The lifestyle choice I want to inspire in people like you transcends the vitriolic rantings of just one person (me). But as author of The Human Freelancer book and promoter of this movement, I’ve a self-appointed responsibility to go out and encourage people to get involved. So that inevitably involves introducing myself, my motives and mission before there’s any hope of persuading people to escape the global crap vortex and choose an emancipated lifestyle of freelancing.
Part of that recruitment process means I’ll be visiting universities as a guest speaker, talking about the benefits of working for yourself and describing what it’s like to discover a whole new way of life, centred around fulfilment, creativity and responsible living.
The first of these events is at Leeds University in October where I’ll be a panel member talking about marketing and communications (in my capacity as a freelance copywriter in Leeds). They’ve asked me to give a 5-minute intro to myself for the benefit of the audience, so here it is – part planning exercise, part trumpet blowing.
My name is Chris Kenworthy. I’ve been a freelance copywriter and event photographer in Leeds for about 7 years and my clients are mainly local, businesses in Leeds as well as full-service UK marketing agencies.
My story began in 2008 when I woke up in the twilight of my twenties, an injection-moulded, 9–5 corporate drone sleep-walking into the grey wilderness of middle-management. Aged 28, the highlight of my month was collecting a salary then spending it on shiny crap I didn’t really need.
I’ve been an IT manager, an analyst, a content manager and held baffling job titles like ‘Early adopter and national strategic resource lead’ for the NHS but none of them ever really pressed my buttons.
So I took a 3-month career sabbatical to ‘find myself’ as they say, and by the end of it I decided to try and make a living from writing, which I knew I was pretty good at, and a bit of photography – which was just a hobby at the time.
I soon realised that who you know and being in the right place at the right time actually count much more in your favour than what qualifications you have (sorry students). But far more importantly, I realised that I had as much right as anyone else to call myself a freelance copywriter, and that people out there much worse at it than me (or better) are already making a decent living for themselves.
But there wasn’t, and still isn’t much emotional support for vulnerable newbies to freelancing and that’s why I’m here (on this panel) today. I champion freelancing as a fulfilling lifestyle choice, not just a career – because it’s so much more than that. It’s putting your talents and abilities to effective use, to make you happy and make you a sustainable living.
For me, that’s a love of taking complicated things apart to see how they work, the reassembling them in a better state than when they began. And that passion really helps with marketing and communications because you’re dissecting the features of a product or service for a client then crafting a story about how it makes someone’s life better. The same goes for photography: scrutinising reality then framing a version of it so people gain an insight into how something ‘is’.
I got into marketing because I loved simplifying corporate gibberish into words that sound enthusiastic and meaningful, and connect with people. And I won freelance work by being genuine and passionate and taking practical steps like volunteering, blogging, pestering people and doing favours.
Above all else though I followed my principles and intuition, because that’s what really helps you succeed with freelancing. So I guess my mission is to find people who share that passion, as well as a natural disposition to freelancing and hopefully spare them the misery of too much full-time salaried employment by getting them into freelancing.
The type of person who’ll be a natural freelancer is a free-thinker which is probably why they never quite get on with authority figures, especially if they think they can do a better job than their boss. They’ll quite happily get on with things in their own time because they’re organised and can motivate themselves to do things. They’re very honest and principled and keep their word. Often they’re the type of person who could turn their hand to anything – they just seem to be quite handy.
I wrote a book called The Human Freelancer which is an irreverent attempt to gather everything I’ve learned in the last 7 years like coping with fear and handling criticism because these are the things that really affect you, and help you grow as a person. There’s plenty of advice on finding clients, how much to charge and boring stuff like tax and law. But there’s far less healthy discussion about the phenomenal pressures and phenomenal rewards of being accountable to yourself, which are life-changing but very demanding, especially when you begin freelancing.
So that’s my angle: the touchy feely, naval-gazing, ethical side of freelancing, with a definite bias towards marketing and communication because that’s where my ability and passion is – understanding what makes people tick, and saving them from a grey world of corporate mediocrity.
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Self-help business books perpetuate the myth that success is relentless growth and more of everything means progress. They preach about bookkeeping and market research: things you might need to do of course. But let’s face it they’re fucking boring.
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