hours of work done and then make a salad for lunch. I go for a walk around the North Laine and absorb the atmosphere. I work for about four hours in the afternoon (longer if deadlines mean I need to.) If it’s sunny after work, I go for a swim in the sea. Sometimes I meet friends for dinner and drinks after. Or I hit up a networking event, if I have the energy. My boyfriend gets home about 10 and we watch a show or read in bed. I try to be asleep by midnight.
What tools or communities would you recommend for a fellow freelancer?
Toggl is great for keeping track of time. It’s easy to over deliver if you don’t track how much time you are spending. Tracking times helps you judge whether your quotes are accurate or if you are undercharging.
Community wise, Platf9rm is awesome. I can’t recommend joining a co-working space enough. There are so many different types of business here. If you needed to, you could source new work from your co-workers. This is especially true if you’re in marketing, as every business needs it.
How has becoming your own boss impacted on your life outside of work?
It has totally changed my life. I’ve doubled my income. This has made me feel a real sense of self worth. I felt dreadful that I couldn’t command a higher wage when I was employed. It made me feel like my Law degree had been a waste of time and that I had failed. Now that I can set a day rate I deserve (and people are happy to pay it) I feel much better about myself.
How do you win work? What are your tips?
All of my work comes through face to face networking or via people I used to work with who are now at new companies. The fact that I am often the host of the networking events I attend means I have a reason to talk to everyone there. I can’t recommend hosting events enough. It takes the awkwardness out of networking as you have a clear role at the event. I love it.
What books or blogs have helped you on your way as a freelancer?
My go-to source of inspiration and advice is The Middle Finger Project (https://www.themiddlefingerproject.org/). Ash (the woman behind the brand) describes her content as “an indecent proposal for anyone who needs the balls to do the thing they want”. She’s ballsy, brave, and outspoken. Her advice always sorts my head out.
How do you celebrate the wins?
By sharing an Aperol spritz with friends! Or having dinner out with my boyfriend.
Are you working on any side projects? If so what are these and how do you balance your time?
I work on a side project with Rachel Finch and Allegra Chapman called Brighton Digital Women — a not-for-profit community for digital knowledge sharing. Our monthly women-led events are totally inclusive and aim to help digital marketers find happiness in their work. Rachel, Allegra, and I work together to source speakers, organise and promote events, create and edit blog content, and engage with our community via our social channels — oh, and of course host the events themselves! We are all aware this is a voluntary project so when client work takes priority for one of us, another of us picks up the slack. It works very organically and fluidly. This is possible as we are all very good at communicating our needs.