Writing

Elizabeth Wellington

This week we are so pleased to chat with Creative Lady Directory member Elizabeth Wellington. After 10 years of practicing her craft on the side, Liz decided to go out on her own as a freelance writer. She currently splits her time collaborating with brands as a brand consultant and writing as a contributor for Travel & Leisure and Misadventures Magazine. Her work has garnered the attention of national publications and prestigious clients like Google, Fidelity, and Prudential.

Be sure to read all the way through for Liz's inspiring take on work-life balance. Enjoy!

Elizabeth Wellington | Freelance Wisdom

Tell me about your path to becoming a freelance writer.

Graduating from college, I entered the job market with few professional experiences and in the middle of a recession. I got creative and pieced together jobs that connected me to writing, mainly working at independent bookshops and teaching English abroad and on Nantucket.
My first “real” job was in academia, and again, I stayed close to writing. Our faculty included brilliant authors, and I attended their lectures on campus and read voraciously.
I’ve been writing every day since I was 18 — I got to the point when I had to call my own bluff. Why wasn’t I really going for it? I jumped into freelance writing full-time with no clear plan but a willingness to adapt. I had the advantage of ten years of practicing my craft with no pressure or expectations and a solid emergency fund.

In the beginning, how did you attract your first good clients?

I attracted my first good clients by cultivating relationships in Boston's marketing community. Ever the introvert, I'm really uncomfortable in traditional networking situations. But I continued to show up — most of the time, at least — and initiated conversations with a lot of different people.
The hardest part was introducing myself as "a writer" before I felt I could honestly own the term. I read somewhere that people who say, "I'm an [insert dream job title here]" — even if they work full-time in another capacity — are more likely to be successful at their passion in the long term. I really took that idea to heart.
Once I started to move through that imposter syndrome, I found that people were really receptive and curious. A lot of marketers needed creative help — they were so happy to offer work. I always made an effort to go above and beyond, both in process and deliverables.
Word spread fast. Before I knew it, I had a strong referral network in place locally.
Elizabeth Wellington | Freelance Wisdom

Can you tell us about your writing process?

My process varies significantly based on the project I’m tackling. Writing is a bit like cooking — some recipes are more complicated than others. Frying an egg is a two-step process, but a Thanksgiving dinner is going to require many to-do lists, pep talks, and weeks of preparation.
That said, I always try to build creative momentum. Sometimes, I can jump right in and write a draft. Other times, I need to scribble, doodle, and outline until a cohesive message starts to form.
I have some funny tricks, too. For example, when I’m nervous about getting started, I work on a project in an email to myself. Not very organized, but it feels more casual and less loaded. Essentially, I “trick” myself into making progress. Ha!

You balance working as a writer with brand consulting. Do you have any tips for being your most productive?

I read (and write) a lot about productivity. In this last few months, I decided to shift my approach. Instead of trying to change myself to be more productive, I’m trying to design each day around my natural ebb and flows. That means I'm always finding that middle ground: just enough structure and just enough spontaneity.
Within that framework, there are a few daily rituals that keep me balanced and productive. First, whenever possible, I start my day without email. I try to write for a couple of hours before I dive into my inbox.
Throughout the day, I often split tasks into quarters. For me, procrastination only hits when I'm feeling overwhelmed. Outlining a simple plan that breaks down any project into bite-size chunks helps me get a lot more done. I also reward myself for reaching deadlines or crossing something off my list. Sometimes, I'll go do something around the house, but most of the time, I'll take a short walk, drink a cup of tea, or read a chapter of a book.
Every evening, I write a list of must-complete tasks for the following day. It helps me to let go and step away from work. I also try to note what I'm grateful for because there are always moments to appreciate.
Elizabeth Wellington | Freelance Wisdom
The previous two images are from Liz's piece " Preserving Analog Tools in a Digital World " for Big Cartel. 

The previous two images are from Liz's piece "Preserving Analog Tools in a Digital World" for Big Cartel. 

What has been your greatest struggle as a freelance writer so far?

My greatest struggle has been the imposter syndrome I mentioned earlier. Who gave me permission to be a writer? Why would anyone ever read my work? Could I ever be good enough? These kinds of questions have been my biggest struggle. They created an inertia that made it harder to trust myself creatively.
In that sense, writing every day is a huge gift. If I had another profession that felt less daunting, it may have been easier to avoid these issues. Writing requires that I overcome that sense of inadequacy every day. Just like the water wearing down a rock, my creative practice — and the joy and abundance it brings me — continues to wear on those false ideas. Soon, I don't think they'll be part of my day-to-day life anymore.
Side note: If you struggle with the same challenge, I highly recommend Julia Cameron's The Artist's Way. My copy is well-loved, filled with notes in every margin, and a bit wrinkly from reading and re-reading it in the bathtub.

What is your favorite thing about freelance?

By far, the self-determination that it requires. I love choosing my own projects, deciding which direction I want to grow in, and nurturing my creative independence. I’ve always done well when I’m in charge of my life, and the same is true for my work.
Elizabeth Wellington | Freelance Wisdom

How do you continue to attract your ideal clients?

I keep a mental tally of the traits I’m looking for in clients. There’s always going to be a contrast: things I enjoy (or don’t enjoy) about working with collaborators. I’ve had my fair share of negative experiences, but they all help me to deepen my sense of what I want moving forward.
At the moment, I’m about to realign my business toward travel, and I’m also taking on a few coaching clients. People often reach out to me to mentor them as freelancers, and I want to do that in a more formal capacity.
In the past when I’ve made a change, I’ve refocused my energy on this new goal. I’ve used every channel I have — existing networks, my own website, social media, and freelancing platforms — to pivot my messaging around what I do and open up new possibilities. I’ll let you know how that goes this time around!

Do you have any tips for dealing with the nitty-gritty business details? 

Yes! Make the time for these pain-in-the-butt details. Get into a routine, and treat them like homework. One of my close freelancer friends, Monika Kanokova, believes that you should spend 50% of working hours actually running your business versus doing client work. I’m not there yet, but that’s a goal of mine. I think that giving yourself the time to organize and create consistent processes is key to long-term growth.
Read this article that Liz wrote for Help Scout right  here . 

Read this article that Liz wrote for Help Scout right here

Since you are your own boss, do you have any advice for maintaining a work-life balance?

Instead of work-life balance, I aspire to work-life integration. To me, I feel balanced when I bring my whole self to my work and my whole self to my life. Ideally, my projects bring fulfillment and support me financially, and my personal life leaves me renewed and inspired to tackle my client work.
Those are lofty intentions, but really, they come down to small moments. I work from a home office, so I go for walks pretty often to clear mind and move my body. I also try to take the time for a meditation from Tara Brach during the day — it’s amazing what “comes” to me when I’m listening to her soothing voice on my iPhone.
I don’t think I’m a master at work-life integration yet, but I do love the fact that I’m not limited to a 9-5 schedule in a cubicle. I try to exercise the freedom I have every day.
Elizabeth Wellington | Freelance Wisdom
Elizabeth Wellington | Freelance Wisdom

What do you to stay creatively inspired?

On a day-to-day basis, I like a healthy mix of movement and stillness. I explore Boston and — as I mentioned before — go for a lot of walks. I’m writing this interview from a park near my apartment. There’s nothing like landing in a new environment (even if it’s just a coffee shop) to spark a new idea.
For me, travel is also important. I need to fill my tank up with beautiful experiences to feel creatively inspired. I try to do one significant trip every quarter, and I usually write about it for a publication. In 2018, my intention is to travel more. There’s just nothing like it for me.

If you could write for anyone who would it be?

As radical as this sounds, if I could write for anyone in the world, I would write for myself. I've worked with so many clients at this point, and I would love to create the space for something that’s mine. Plus, it would be cool to explore my own voice outside of the constraints of other editors.
So, stay tuned for more on that. As far as publications go, I would do just about anything to write about travel for Vogue.
Click image to read Liz's article for  Misadventures .

Click image to read Liz's article for Misadventures.

A last look at Liz's workspace as shown in " Preserving Analog Tools in a Digital World "

A last look at Liz's workspace as shown in "Preserving Analog Tools in a Digital World"

The 3 greatest attributes you need to be a freelance creative are: 

Self-compassion, grit, and focus.

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Marta Bausells

Marta Bausells is a writer, freelance journalist, and editor currently living in London by way of Barcelona. She's a European Editor-at-Large at Literary Hub, she enjoys talking to strangers on the tube, and very soon, she'll be joining ELLE UK as Literary Editor. Her work has appeared online and in print in The Guardian, The Observer, VICE, Literary Review, Little White Lies, Electric Literature and more.

Thank you Marta for sharing your experience and wisdom.

Marta Bausells | Freelance Wisdom

Tell me about your path to becoming a freelance writer.

I started out as a reporter for a newspaper back in my hometown of Barcelona. I was still in college and the newspaper was new (in fact, it launched shortly after I joined), so the whole experience was a true baptism by fire. Like any start-up, it was a small-ish team and everyone did everything. I learned a lot there – not just journalism skills but also to develop the first layers of the thick skin that, I immediately learned, was necessary to work in the media today. A couple of years later, I got a job at the Guardian as community moderator. Moderating comments is a tough job – you see the uglier side of the internet, all day every day, and have to actively deal with it. It was technically a step down from what I was doing before, but I knew it was where I wanted to be. It was at the Guardian, and in London, and for a long time I practically had to pinch myself every time I walked into the building. 
After a year I got a role on the Cities desk, and from there moved to the Arts and Culture and Books desks. Many ups and downs later, I found myself a bit stuck in a role I’d been doing for two years and from which there were little chances to move on or upwards for complicated, structural reasons. I had learned an unimaginable amount and worked with incredible editors, and was terrified of leaving – if you’re in one of the top companies in your field, surely leaving can only be a step down? But that’s also one of the fear-based vicious circles that can get you stuck for years. 
The bottomline is: do what is right for you. While I wasn’t the most confident person at times, I had always known I wanted to write so I always freelanced a bit on the side on evenings and weekends. So when the moment came and the right conditions materialized for me to be able to make the leap, I did it – it’s now been a year, and it has all been a rollercoaster, but I couldn’t be happier! 
Marta Bausells | Freelance Wisdom
Marta Bausells | Freelance Wisdom

In the beginning, how did you attract your first good clients? 

My first clients were editors and media I had worked or collaborated with during my different jobs over the years. I have found that people tend to be quite open to strangers sending them ideas (if often too busy to pay attention to your emails). It is good to have been published and be able to show it, but what really matters is whether your pitch is good. In that sense, I did benefit from already knowing how to pitch to editors. I also got good work out of sending out-of-the-blue emails to people I didn’t know at all, but equally had many good ideas ignored or rejected (which, by the way, still happens all the time – it is part of the writer’s job!)

Do you have any tips for being your most productive? 

For me, the key has been to be honest with myself, prioritize and give myself deadlines. In the past, I constantly set myself up for failure through unrealistic expectations. Days only have 24 hours and you should spend some of them sleeping (really!) and ideally some having some kind of “a life,” so having a ridiculous to-do list with 50 items, however important they all are, won’t help you. And you’ll lose money in the process. 
I make a lot of lists and stay on top of my (now digital) calendar. I decide what I absolutely must (or really care about) getting done and plan around that, starting on it first. I give myself realistic deadlines (every two hours or so) followed by short breaks (take deep breaths, drink some water, go for a walk – they are miraculous). That way I am more focused (because I know a break is coming, and that I have to finish the task because something else comes after). It is a good system to free yourself from getting overwhelmed and to avoid stretching time (the more time you feel you have, the longer any given task will take).
I set specific times of the day to check my inbox to avoid spending my entire life only doing emails (I feel like I’d be capable of that?). Also, I put my phone well far from me and I have recently started disconnecting the Internet – or Facebook and Twitter, with apps like Self Control.
There really are hundreds of tips out there, but you have to find what works for you. Ironically, there is the pretty big danger of falling into an internet rabbit hole of productivity tips, morning routine recommendations, etc. Avoid it at all costs! It will only make you feel worse about your hard work and push you to compare yourself to other people – will it really help you to know that some super-humans have meditated, gone for a run and made a smoothie by the time you’re hitting snooze for the third time? 
Marta Bausells | Freelance Wisdom
Read this article that Marta co-wrote for The Guardian right  here . 

Read this article that Marta co-wrote for The Guardian right here

What has been your greatest struggle as a freelance writer so far?

Learning to say no. I have been known to suffer from “FOMO,” and work isn’t an exception. I am slowly learning to turn down opportunities that don’t make sense for me – because of the rate, or because they will stop me from doing work I really care about or that will get me closer to my long-term goals, or a combination of the two. Without wanting to go into the debate around working for free and the cases in which one might be okay with it, I have to pay rent and live in an expensive city, and equally importantly, my work and my time are worth more than air and a pat on the back. 

What is your favorite thing about freelance?

The freedom of being able to work from where I want, make my own schedule and be in control of my time. At this particular moment in my life, that is priceless. 
Samples of Marta's interviews for  Subway Book Review . 

Samples of Marta's interviews for Subway Book Review

How do you continue to attract your ideal clients? 

You have to put your work out there. My website, Twitter and even Instagram have helped me a lot – from getting commissions out of the blue from editors who’d stumbled upon my website, to meeting someone I admired on Twitter or Instagram DMs and ending up collaborating. There are some brilliant people who get hired on name or talent alone, without curating their own online presence, but you can count them on one hand. 

What do you do to keep your creative juices flowing? 

Read, read, read. And take myself out of my comfort zone as often as possible. 
Marta Bausells | Freelance Wisdom
Marta's summer book  recommendations .

Marta's summer book recommendations.

Do you have any tips for dealing with the nitty-gritty business details? 

I once heard from someone who spent her birthday day every month doing invoices and life admin, as a “get my shit together” day (shoutout to the Call Your Girlfriend podcast). I am going to try that approach, as it sounds as good as any! I try to invoice for my work almost immediately as I file it (or at least that same week) so that there is never a big backlog. As for bookkeeping and taxes, I am still figuring out the best formula for me, which means I am almost certainly going to hire an accountant!

Since you are your own boss, do you have any advice for maintaining a work-life balance?

Even if your line of work is your passion, you need to turn the work mode “off” from time to time – that is when a lot of the best ideas happen, by the way. Do whatever it takes to set boundaries, physical and mental, however out-there they seem. I even have two different background wallpapers in my laptop. Although of course, you really want to be as far from screens as possible when you’re not working. Get outside and see your friends and loved ones – schedule it in if you need to.
Regard exercise, sleep and healthy eating as essential, like you do breathing. I find that if I maintain this triad, my energy levels, motivation and focus are generally in good shape and my work benefits greatly. It’s so easy to fall into a stress spiral and put work before everything else – but I make an effort to be strict with boundaries. I also mix up the places where I work – I have a desk at home with plants and books that inspire me, but I also work in coffee shops I like and the British Library. Otherwise it can feel like I spent my whole life staring at the same four walls, and like work and life are one same continuum of different screens and pages. 
Finally, respect days off and holidays! And, in general: give yourself a break. 
Read Marta's full article for Literary Hub right  here . 

Read Marta's full article for Literary Hub right here

Marta Bausells | Freelance Wisdom

The 3 greatest attributes you need to be a freelance creative are:

Passion, work ethic, resilience. 
Marta Bausells | Freelance Wisdom

Portrait Photography by Liz Seabrook

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