Part II: A Q&A With Tom Albrighton

This is Part II of a two-part Q&A with Tom Albrighton, founder and principal consultant at ABC Copywriting. Check out Part I: to find out how Tom got started and what he believes freelancing is really about (hint: it’s not just about words on a page…) For more about Tom see below or check out his blog.

Jargon Writer: What was the biggest thing you had to learn?

Tom: Confucius said, ‘you turn the handle the way it goes, not the way it ought to go.’ That’s a great lesson for a freelancer. Learning what is ‘good enough’ for different clients, accepting direction even when you know it’s wrong, and being flexible over prices and terms are all very important skills. Being a freelancer is about acceptance and tapping into a flow, not shaping or dominating a situation. Once you learn that, you can find ways to ride the stream to where you want to be.

JW: Do you set goals for yourself? What goals are you working toward currently? If not, why not?

Tom: I set revenue targets, which I think are useful. You might spend the whole time thinking ‘I should earn more’ or ‘I could earn more,’ but ‘more’ is just a relative, unspecific goal. If you want to make it real, put a number on it. Sure, you might fall short, but you might also surprise yourself. It’s important to have stretching goals.

I’m also working toward creating some sources of passive income, so my work isn’t just about selling my time for money. I’ll always have to work, but I think I could reduce the pressure by finding some more creative ways to use my skills and knowledge.

JW: How successful do you feel you’ve been as a freelance thus far? What do you use to measure your “success?”  Why?

Tom: I think I’ve done OK. When I started, my aim was just to make a living, and I achieved that. For a while I wanted to set up a company rather than working alone, but I couldn’t find a way from freelancing to building a corporation. So I abandoned that idea, which you could call failure or just choosing a different path.

My client base has steadily grown, giving me more security, and I’ve got lots of positive reviews and testimonials. Those are important measures of success for me, as well as revenue. On the intangible side, I realize I’ve built up a little bit of authority in the industry, even after just five years, which is very pleasing. Sometimes, you need the views of others to understand how far you’ve come.

JW: Do you have a top tip for others who want to freelance doing what you do?

Tom: I’ve got two. The first is to turn your existing skills and knowledge into a writing specialization. Don’t worry if you’re not ‘creative’ – if you can write reasonably well and you know about something, you can work as a writer. Almost any life experience or vocational expertise can be turned into interesting content.

The second is a general point for all freelancers: believe in abundance. Freelancing can be lonely, anxious and uncertain. You have to sustain yourself with the belief that there’s a whole ocean of work and money out there – it’s just a question of accessing it. And remember that you’re just as well placed to do that as anyone else.

Tom Albrighton has over fifteen years’ experience in writing, editing and project management, including work for Westminster Abbey, the Houses of Parliament, London Business School and Dorling Kindersley.

Tom is founder and principal consultant at ABC Copywriting, which provides writing and editing services to businesses, organizations and academic institutions in the UK and around the world. He writes regularly on copywriting issues for the ABC Copywriting blog, which is read and commented by many leading copywriters.

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