This month marks my 10th year as a freelancer. It's been a wild ride.
I started out as a lone wolf. I became a consultant in the music industry, then a travel writer, then a foreign correspondent, then a Google editor.
I reported from more than 30 countries in just three years — and somehow found time to get a politics degree and a creative writing MA on the side. I also ran Guardian Masterclasses and won Young Freelancer of the Year at the IPSE Awards.
This all sounds impressive, and it was good fun, but I had no direction in my career while any of this was happening. I was also a bit of a workaholic. But I was experimenting, and learning a ton about myself and the world. I yearned for something else, though — to build something.
So I started a consultancy in my hometown. I took on an office, employed people and went to local networking events. We won some awards and built up decent revenue. But I hated every minute of it. Who the hell was I to tell anyone how to work in a traditional company anyway? I had no experience of doing that myself. The whole thing was a disaster.
After this failed venture, I got depressed. I'd made poor decisions, and they'd cost me friends, opportunities and happiness. I questioned whether I still wanted to write and considered training as a chef. I was only 24, I told myself, and young people swap professions all the time.
In the end, I took on the role of managing editor for the future of work at Google. I became a subject specialist, and I built and managed distributed teams of freelancers to deliver ambitious research and editorial projects.
Working for a big tech firm didn’t ultimately fit with my personal mission or preferred pace, but all these experiences have led me here.
I probably wouldn't have started writing this newsletter or felt ready to tackle my first book if things had happened differently. I almost definitely wouldn't have had the confidence or skills to create what I have today: a "company of one" supported by a distributed and handpicked team of collaborators.
*NEW* Freelancing Masterclasses
A decade is a long time, and I've learned a lot. Next month, I'll be sharing some of that knowledge in three masterclasses alongside Tiffany Philippou and Jess Shanahan. Join us for the first one on Thursday 2nd July at 5pm UK time. We'll focus on helping you find the right niche for your own company of one.