Managing expectations when hiring a copyeditor or copywriter

Great Expectations, Miss Haversham

You’ve written the book. It’s taken blood, sweat and tears but you know if it’s going to be a success you need to send your book to an editor.

Or you’ve built your business, but you know that to make the right impression you need professional help with the writing.

Unless you’ve done this before it can be a minefield of unknowns. You don’t know if you’re approaching the right person, leaving enough time, understanding the process or have enough money set aside for what you need.

Let’s face it, it can be a bloody nightmare.

But if you manage your expectations when hiring a copyeditor, proofreader or copywriter it can be fairly straightforward.

Lists are good, so let’s break it down into four categories:

Treatment

Timescale

Price

Accuracy

Now let’s look at them in more detail

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Editorial Treatment

Treatment means what do you need? What treatment does your project require?

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If you’re an author you might need:

substantial or developmental editing (the big picture edit)

copyediting or line editing (the nitty gritty stuff)

proofreading (when you’re just about finished and you need someone to make one last check for typos etc.)

Each of these will probably need a different editor. You can find editors who specialise in each area via professional directories such as the CIEP directory in the UK, or the ACES (American Copy Editors Society) directory in the US.

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Don’t expect one editor to do it all. Some editors do work on all levels of editing, but some specialise in just one. Each different area is a distinct part of the editing process and, let’s be honest, you have to pay for each one separately.

You might not need developmental editing, but you’re likely to need a copy edit and a proofread.

Expect to work with a professional who knows what they are doing. If you find an editor via a professional directory, such as the CIEP, you can be pretty sure that the editor has proven their credentials (experience, education, and professionalism). This means you don’t need to go through and query everything they do. This is their job – trust them.

business briefcase

If you’re a business you might need:

copywriting (someone to write your stuff for you)

substantial or developmental editing (the big picture edit, to make sure you’ve included everything)

copyediting or line editing (the nitty gritty stuff, even a professional writer needs copyediting)

proofreading (when you’re just about finished and you need someone to make one last check for typos etc.)

You might need a writer to help you get your stuff together, and to get your ideas out there. Once it’s written you’ll still benefit from a copyeditor and proofreader.

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Don’t expect your copywriter or copyeditor to be a mind reader. Try to give them as much information as you can, this will make the whole experience easier for both of you.

Again expect to work with a professional who knows what they are doing.

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Timescale

Timescale means how long you set aside on your calendar for the work to be done. How much time do you have? Have you set aside enough time for your editor or writer to get the work done properly? Do you need a ‘quick and dirty’ treatment, where you will sacrifice quality, or are you willing to plan ahead and leave enough time for a good job?

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If you’re an author you will need:

To plan ahead and not wait until your book’s finished before you approach your editors. Many editors are booked up months, if not years, in advance for book work.

To research what treatment you need and how long it’s likely to take. If in doubt talk to an editor.

To talk to editors and see how booked up their schedule is, what they need from you and talk about how they will work on your book.

To finish your book in plenty of time and make sure you’re ready to send your completely finished manuscript to your editor when your slot comes up. An editor will book you into their schedule and if you fail to deliver they may not be able to fit you in straight away – you may lose your timeslot and your booking fee.

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Don’t expect to bag an editor within a short time of your enquiry. Many editors are booked up in advance, sometimes months (or even years) in advance.

Expect to talk to your preferred editor in advance, arrange to get yourself booked in and make sure you have a completed project ready for your editor on the date allocated. If you get behind schedule tell your editor as soon as possible, and you may need to rearrange your allocation.

 business briefcase

If you’re a business you will need:

To plan ahead and not wait until the last minute to book your copywriter or before you approach your editors.

To research what treatment you need (copywriting, copyediting or proofreading) and how long it’s likely to take.

To talk to writers and editors and see how booked up their schedule is.

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Don’t expect someone to drop what they’re doing to accommodate your needs. Copywriters and copyeditors are professionals who need to have their schedules organised well in advance. If you’re a business on a retainer (where you pay for a certain number of work hours each month in advance) you may have more flexibility, but otherwise you will have to wait your turn and be patient.

Expect to talk to your preferred writer or editor in advance, arrange to get yourself booked in and make sure you have a completed project (or information for your copywriter or content writer) ready on the date allocated. If you get behind schedule tell your writer or editor as soon as possible, and you may need to rearrange your allocated slot.

 

 money, banknotes

Price

Price means knowing how much you’ll need to allocate in your budget for each type of treatment. Writing and editing are accomplished skills, and won’t be cheap. Writers and editors are professionals, often with years of training and experience behind them. Just like any other professional they need to earn a decent living. Their rate will reflect this.

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If you’re an author you might need:

To research prices, see what you can afford, and budget accordingly. The CIEP have a suggested minimum rates page to help you (remember, this is the starting point of what you can expect to pay – advanced professionals will likely charge a higher rate)

To wait until you can afford the level of editor you want. You could perhaps compromise and hire someone less experienced or qualified, or have them carry out a triage edit (a less detailed edit concentrating on only a few aspects of the writing).

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Don’t expect an editor to give you a discount because you’re a ‘small publisher’, an author or have limited funds. Sometimes a discretionary discount might be given, but that’ll be up to the editor who’ll have strict criteria for discounts. Don’t expect to have a first-class job done for a third-class price.

Expect to get what you pay for. Also expect to do a little research to find the best editor who fits your pricing criteria and needs. You might not be able to afford me, but you might be able to afford an editor who is just breaking into the field. Expect to compromise if budgets are limited, and don’t forget that what’s expensive to one author is reasonable to another.

 business briefcase

If you’re a business you might need:

To research prices, see what you can afford and budget accordingly. The CIEP have a suggested minimum rates page to help you (remember, this is the starting point of what you can expect to pay – advanced professionals will likely charge a higher rate)

To understand freelance rates. Freelance rates often seem higher than employee wages, but you pay a flat fee and don’t have to figure in tax, holiday pay, sick pay, pensions and all those other employee perks. Even the most expensive freelance rates compare favourably to employee wages.

To wait until you can afford the level of writer or editor you want, or perhaps compromise and hire someone less experienced or qualified.

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Don’t expect a writer or editor to give you a discount because you’re a ‘small business’, a sole trader or have limited funds. Sometimes a discretionary discount may be given, but that’ll be up to the professional who’ll have strict criteria. Don’t expect to have a first-class job done for a third-class price.

Expect to get what you pay for. Also expect to do a little research to find the best professional who fits your pricing criteria. You might feel that I’m too expensive, and you might only be able to afford someone who’s just breaking into the field, however expect to compromise if your budget’s limited. What’s expensive to one business is reasonable to another.

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Accuracy

Accuracy means the amount of typos and errors left in your manuscript at the end of the editing cycle or the accuracy of the writing carried out by a copywriter or content writer.

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If you’re an author you might need:

To know when to stop fiddling. Every time you make just one, tiny, change to your manuscript it can have a domino effect on the whole document. Don’t send your editor any extra text once the manuscript has been delivered. We don’t tend to work in a linear fashion from beginning to end of your document (and extra text means extra charges).

To understand that two pairs of eyes are better than one. That’s why it’s best to hire both a copy editor and a proofreader. A proofreader will pick up the small errors left by an editor (no edit or proofread will be 100% accurate – ever. The accepted industry rate is around 90-95% accuracy on well-written text). Fresh eyes are less used to the content and more likely to give that final polish.

To realise you get what you pay for. An editor expected to work at break-neck speed on an error-riddled text is more likely to leave a higher percentage of errors than one who has the time to go through the document properly.

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Don’t expect 100% accurate copy. Lisa Poisso has a very readable article on error rates, go and read it when you’ve finished this post. Many ‘errors’ are style choices. A document with multiple problems at the start is less likely to be as error free as you’d hope.

Expect to trust your editor. I can’t stress this enough. We are trained. We know what we’re doing. If you don’t have any solid style preferences, let your editor get on with their job and don’t query every single change. It will make both your jobs less stressful and time consuming.

 business briefcase

If you’re a business you might need:

To know when to stop fiddling. Every time you make just one, tiny, change to your writing or your writer’s brief it can have a domino effect on the whole project.

To brief your writer and editor appropriately. To get anywhere near accurate copy, you’ll need to let your writer know exactly what you need, what resources to use (if you can) and to back up any claims with factual documentation. Your writer can’t claim that you’re the ‘World’s Number One Flying Pig Trainer’ unless you give them proof that you are. Make sure you give your editor your editorial style guide or style sheet, and any other preferences.

To understand that two pairs of eyes are better than one, and even a professional writer will need editing. That’s why it’s best to hire both a copy editor and a proofreader for your project. A proofreader will pick up the small errors left by an editor (no edit or proofread will be 100% accurate – ever. The accepted industry rate is around 90-95% accuracy on well-written text). Fresh eyes are less used to the content and more likely to give that final polish.

To realise you get what you pay for. A writer, or editor, expected to work at break-neck speed is more likely to leave a higher percentage of errors than one who has the time to go through the document properly.

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Don’t expect perfect accuracy from your writer the first time unless you give them a perfect brief. As a business owner you are also responsible for checking accuracy and making sure that copy conforms to standard. And don’t expect 100% accurate copy back from your copy editor. Lisa Poisso, as noted above, has a very readable article on error rates, go and read it when you’ve finished this post. Many ‘errors’ are style choices. A document that has multiple problems at the start is less likely to be as error free as you’d hope.

Expect to trust your writer and editor. Again, I can’t stress this enough. We are trained. We know what we’re doing. If you don’t have any solid style preferences, let them get on with their job. It will make both your jobs less stressful and time consuming.

So how do you manage your expectations?

Some expectations are realistic, while some are far from it. When you start a project, if you bear in mind what we’ve talked about, your expectations should run in line with those of your writer or editor (and remember we have expectations of clients too!).

So, to recap:

first aid kit

Treatment

Expect to work with professionals who know what they’re doing so you shouldn’t need to query every change they make. But don’t expect them to be mind readers either.

Don’t expect a ‘one person does all’ scenario.

 time, clocks, stopwatch

Timescale

Expect to talk to your writer or editor in plenty of time, and book well in advance. Also remember to let them know as soon as possible if you can’t meet the date allocated.

Don’t expect a writer or editor to drop everything to accommodate you unless you’ve paid a retainer.

 money, banknotes

Price

Expect to get what you pay for – different levels of editing and writing cost different amounts. Also expect to compromise on quality, scope or timescale if your budget is limited.

Don’t expect discounts.

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Accuracy

Expect to trust your writer or editor and don’t query every change. Acknowledge that your writer can’t make claims without having proof to back them up.

Don’t expect 100% accuracy, and understand that some ‘errors’ are style choices and a document that starts off with multiple problems is less likely to be error free,

Realistic expectations, on both sides, are the key to a healthy working relationship with your copywriter, copyeditor or proofreader.

If you’re looking to hire a copywriter or copy editor in the near future, contact me about your requirements. Let’s talk!

 

How to prioritise your CPD

how to prioritise your CPD

Now, we all know that things are a bit … weird … right now.

But, rather than sitting, crying into their Chardonnay while binge-watching their box set of choice, some people are using their time to catch up on CPD (that’s Continuing Professional Development).

Don’t get me wrong – I’ve already done the binge-watching thing.

With everything moving online at the moment, there’s a HUGE amount of professional development to be had.

cool stuff

But how on earth do you prioritise?

You might pick one course (but which one do you pick?), or you might decide to choose a few.

It’s a problem that can hit us at any time, not just during these plague days.

So, I thought I’d help you to break it all down, and help you prioritise your professional development.

How to prioritise your professional development.

Here’s what you need to look at:

time, clocks, rush job

Make sure you have effective time-management strategies in place.

  • Do you have the time right now?

If you have the time, then great, crack on. But what if you have little or no time? Can you carve enough time out of your day or week to get the work done? Be honest with yourself. If you don’t have the time, no amount of time-management strategies are going to help you.

  • Will you have the time to complete the course if it’s time dependent?

Many courses have a set pathway and a time limit. If the course, for example, runs for 6 weeks every Monday night, will you be able to fit it in? If it runs during the day, can you find the time in your schedule? It’s highly unlikely that you’ll be going on holiday any time soon, but if you have other responsibilities you’ll have to make sure that you have time to complete the course.

  • If you don’t have the time right now, but it’s a limited offer, should you wait?

If the course has a hefty discount, or is limited to a small number of people, or only runs a few times a year, then you may not want to wait. But only go for it if, when your course starts, you have the time set aside to get it done. There may be a lot of juggling ahead.

  • If you don’t have the time right now, but it’s self-paced, will you forget about the course?

This one’s for courses that allow you to work at your own pace. If you go ahead and book, will you be so busy that you forget all about it? It’s a real risk that you’ll pay for a course you’ll never get around to doing.

Does your profession have recognised CPD pathways?

  • Are you looking at something that’s a recognised qualification?

Be honest. Do your homework. If your profession expects a certain type of Continuing Professional Development, don’t stray from it if you expect your peers to accept your training. If you should be spending time attaining a recognised qualification try not to stray from the path – you could be wasting your time and money.

  • Is the training an accepted one for your profession?

Even if the training doesn’t lead to a qualification it can be valid, but is it accepted? Look at recommended CPD – some training is better than others and you should be able to pick out what is valid with a quick bit of research (talk to more knowledgeable colleagues if in doubt).

  • If there’s no qualification at the end, is it still valuable to you?

Not all training leads to qualifications, but it should increase your knowledge. It should either build on what you know, or expand your knowledge into new areas. To be useful professional development it should help you professionally. Don’t be distracted by the shiney things!

  • Is it just a ‘vanity’ project?

Be honest with yourself – are you wanting to do the training to genuinely help your development, or are you doing it to impress yourself or others? If it’s just a vanity project, to say you’ve done the training, is it likely to be of any use to you in the long run?

  • Will it help you now, or is it something to help you in the future?

If there are expected pathways to continuing your professional development, before justifying the training, think about if it will help you now or further down the road. Have you got the framework in place to move logically from one step to the other. If the training won’t help you now, will it really help you in the future or will it be outdated by the time you get to it?

  • Is it actually useful?

Perhaps it’s a silly question, but you must ask yourself this. If you just fancy doing the course because you fancy doing the course, and it’s not really useful for your business or career path, can you really justify it as CPD?

Is the training given by a reputable trainer?

  • Do you know the company / person giving the training?

It’s always been the same, but with online learning being more prolific it means that anyone can set themselves up as an expert and give you training. Do you know who is doing the training? Are they reputable? What qualifies them to teach you?

  • Is the course delivered in a way that will facilitate learning?

There are all sorts of training opportunities out there. There’s face to face (when we finally get back to it) or distance learning training. You can learn via one-to-one, or group training, or classroom-based workshops. There’s training through social media groups, dedicated online classrooms, ebooks, university courses, influencer programmes. There are so many ways of learning it would take an ebook to cover them all. Is the way the course delivered a good way for you to learn?

  • Does the course have reviews by people you trust?

Reviews by people who know the value of the training is probably more valuable than if it’s given by total newbies who might not know if they’re being trained properly or not. Look for trusted reviews, ask your peers or colleagues. Find out everything you can about the content and value of the training.

Is it value for money?

  • Can you afford it?

Quality training can cost good money. Of course, not all training costs a huge amount, but the higher the qualification or value of the training, the more it is likely to cost. Don’t rush into the training if you can’t afford the outlay. Look around for education grants if it’s something you are likely to need.

  • Are you really learning something new?

Is the training really teaching you something new? It’s worth looking at the training / course content and making sure you’re not going over old ground (unless it’s a refresher course).

  • If it’s a free course, is it a good one?

Not all free courses are bad, just like not all paid-for courses are good. But again, it’s wise to look at the course content. It might be a reputable company giving away courses as a route to paid study further down the road. For example, FutureLearn is a brilliant platform with many universities using courses as samples of what’s to come if you study with them. But it might be someone with a fancy business name looking to make a quick buck.

How to decide which training to go for.

So, once you’ve looked at the points above, you might have decided that you’ve got the time, the training is recognised by your profession, it’s by a reputable trainer and it’s value for money.

But you might have a number of courses that you want to do.

You’re like a kid in a sweet shop, you want the lollipop, but you also want the chocolate bar and the gummi bears.

If you’re looking at more than one course here’s how to prioritise:

  1. The one that will help you now

If you’ll be learning something that will give you an immediate benefit, then this is the course to do first.

  1. The one that has a time-sensitive discount / offer and you have time to do it now

If there’s a discount, and you have time to do it now, then this should probably also take priority.

  1. The one that has a time-sensitive discount / offer and you have to pay for it now, but will have the time to do it later

If there’s a discount on offer, and there is no limit to the amount of time you have to do the course, for example, if it’s a bit of distance learning that you do at your own pace, then this should come next. Pay now, do later.

  1. The one that will help you do something you know you have to do soon

If there’s something you know you’ll need to do, but it’s not imminent, then this should be a bit further down the list.

  1. The one that will help you move forward

The course that will help you move forward, but is not a priority, will come last.

Putting it all together

So, say you’re looking at three courses and you can’t decide whether to sign up for just one, or all three:

It would go something like this …

Course 1: There’s one that you’ve been dying to do, and it has a discount right now, but the discount stops at the end of the month.

Course 2: You’ve got another that you know will help with a current project.

Course 3: And there’s another that you really just fancy doing, because you’ve always wanted to learn how to code / design / make great cocktails. It’ll impress the boss or your client.

When looking at all the information, you realise that …

Course 1: The one you’ve been dying to do isn’t high priority. But the discount is too good to ignore, it’s self-paced distance learning, and you have the time to do it, setting aside a few hours a couple of times a week. It’s also by a reputable trainer and will be great CPD.

Course 2: The one that will help with the current project is an ongoing course, lasting around a month, but will help get that project done. You can learn as you go, and might help complete the project quickly and with a higher efficiency. Also, there’s funding available via a workplace / freelance bursary.

Course 3: The one that you really fancy doing is by a recognised leader in their field, it runs every couple of months and is taught in a local commerce workspace. It requires a block of dedicated time, outside of working hours.

So you prioritise like this …

Course 2: Is the one to do first. Apply for the bursary, show it’s great CPD and will benefit both you and your company. If you don’t get the funding it’s still worthwhile as it will add to your expertise.

Course 1: That discount, and the fact that it’s reputable and self-paced distance learning is too good to miss. If the discount ends at the end of the month, even by doing the first course you should be able to comfortably fit it in. You can afford it, but as long as there’s no cap on the amount of students, apply nearer the cut-off date to save your pennies in the meantime.

Course 3: You really want to do it, but it runs all the time and even doing it outside of working hours would be too much right now. Keep a note of it, jot down the details in your diary, and go back to it when you have more time and your workload is more manageable.

Train like a boss

Once you’ve decided on the points above, you can go ahead and book your courses. You’re set and ready to continue your professional development in a structured, educated way that will help you move forward and learn.

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Why you need a freelance support network

social media networks

The image of a freelancer

There’s an image of a freelancer. You’ll have seen the one. A happy-go-lucky, tousle-haired professional, steaming drink by their side as they type into a laptop in the window of a coffee shop. They’re smiling.

Oh, and there’s the one sitting in their kitchen, cup by their side, sleeping dog at their feet as they look at their phone. There may be a pile of papers nearby, or a pad and pen for when inspiration strikes.

Or the one as they cross a street in an exotic location, messenger bag slung jauntily across their shoulder as they dodge traffic, laughing because they’re on their way to the next six-figure job meeting.

Or, perhaps, the one where they’re sitting on a sofa, one dog sleeping at their feet, another on the sofa next to them as they type into their laptop while drinking builder’s tea and eating homemade bread for breakfast.

Oh, hang on, strike that last one. It’s me right now.

The realities of freelance life

You see the popular image of a freelancer is usually one of those.

What you don’t often see is the image of the freelancer tearing their hair out when a client fails to deliver material on time, or gets snarky, or adds new items to the brief or changes the deadline without warning (or talking money), or lies to them, or simply disappears (sometimes without paying). You don’t see the frustration and anger, the being treated as an employee rather than a businessperson, and the huge pile of shit that can often descend just when you thought the job was a good one.

You also don’t see the dishevelled house when deadline looms, the family and friends talking about your ‘job’ as if it’s a hobby and the stress caused by constantly searching for work.

Don’t get me wrong – being an independent businessperson can be the best thing and the worst thing in the world, but most of us wouldn’t change it for anything.

But.

If you’re a freelancer you need a freelance support network.

Professional societies are great

Being a member of a professional society or two, which usually have wonderful, valuable forums for support and encouragement, is a no-brainer. You will meet people in your profession who will understand what you are going through in your niche.

But freelancer networks are great too

A support network made up of people outside your expertise can be extremely valuable.

A non-exclusive network can help you understand what other freelancers are going through, talk to experts in fields you might not come across in your normal working life, and can be a sanity lifeline.

It’s the freelance equivalent of getting out more!

There are networks that meet virtually as well as in-person, and they appear for all kinds of freelancers. Sure, there are groups that meet in LinkedIn or on Facebook, but the best ones are those that dive across social networks and become a true tribe.

I’m a member of three, and they all provide help, support and encouragement in equal measure. You might find your own, but to show how a support network can stop you being isolated, I’ll mention them here.

social media networks

The Being Freelance Community

Being Freelance started in 2015 with Steve Folland’s podcast. He started his vlog in 2016 and opened up the Being Freelance Community on Facebook in 2019. Steve is an audio and video creator and his infectious personality, in just over a year, has helped create a group of 1,700 like-minded members. I’m one of the very first members, and have to say I love it.

We’re called BFFs, love biscuits (mine’s a fig roll, thanks), and help each other out. We chat about anything and everything, from picking the collective community brain to having a giggle over silly things that only freelancers would understand. We also celebrate our wins.

Early on Steve started the Non-Employee of the Week Awards, where he celebrates members of the community (I’m proud owner of number 9) and announces the winner from the ‘car park of dreams’. It really is a special moment.

We now have a virtual book club too, where we collectively pick a book, read it then meet up on Zoom to talk about it. Hey, we did this before Zoom became a ‘thing’ during the pandemic.

The Being Freelance Podcast is one of the best around for freelancers, with guests talking through all aspects of freelance life. They’re not boring, or salesy, or corporate – you just get good, honest chats with fellow freelancers to make you feel a little less alone.

Sara Donaldson being freelance

Freelance Heroes

Founded in 2016 by Ed Goodman (a freelance social media trainer) and Annie Browne (a virtual assistant), the Freelance Heroes Facebook group has grown to a whopping 9,500 members. The group exists to allow freelancers to chat and share tips in a safe, comfortable environment, and has a real-life meetup in the autumn in Wolverhampton (but like everything else in this plague time, it’s had to be postponed this year until November).

There’s a Freelance Heroes Day every year, which is today, May 16th, so get on over to your social media of choice, look for the #FreelanceHeroesDay hashtag and get sharing with other freelancers. The aim is to pay tribute to the 2 million UK freelancers, build their network and expand knowledge of the freelance industry. It’s huge.

You can also join the community via the Freelance Heroes website and become a paid up member if you fancy (with some extras that the Facebook group doesn’t have access to).

freelance heroes assemble

Team Atomic

Atomic is run by Andrew and Pete, and is a paid platform to help small business owners and entrepreneurs grow their business in a smarter, more sustainable way. They, too, have a Facebook group for members and is a small, exclusive group that packs a punch.

Atomic is for freelancers seriously wanting to up their game, and has the largest amount of training I’ve seen in one place, covering all aspects of business. From tips and tricks for getting new business, to how to set up a mailing list and becoming more confident, if there’s something you want to know, it will be here. And if you do find something that isn’t there, tell the team and they’ll be on it.

There are tailored all-day training pathways, masterclasses and quick bits of training to fit in while you have a coffee. The training is great for everyone.

Every year they have a real-life meet up in Atomicon in Newcastle, which had to quickly move online this year (wonder if you can figure out why?). But next year is set to be epic.

The community is supportive and knowledgeable and even impressed me, a Yorkshire lass who isn’t easily impressed. There are regular Zoom meetups for some virtual contact, to pick Peter and Andrew’s brains, meet members and generally talk through the ups and downs of freelance life.

You can join Atomic at the moment (16 May 2020) for only £1 , get all the details here, and tell them I sent you if you join up, we’d love to see you over there!

Freelance Networks Rock!

There are other networks out there, but I’ve highlighted the three that I love (and I wouldn’t recommend something I didn’t love). In these really weird times, freelancers now more than ever need to help each other out.

So, why do you need a support network?

As a freelancer, joining a network:

  1. Gives you friendship
  2. Stops you feeling isolated
  3. Gives you a feeling of perspective
  4. Gives you access to people who can help you
  5. Gives you quick access to information
  6. Points you in the right direction when you need help
  7. Lifts you up when you’re feeling down
  8. Shares in your wins and losses
  9. Lets you talk to people who understand you
  10. Makes you realise that freelance life can be fun!