In this episode of the HomeWorkingClub podcast, Alex chats to Steve Hoyles, a UK-based personal trainer who has very successfully branched out into freelance writing.
Steve shares lots of valuable tips on how to find success in the freelance world. He also draws on his fitness knowledge to provide some great advice on staying hit and healthy when you work from home.
There’s a full transcription below. Due to the challenges of recording podcasts remotely during the lockdown, the sound quality isn’t perfect, but the transcript will help if anything is unclear.
Included in this podcast:
- An introduction to Steve (0:44)
- The important of research skills in freelance writing (06:25)
- Steve’s tips for new freelance writers (10:33)
- Steve’s experience on online job boards (17:25)
- Potential pitfalls for freelancers (22:00)
- About working during holidays (29:20)
- Fitness tips for freelancers (31:15)
Supplementary Links and Information
- Steve’s blog and Instagram.
- Details of Steve’s fitness retreats.
- Our previous podcast on becoming a writer.
- A step by step guide to getting started in freelance writing.
- How to build a freelance portfolio from scratch.
- Our write-up on the Problogger job board.
- Tips for working out at home during lockdown.
This episode’s show notes are brought to you in association with Vurbl. Vurbl is launching new technology for audio creators. Their podcast reviews and recommendations are a great way to discover new things to listen to. Check out this list of podcasts to listen to during quarantine, or go to Vurbl.com to sign up for their beta release.
We have edited some repeat words and unclear sections to enhance readability.
ALEX: Welcome to the HomeWorkingClub podcast. I’m Alex and my guest today is Steve Hoyles of Hoyles Fitness. Hello, Steve.
STEVE: Hi Alex.
ALEX: No Ben today, I’m afraid. Which is either a good thing or a bad thing, depending on your view! I suspect a good thing from Ben’s point of view. He’s got lots of work to be getting on with.
My guest today, Steve, will talk about his journey both as a fitness instructor and as a freelancer. It’s a really exciting opportunity to talk to him about some tips in the world of freelancing.
Just very quickly as an introduction: Steve started Hoyles Fitness officially in 2011. He started the company as a way of changing the way personal training clients experience health and fitness, with the aim of using exercise and nutrition to change lives for the better.
So, Steve, tell us a little bit about yourself and how you went from being a personal trainer and brought in your freelancing and writing career as well.
STEVE: Well about myself, I graduated from Swansea University in 2004, as we’ve already chatted about. I worked in the fitness industry like a lot of people do who graduate with a Sports Science degree. Then in 2011 I went self-employed.
I always wanted to do things differently because my notion of a personal trainer at the time was almost this robotic, you know, lives on salad and dry chicken…and that wasn’t me. That wasn’t how I wanted fitness to be done. And so I sort of changed things up a little bit.
My whole thing was to make fitness about…you know, it’s something that adds to your life rather than dictates your life. It seemed to work very well. And, you know, people got on board with it and it’s been a successful business ever since.
Actually, that was the initial link into freelance work for me because I started my blog in…I’ve had a website since 2008 but I started seriously working on it in 2012. It had just grown naturally. It was purely a reason… my only reason to write was to grow the business. Simple as that. I had no intention of turning it into a full-time job. It was just a natural evolution from…I had a lot to write about. I did that. It generated a bit of a following.
My journey into copywriting professionally was just an accidental one, to be honest with you. I had a mailing list and I sporadically would e-mail out. And I had an e-mail back one day from a lady who owned a media agency. She basically said to me, “I really like your writing style. I’ve got a fitness client and their copy is terrible. Would you be interested in taking on four articles for me?”
STEVE: “Yeah, sure, I’ll do that.” Why not? Did it. Got some good feedback. Then she said, “Do you want to do some more?” And I said, “Yeah.”
So it sort of started accidentally. I should say I had done copy before, but certainly not professionally. What I mean by I had done copy before…in Cornwall I contributed a column to a local magazine. I’d done one or two but these weren’t paid gigs, these were just in exchange for advertising space. That was it. It certainly wasn’t professional copy.
Writing does come naturally to me. It’s quite… I don’t have a numbers brain, particularly… but language, the written word, it was always fairly easy for me.
ALEX: That’s interesting. We’ve talked about that a lot recently in terms of people looking to get into copywriting for the first time. Obviously, it’s an incredibly competitive area because everybody sort of feels that they can be a writer… because we all at one time or another in our lives have to write something, even if it’s only just schoolwork.
That’s interesting from that perspective… having written quite a lot in the past, even if it’s not paid. Its that point of practising and getting your style. And I think that’s quite interesting. You said the lady liked your particular style of writing.
Is that something that you’ve been able to change as you’ve done more freelancing? Are you able to write in different styles now?
STEVE: Absolutely, I think as you become professional, as you do more… and also you’ve got access to more and more data. So my website gets around 50,000 hits a month from all over the world. And so I get to see data trends. I get to see the articles that perform well.
Then you can go back and go, “Okay. Well, why did that one do well? What’s different about that relative to others?” And also, because now I work across various industries, you get to see patterns in different industries as well.
Interesting you say… you know, the writing before. I think because of the nature of freelance, people think now they can just turn up and just earn a full-time living and that’s it. But I’d actually written 400 articles on my website before I’d even got paid for one.
So, nowadays, when people say, “How do you get into fitness writing?” I’m like, “Well, it’s easy really. Just write every day for five years for no money at all and you get quite good at it. Then all of a sudden people are happy to pay you for it.”
ALEX: Another one of those 10 year overnight successes.
You know, at the time, when I’m writing for an audience of 20 people a day… You know you think “What am I doing this for?” But actually, zoom out and all of a sudden you see, well it does lead somewhere in the end.
ALEX: So, just in terms of the client work rather than your personal training work at the minute, is it very much just fitness writing that you do or do you have clients in other areas?
STEVE: All kinds of industries now. It started off as fitness and actually, if I’m being completely honest, a significant body of it is fitness or fitness related. So supplements, fitness clothing, fitness technology, fitness equipment. The vast majority of it probably is fitness, but there’s still a significant amount that isn’t anything to do with fitness at all. For that reason, you know… I am diverse in that sense.
ALEX: We’ve touched on this, and it’s one of Ben’s key things… It’s one of these things again that perhaps seems like common sense, but actually, when you think about it, it’s something perhaps people don’t realise.
The oldest truism in writing is: write what you know.
It’s going to be much easier if you’re an expert in an area, as you are with fitness. If you’re set the task of writing an article, if you know 80% of the subject matter and only have to research 20% then it’s going to be easier for you to write and the product’s going to be better.
STEVE: Yeah, absolutely. The beauty of fitness is you’re exposed to different areas. You know so… say weight training, then kettlebell training and cardiovascular training, and nutrition… A massive part of the personal trainer’s job is actually the lifestyle. You get to speak to people.
Also, I think this is a big thing. You know the old saying “Give a man a fish and he’ll eat for a day, teach a man to fish and he’ll eat forever”. Often I was asked the question “What do you think of X or Y?” Rather than make up an answer I’d say, “I don’t actually know. I’ll go away and find out.”
Those research skills have helped me so much in the freelancing world. If I’m offered work, quite often, I don’t know. I’ll always say, “Let me come back to you.”… if it’s something else than my normal field. For example, I’ve been offered Cryptocurrency gigs time and time again, but I can’t get my head around it. I’ve tried my research. I just cannot understand it. It just doesn’t compute with my brain.
I think that the research skills that you’ve got… I think are a massive advantage to a copywriter. You know, although most of my work is in the fitness and nutrition and health space, I do a significant enough amount out of there.
I think a big tip is: Get out and learn to research. Learn to use Google. Learn to read books. Understand what you’re looking for. Then you can take your career in all kinds of different directions.
ALEX: That’s an absolutely brilliant tip. I love that. We will come on to some of your main tips in a second. But I really like that.
Certainly, sometimes you can have the same length article, the same brief, the same thing for two different subjects. One of them you can have done in a couple of hours. The other one will drag on for a couple of days. It just comes down to how engaged you are with the subject matter.
But on the flip side of that, I’ve written a couple of things where you’re writing about something and actually it’s a subject matter that you would never have considered before and seemed quite dull but you actually get quite into it. It’s, “Oh, I feel like I’ve learned something today.” It’s great, isn’t it?
STEVE: I’ll tell you what… I think, arguably a career highlight… I was once approached by a number plate company, and I managed to get 15 full-length, so minimum 750-word articles, out of number plates. When I first got that I was like “I don’t know. What’s there possibly to write about number plates?”
But then, going back to the research thing, you do your research and then you can pull on different threads. Like “What’s the most expensive number plate ever sold?”, “What’s the year?”, “What’s the design?”, “Why is a number plate the way it is?”. All of a sudden you realise there’s a whole load of different things you can get from number plates. You can get 15 articles from number plates.
They asked me to do some more. I was like, “I think I’ve exhausted everything there is to know about number plates.”
ALEX: Did you do anything about licence plates in the States? Did you do any international look at the stuff?
STEVE: No, it was purely UK-based. I asked about that because I’ve heard rumours that Steve Jobs never had a licence plate and I wondered if I could take it in that direction.
STEVE: Apparently there’s a bylaw in America where for six months on a brand new car you don’t need one. Don’t quote me on this, I might be wrong.
ALEX: Please do not take legal advice.
STEVE: Absolutely. This is not defensible in court by the way. But I’d heard that rumour so I said, “Can I do something on American licence plates?” And everyone was like, “No, it’s UK-based only.”
So for a little while, a couple of years ago, I was arguably one of the country’s leading experts in number plate technology.
ALEX: I suspect you probably still are. I don’t know if it’s a hugely competitive market!
So that, I think, brings us nicely onto a few tips that you’ve learned. And again, I know you’ve spoken about moving from writing on your own website, to build your own business, to taking those commercial roles. What would you say… ideally, we tend to think of someone who’s just starting out in the world of looking at becoming a freelance writer. What would be the key tips there?
And I think, obviously, we’ve got: write what you know… is a good starting place… but also learn how to research. Get your research skills up.
What else is top of the list for you?
STEVE: I think if you’re naturally inquisitive it is much easier to do because you’ve got a diverse set of interests. I’d suggest you start by writing out what you know because there might be certain things that you don’t necessarily do professionally, but you’re interested in. So, for example, I don’t play professional football, but I’m really interested in it. So I could write about that.
You think “What are my assets at the moment?” “As a blank canvas, What do I know about enough to write a reasonable article?”, “What am I interested in enough?” That way you can be really targeted.
So when I first started… the reason I got into this world was because I had all of my eggs in one basket. I was a personal trainer. Simple as that. And then Brexit… there were economic wobbles, and everyone was a bit unsure and uncertain… I thought “I can’t be this exposed to one industry”. So building on the little bit of copywriting knowledge I had, and a little bit of work I had, I then went out and looked.
I looked, to begin with, specifically within my area. You can do things like… you can do Google searches where you could literally say for example… I don’t know, say you’re interested in woodwork… you could type into Google “Woodwork + write for us”. Then there might be a list of woodwork sites that will give you guest posting opportunities. Anything to build a portfolio.
I think where a lot of people go wrong is they go on to say a job board like ProBlogger, for example… which I’ve got quite a bit of work from… and they’re kind of goldfish in a shark’s world. Unless you’ve got a background, and a profile, and a portfolio… and it doesn’t matter where that comes from. That can come from your own blog. It can come from free articles for other people… But go in there armed with, you know, something you can do.
You’re a far easier hire if you can prove success… you can prove that you can deliver quality work.
Make sure your stuff is good as well. Just practise, practise, practise. I’d say to any copywriter that they should have their own blog. They should have their own little place that they can spend time honing their craft. You’re nobody unless you’re very, very, very lucky or incredibly talented. Nobody goes from, you know, nought to success straight away. It’s a long road. Like I said, I did 400 articles before I was paid for one.
Start where you know. Hone your craft… really important. Be specific on what you’re looking for in jobs.
If your field of expertise is, for example using my world: fitness… I looked for fitness jobs to begin with. And once I got a bit of a system and I understood how to write and how to work with clients… then you can expand that.
For example, I write for an engineering company. I’m not an engineer, but my role there is to take technical engineering information and turn it into a language that the layperson will understand. So I worked with a team of engineers and they explained to me the concept. Then I’ve got to try and turn that into something.
So work on your skills. Work on “How can I break this down?”, “How can I simplify this concept?”. That is a huge selling point. One of the reasons I’ve managed to get so many articles into magazines is because I can take something relatively dry and turn it into something quite interesting. I think that’s a skill. These are all practicable skills.
You can take anything. I, for example… back on my own blog… I might have written reviews for, I don’t know, supplements… that at the time might have felt quite dry. How do you explain taste to somebody? So rather than just do that, look at the other features. What’s the texture? How does it mix? You can expand on things. Work on that.
Work on taking quite a dry concept and thinking “Where can I take this? How can I expand this into something readable?” It’s amazing. Once you spend a bit of time thinking and getting your brain into that kind of world, you can do it really well.
I’ve helped people with this before when people have started to get into copy. We’ve taken really, really dull things like tomato sauce. OK, tell me, how can you get me excited about that? There’s a scene at the end of The Wolf of Wall Street…
ALEX: Yeah, I know exactly the scene you mean.
STEVE: If the only weapon you’ve got to get excitement about something is the written word, well you can’t be dry. You’ve got to be flowery, you’ve got to get more excitement out of something. Work on that is a big suggestion, I’d say.
ALEX: I think that’s brilliant and I think it’s always useful, as you clearly do, to think from the point of view of what the client is looking for. In some cases, they’re buying your expertise. And I think we’ve talked about things like, particularly, medical writing and stuff like that, which is very, very difficult for the layperson to get into.
In some cases, they’re buying your expertise but in the vast majority of cases, what they’re doing is they’re buying your style and your research skills and your ability to communicate an idea simply to a wider audience.
Most companies are not looking to speak to other people who know as much about it as them. Most of them are looking for somebody with communications skills to communicate to the general public. That’s quite often the role that we occupy as writers, isn’t it?
STEVE: Absolutely. You know, you’re there to be, almost, the conduit between the consumer.
If I go back to the engineering company I write for, that was a completely accidental gig. I was talking to a friend at a bar… my son plays cricket. We’re at the bar there and the man just overhead… he said, “I don’t mean to interrupt, but I own an engineering company and we make this very particular type of joint. But the problem is that we’re all engineers, so we don’t know how to explain what it is to other people. Do you think you could come down and have a look?” I said, “I don’t want to make a promise I can’t keep.” That’s where it came from.
It’s that ability to… I don’t want to say sell because I don’t feel like a salesman… but, you know, that’s what you’re trying to do. You’re trying to… “Okay, what’s interesting about these particular joints?”
And, you know, trying to generate excitement out of something that appears mundane to other people is a skill in itself, and it’s definitely worth… I think that the difference between a writer and a professional writer is somebody who can do that.
ALEX: Right. Yeah, I think that’s a very strong definition. Absolutely.
So is there anything else that you would say in terms of perhaps people looking at… we touched very briefly on the idea of some of these sites where you can go for work. We’ve talked about the likes of Freelancer, Upwork, and PeoplePerHour. Did you use any of those sites initially? Do you still use them?
STEVE: Yeah, I’ve used them all. I approach those with a personal trainer mindset, which is going to sound a bit bizarre. I’ll explain what I mean.
So nobody’s ever benefited from one workout with a personal trainer. The value isn’t one workout. The value is a programme. It’s a… you know, you might have a predetermined goal, and it’s a sequence of events that leads to that goal.
So I approach that with… no-one’s really going to benefit from me from one article, particularly. You might get the occasional one that goes viral. But beyond that, you’re looking for a bit more of a strategic approach.
Say for example you’re selling T-shirts. Then one article is not going to be much use… but a whole campaign. So what I would do is I try and search out the jobs were it looks as though (1) there’s a budget, and (2) there’s a room for my skill set. So, for example, if somebody had a link to their website, I’d click the link and see “Okay, what can I do here? What can I offer as a suggestion?” I wasn’t looking for a one-off gig.
I’m looking for a retainer, and I think that’s a massive tip. If you can go beyond looking for… if you’re going to pick up $50, $100 gigs here and there, that’s all well and good. It’s good pocket money but that isn’t a business. That’s, you know, it’s a hobby job almost.
I was always about making sure I could offer value over the long term. What that turns into, then, is these retainer contracts where you say, “OK, I’ll do all of your blogging work for you if you want. I’ll do your social media content. I can do your newsletter content”. And what might have started as a $50 gig can turn into a few hundred per month of a retainer contract. And that’s how I grew.
If you’ve got a level of income from these contracts, you don’t need to go out searching.
So, to answer your questions. If I’ve got a bit more time on my hands, I might dip in and out and see what’s around. But what I’m looking for, I’m looking for the bigger fish. You know, I’m looking for the things that are going to keep me busy for the long term, not two hours.
ALEX: I think that’s really interesting.
STEVE: They’re fantastic websites.
ALEX: Yeah. I’m relatively new to the whole idea of those. A lot of my clients have been, you know, in slightly different areas and actually looking at those sites and looking at what’s out there… it is really interesting.
You can very quickly work out which are the ones who are sort of almost piecework…here is something they want to fire out… and the ones that are actually looking for somebody they want to hire to work with for the long term. It starts to become quite obvious from the ads who they are.
STEVE: I’ll tell you something interesting. One tip I’ve got for anybody using those websites is, go on there as a buyer first.
I’ve advertised jobs on those sites before and you’ll see the quality of what comes back. Once you’ve seen both sides of the fence… you’ve seen the buyer’s side and you’ve seen the seller’s side… you know what quality looks like when it comes in. You know what you’re up against.
So I’ve advertised jobs where I’ve had, like, graphic design work done or websites updates done. And so you see the quality of the pitches that come in and what you realise is actually… most of them aren’t very good. So my pitches are very clear, very straight to the point. I don’t mess around with, “I can do this, this, this, and this”. I’m very much, “This is your job description, here’s why I think I’d be perfect for the job.”
So, where other people might write 10 paragraphs, I’ll write maybe one paragraph and then five bullet points. As a buyer… put yourself in the buyer’s shoes… What are they more willing to look at? Where’s the information they need? If I can sum it up in two or three short bursts, that’s far more appealing to a buyer than having to wade through… because, by the way, you’re not the only person bidding on that job. There are ten, twenty more. So your punchy, short, straight to the point pitch is more likely, in my experience.
You know, I don’t want to blow my own trumpet. I’m very successful on those websites. I’ve grown a full-time income from it. It’s not because I have approached every single one. It’s just the ones I’ve gone for, I have approached well.
ALEX: We wouldn’t be talking to you if you weren’t successful Steve. Don’t worry. Well, we might.
STEVE: I’m not that witty.
ALEX: So, we’ve talked about tips, we’ve talked about how to succeed. Are there any, in your experience… What sort of pitfalls are there to avoid? What sort of traps can you fall into?
STEVE: I think the big one, I come back to this time and time again, is, look after your money. Look after your money! Oh my word, the amount of people who have come unstuck because with the first couple of gigs they’ve gone and spent everything on a brand new laptop or whatever.
You know, when you go into business, in your early days, ask yourself, “Is it a must-have or a nice to have?” and use that as a deciding factor between buying something or not. I still use the same laptop. To be fair, it is a MacBook Pro but I’ve used the same one that I bought in 2012.
It would be really nice for me to go and have another laptop, a brand-new one, but the one I have works really well. It’s been one of the best investments I ever made. So look after your money.
An old personal training client of mine, she once told me cash is king. She was an accountant for some billion-dollar businesses, like enormous companies people have definitely heard of. Her company…she used to work for a company that would audit them. She said, “Cash is king”. Like every business suffered some cash flow issues. So just save your money.
I think the less you have, the more important that is. So, if you’re a small freelancer looking after your money is so much more important. If you’re a FTSE 100 or, you know, a Fortune 500 Company, you don’t have to look after the pennies quite so much.
But if you’re small, every single penny has a direct effect on the quality of your life. Especially with what is going on at the moment, as we’re recording, with COVID-19… the amount of people who are going to come unstuck because they haven’t looked after their finances. So, as a freelancer, look after your money.
I’m going to sort of contradict myself as well by saying that freelance work, I’d argue, is the most stable of the lot. If you have a job and you lose that job, that’s it. All of your income’s gone. Now, I generate income from 10, 20, 30 people, so I don’t have all of my eggs in one basket. Like I said earlier, the reason I started my career freelancing was because of Brexit and I didn’t want to be so exposed to one type of income.
So, anybody who tries to tell you, “Oh, it’s a bit of a risk going freelance”, I’d argue it’s not. It’s really not because your income is far more diverse. You know you can often rely on one source of income and who… if you have a job, someone’s telling you what they believe you’re worth. What your time or what your labour is worth.
Actually, when you’re freelance, you can decide that to a point. Of course, there’s a limited variable. No-one’s going to pay me five million for an article. But, the point is, it’s a way more stable way to earn a living, I would argue. Once you’re good at it get it. You can’t go and say that from the get-go. I’d never suggest that somebody throws in their job and goes and starts freelancing, unless you’ve got a very nice cash cushion behind you.
The way I did it is I already had an income in place and I grew one alongside the other. The beauty of personal training for me, at the time, was that I was typically busy very early and in the evening. So I had this whole day. I thought, “I could use this time more profitably.” And I did.
ALEX: I think that’s something we hear quite a lot, actually. People, particularly in changed circumstances… perhaps the kids go to school or something like that… and suddenly you’ve got that time during the day. And then there’s the option for you just to work when you’ve got the time to work.
I know Ben’s a big fan of time-shifting and working late into the night and that kind of thing. It’s a sort of perennial debate in freelancing circles and we say, you know, “Is it feast or famine?” I think the point is that it can be both. But there is that thing, once you get yourself established, once you’ve got a certain number of clients, then you can find yourself… Yes, losing one hurts, but not as much as losing your entire livelihood. Which, unfortunately, is going to happen to a lot of people at the moment.
I love “Look after your money”. Anything else that you would say that are traps for freelancers to fall into?
STEVE: Yeah. I think if you work in a company, you work in a big business, you’ve always got people who… it’s their job to look after the account, it’s their job to look after advertising, whatever. And I kind of think, if you’ve made that choice to go on your own, the second you sign up, these are the rules of this game.
So you’re no longer able to say “I’m not very good at my admin, I’m not very good…” It’s not an excuse now. What really? Tough! Get good. It’s as simple as that.
I’d say, put your ego and put your what-I’m-not-willing-to-do kind of thing to one side. Because it doesn’t matter if you’re not a natural numbers person, you’ve just got to get used to… either that or accept the fact that you’re going to have to pay for someone to do it. You don’t have to be an expert in these things, other people are and you can pay them to be responsible for those things.
I think, understand what you’re getting yourself into is a big tip. Understand that you are the chief cook and bottle washer. There’s no-one else going to do these things for you.
The other thing is, your workload is likely to increase. I work longer and harder than I’ve ever worked in my life for other people. But I don’t mind that for two reasons: (1) The more I work the more I earn…that’s a good thing, and (2) I’m in control of it.
I realised, for me personally and this might be the same for other people listening, I find I don’t get stressed by my work. My workload doesn’t bother me. Having a lot of it isn’t an issue. It’s the loss of control that bothers me. So, I might have periods of overwhelm, but I don’t have periods of stress. If that makes any sense? I can set my deadlines.
Which brings me on to another tip, actually. Be honest with what you’re capable of.
There is nothing a company will dislike more than if you say you’re going to get something on the first, but actually deliver it on the eighth. You know, I always extend my deadline. So if I know I can get something done in two or three days, I might say give me five. And in that way, they’re going to get it early.
Also, that allows for real life. What if I woke up one day and I felt really, really sick? You know, it gives me a bit of a cushion there as well. So just manage your workload and you’ll, by default, manage your stress. So just be realistic and understand what you’re getting into.
ALEX: I think that’s a really good point, and that comes up time and again, and people talk about it. People seem to think that if you’re freelancing or even if, you know… the old thing of working from home is a bit of a dodge… everybody I know that is full-time freelancing works really hard. They may not work in the same way that the people with office jobs do, but they are always working.
And actually, I find that my time is now much more precious. If I’ve got to work on something, if I’m spending three hours on that, then that’s three hours I can’t spend on something else. So they’ve got to be three quality hours. It really does make you realise how much your time is valuable to you. As opposed to when it was valuable to someone else.
STEVE: Absolutely. You know, the beauty of that is, from the outside looking in it might appear as if I kind of live this extravagant lifestyle because sometimes, not every year, but sometimes we might travel four or five times a year. That sounds extravagant, doesn’t it? Four or five holidays a year. But actually, every day I’m on those holidays I might do a bit of work.
So, for example, I have another business. A fitness retreat business, theactiveretreat.net, if you’re interested… I always like a shameless plug.
ALEX: We’ll let you have a plug there Steve. We’ll put it in the show notes as well. Don’t worry.
STEVE: But what I do when I’m over there is I work. So I’m there on business but I’m also doing freelance work as well.
When I’m on a family holiday, because of the nature of the personal training work, I’ll often be up early anyway. Plus anyone who’s got kids knows what a human alarm clock is like at five or six a.m.
So nowadays I’m a bit of an early bird. I might work two or three hours from six a.m. until nine a.m. while the family are just milling around and not really doing much. And during that time I might earn significant amounts of money. So I’ll do that every day of my holiday.
So it looks as though I’m on holiday, and I am. But the beauty of remote work is I can do that anywhere. If you’ve got a good enough WiFi connection. So I will work on holiday. And it sounds like, “Oh my, you’re on holiday. Why are you working?” Because it’s not stressful to me.
Actually, it’s far less stressful for me to check my e-mails, do an hour or so in the morning… two hours, get some things done. That is far less stressful for me than going home and finding out I’ve just been offered, you know, a lot of money’s worth of work, and I’ve missed deadlines and things like that.
It’s absolutely no stress to me because it’s all on my terms. And, you know, if I can do a bit of work in the morning and pay for the day’s activities whilst on holiday, then why not? It’s great!
ALEX: Fantastic. The final thing I really want to ask you, Steve, is, as you said, is bringing the two areas together as a personal trainer.
We talked about this briefly before we started recording, but have you got any tips for freelancers as a personal trainer? How do we, if we’re not out and about… if we don’t perhaps have a regular routine that allows us to drop into the gym after work and that kind of thing… What sort of tips do you have for freelancers for staving off the old desk-belly?
STEVE: The desk-belly? Well, the first thing is, you know I mentioned you almost have to leave your excuses at the door when you freelance. You know… I’m not very good at accounts. Get good. It is basically like, “Oh, I sit at a desk all day.” Okay, Well make sure that isn’t the case.
Make sure you set aside that time because we can’t as freelancers celebrate the fact that our schedule’s our own, and then complain about a lack of time.
So, get yourself outdoors is a big thing, I think. Especially in the sunshine. If it’s sunny, get yourself out. You know, even if it’s something as simple as just going for a 20-30 minute walk, just do that to get your steps in.
Obviously, a massive advocate of exercise and I think the sitting position, if you are at a desk all day, you are going to get tighter. Your glutes, your bum muscles are gonna be slightly weaker. Your hip flexers are going to become tight. That might lead to a bad back… your slouch posture.
So get yourselves to the gym, lift some weights. My girlfriend’s a physio and she basically says that any musculoskeletal injury can be cured by either being stronger or more flexible. So use that as your base.
Try to walk a bit. Make sure you do some stretches. The beautiful thing now, with the internet, you can go onto YouTube, you can watch a yoga video. From your own front room you can do 10 minutes of stretches in the morning and you’re fine. You’re good to go. You can do that again at night… it’s 10 minutes. You know, nobody’s going to do it for you.
Two or three times a week try and get yourself down to the gym. Now, at the moment, obviously, we’re in lockdown, so I’ve actually written an article on my website… this is a terrible tip, I can’t even remember what it’s called… it’s something to do with homeworkers during Coronavirus. Go onto hoylesfitness.com, you’ll find it.
ALEX: Send us a link after this, Steve, and we’ll pop it up. Don’t worry.
STEVE: It’s all about looking at movement rather than exercise. When people go to a gym they think, “How am I going to train my biceps?” or whatever. But actually, there are effectively seven human movements. The article goes into detail about… these are human movements, pick an exercise that’s based around these, and you’ll cover all the bases you need to.
We don’t all need to go to the gym and start, you know, doing Olympic weightlifting. We don’t need to do that, but some kind of strength training. You can do squats, some kind of pull, some kind of push.
Also, as a freelancer, you’re quite often sat in your own company. In my home office, if I’m sat in here all day I can go… obviously I’ve got a family, so I could speak to the family… but one thing people miss is the camaraderie with other people. I’d say it’s a really healthy practice, when you can’t get yourself to a gym, mix with other humans.
Otherwise, you can become a bit of a, you know, a social weirdo because you’re not used to interacting with other humans.
Get yourself out. Get speaking to people. Move your body. But, get outside. Get out. If it’s a nice day, I’m a big advocate of getting outside, getting sunshine. Get some fresh air, move around. You don’t have to do anything clever… pull-ups, shots, air squats, go for a run, buy a cheap bike. Anything like that.
Just move your body. The reality is that your muscles can’t tell the difference between… you know, whether it’s a £7000 bike or it’s something you bought second hand off eBay. Just move your body!
ALEX: As you were saying earlier on as well, you don’t benefit from just one workout. You’ve got to be strategic with that as you’ve got to be with your work as well.
STEVE: Yes, if I was the leader of the free world it would be part my manifesto… everybody should strength train. You don’t exercise to look good. You exercise to feel good. It’s basically your medicine.
ALEX: I like that. I like that a lot.
STEVE: If more people knew the benefits of exercise we wouldn’t have a world with the kind of health issues we’ve got. But yeah, that’s another time.
ALEX: Yeah, that’s a whole other podcast, as they say. Well, thank you, Steve. Just to recap very quickly, just in terms of some of the tips.
When we’re talking about writing, write what you know and hone those research skills. It does help to be inquisitive. Hone your writing craft as well. Know what you’re good at.
Nobody’s ever benefited, as we’ve said… nobody’s ever benefited from just one workout session and that’s the same thing with jobs as well. Be strategic, look for the long term. Try and build a relationship with clients.
And the other thing when looking for work is, be really clear and to the point. Not only because that’s going to get you head and shoulders above the competition, but it’s also, quite often what clients are looking for.
In terms of pitfalls, the biggest thing, and I think this is so true, is, look after your money. I know, Steve, that you mentioned that massive companies don’t have to. But the companies that I’ve found that are the most assiduous in chasing invoices and all about money, are the biggest companies in the world.
I know for a fact that in some of those big companies, that CEOs spend a lot of time talking to the people who are chasing down payments because… yep, cash is king.
So on that same basis, be good at admin. You can’t afford to be the person that will go “Oh, Dave in accounts will deal with that” any more. You’re on your own. You’re in charge of your business. That’s what it’s all about.
The other thing is, be honest with yourself and be honest with your clients in terms of what you can achieve.
The final tip in that as well is get up and get out into the sunshine. Stretch those muscles and do some strength training, and feel a bit better.
STEVE: Yeah, move your body.
The final thing, I’d like to say is we define ourselves often by what we do for money. So people say I’m a doctor, I’m a fireman, I’m a policeman, I’m a teacher, whatever. The beauty of freelancing is the notion of a job doesn’t exist anymore.
You can do whatever you want to be. If you want to be a graphic designer, you can learn and you can be it. You are no longer your job title. There’s so much more to you and if you are fed up in a job there’s a massive world out there. Technology is allowing you to stay at home and to be whatever you’ve dreamed of being.
The laptop lifestyle is no longer a cliché. You can legitimately work from a beach if you want to.
ALEX: I absolutely love that. And I cannot think of a better note to end this podcast on.
Steve, thank you so much for everything on that. I really enjoyed chatting to you.
To you listening at home, if you’d like to feedback on anything that we’ve covered today or if you have any questions for Steve… very unlikely that you’d have any questions for me… you can contact us on Ben’s e-mail address, he will act as our secretary!
Please do like, subscribe, and leave a little review of the podcast. It doesn’t have to be incredibly positive, but it would be wonderful if it was.
Thank you once more, Steve. I don’t know about you, but I’m off outside to go and do some squats.
STEVE: Too sunny, isn’t it? Too sunny to not.
ALEX:Thank you, Steve. And thank you at home for listening. Bye-bye.
STEVE: Thanks, Alex.
Founder of HomeWorkingClub.com – Ben has worked freelance for nearly 20 years. As well as being a freelance writer and blogger, he is also a technical consultant with Microsoft and Apple certifications. He loves supporting new home workers but is prone to outbursts of bluntness and realism.