Five Years a Freelance Writer. Now What?

When you start out in business, you tend to hear a lot about failure.  

I was reminded of this when I Googled “what happens after five years in business?” only to find a wealth of sombre statistics explaining why most businesses don’t make it past the five-year mark at all (apparently it’s mostly because they’ve either got a crap business plan, or none.)  

So there’s a general assumption that once you’ve made it past five years, that’s it: you’re sorted.  But I was Googling “what happens after five years in business?” because I'm not.  

Five years feels disorienting on a level I wasn’t expecting.  Maybe that’s because I never really expected to make it this far.  

I set myself up as a freelance writer in June 2016, and I’d been invited to a family wedding in the September.  I spent most of my first few weeks as a writer thinking about how I’d explain to the other wedding guests that I had left a stable, well-paid job for a damp squib of an idea.

I think another reason is that five years down the line, I feel like I should be more polished.  By now, I should know exactly who I am as a writer, who my ‘people’ are, and where I’m headed, shouldn’t I?  

But I don’t.

At the moment, I’m wrestling with all sorts of strange questions.  Am I where I should be?  Have I achieved enough, in exchange for five years’ hard work?  Am I saying yes to enough scary things… and am I saying no to the right ones?

Then: have I worked hard enough, or should I have pushed myself more than I have?  How hard should I push myself now?  What would I do if my work just… stopped?  Do I actually deserve to have lasted five years?

The most pressing of these strange questions is the one about whether to give in to corporate-style slickery.  Things like updating my website with honeyed reviews, a few fancy plugins, and a photo of myself that wasn’t taken over five years ago.   

Things like creating a snazzy landing page for my online courses (you know, one of those long, fancy pages that makes you scroll ALL THE WAY TO THE END before it finally tells you how much you’re going to be ‘investing’ for said course.) 

I’ve resisted these calls so far, and I think it’s because I don’t trust corporate-style slickery.  There’s always a faint sense that it’s got something to hide, which is why I prefer things – and people – that are a bit ragged around the edges.  And when your business is essentially you, your own likes and quirks and foibles should run through it, otherwise what’s the point?

That’s the crux, I think.  Five years feels like crunch time, when shit starts getting real.  But I don’t really want to do all the things you’re ‘supposed’ to do when all that happens, which means I’m not sure what I’m going to do, or what the next five years are going to look like for me.

The only things I know are that I want to keep on learning how to be a better writer, and I want to help others do the same.

That’ll have to be enough, for now at least.

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