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The middle years - Charlie Hankers

Posted on 29th June 2016

What are you doing now?

I've been a full-time copywriter at PushON, a Manchester-based digital marketing agency, since late 2013. The company had been a freelance client of mine and when they said they were looking for a writer, I leapt at the chance.

Do you think the industry has changed in the last few years and if so, how? I can't really say as I've extricated myself from full-time freelancing and all it entails. I do know that around the time of my transition, it was proving to be quite a tricky time economically for several of my clients. I would often be waiting months for payments of, say, £50 – you start to wonder whether it's worth your while chasing it. Some clients went under. By 2013 I was mainly writing rather than editing, and there was a certain amount of pressure from cheap labour pumping out low quality content to fill websites. I think that phase has receded thanks to both search engines and businesses waking up to the fact that it's largely worthless.

Has your approach to your work changed?

I honestly didn't know how I'd cope with the 9–5 lifestyle after 15 years' freelancing. In the event it was smooth; there's some comfort in the clock, and knowing when to start and (more importantly) when to stop. The biggest change is that I don't have to spend time chasing after work or payments – the company has people to do that.

What CPD have you done, if any, to stay up to date?

A big part of digital marketing is analytics, which can be used to both discover successful types of content to influence new content but also to identify gaps that definitely need filling. Being immersed in this technical environment has been edifying.

What do you think has been important in helping you maintain/build your business?

I do actually still have relationships with some of my old clients, and I still do work for them from time to time. In that respect, it's all about keeping them happy, which will never change.

Do you have any advice for people who have been in the industry a while who might be feeling flat/stagnating?

Don't be afraid to make a bold leap into the unknown. I'm sure most freelancers have held down jobs before, so we're not talking Captain Kirk here, but there's something to be said for getting out of the comfort zone a few times in your career. Even if that means remaining a freelancer but targeting different industries, it's all accretive over the long term, building up your ability and value.

Do you have any specific plans for where you see yourself/your business going in future?

I aim to die at PushON. Literally.

Do you have any regrets about how the last X years of your business have gone? And/or What have you learned from your business experience so far that you wish you'd known when starting out?

I don't think I have any regrets about giving up freelancing. I was probably due a change anyway, and everything seemed to come together at the right time. Being part of a team and playing your part rather than doing everything from sales to accounts is quite liberating and it encourages you to stretch your talents further rather than playing it safe. That said, should I ever need to pick up the freelancing (or self-employment) baton again, I should hopefully have retained the skills to do it.
I wish I had bought the domains copywriter.com, proofreader.com and so on. Their supposed relevance made them ace Google rankings for years for the basic terms while the rest of us had to actually produce content and build up reputations. I hope the copywriter guy made hay, because it has all but disappeared now... as for proofreader, Louise has earned a fantastic rank and the domain is nowhere. It's probably not all that relevant to get such domains nowadays, so it's not a regret that I can do anything about any more. It will just fester for a thousand eternities.

Kate's views on the past three years in the proofreading/copy-editing industry.

Louise's views on the past three years in the proofreading/copy-editing industry.

Richard's views on the past three years in the proofreading/copy-editing industry.

Nick's views on the past three years in the proofreading/copy-editing industry.

Charlie's views on the past three years in the proofreading/copy-editing industry.

Written by Kate Haigh.