Who moved my support staff? The skills you need for a home-based freelance job

Last Thursday, around bed time, I learnt a valuable lesson about what it really means to be a freelance copywriter – to run my own little home-based freelance job. And it has nothing to do with writing.

I was playing around in the back end here at Black Coffee Communication when I finally decided to hit the “upgrade” button to get the newest version of WordPress.

I thought it would be a quick click and I could rest easily in the knowledge that my site was up-to-date.

Instead, that one little click broke my website.

It was 9.30pm and I should have left it till morning. But I didn’t.

Call it determined, or bloody-minded, but there was no way I was heading for the land of snooze with my site all stuffed. So I Googled and Googled some more and it turned out that that I also had to upgrade to the latest version of the theme (the awesome Switchblade, if anyone is interested).

By this time it was the wee small hours; and once I finally fell into bed, I only got a few hours sleep before the darling cherubs had me up for the day.

You see, when you work at home for yourself, there is no help desk. There’s also no HR department, no accounts receivable (or accounts payable) and definitely no-one coming in each evening to empty the wastebasket and wipe down the kitchen area.

Skills for a home-based freelance job: it’s all up to you.

Even if you can afford to outsource some tasks (bookkeeping is high on my list), you still have to understand the basics. And you should never stop learning.

So if you are planning on going solo  – wake me up, before you go, go.

Sorry, where was  I?

Oh, yes.

If you are planning on launching a home-based freelance job, here are a few skills you should have at least a smattering of knowledge about – even if it is just to brief someone else to actually do it.

  • Web design and development – including HTML
  • Accounting and bookkeeping
  • Marketing
  • Business development
  • Search Engine Optimisation
  • Copywriting (important even if you are not a copywriter)

So, basically, a lot more than if you are working at a J.O.B. in which you are the expert. If you are thinking of living the dream (cough, cough) tossing in the day job and going solo, it’s time to start educating yourself.

After all, three years ago I wouldn’t have known my hrefs from my alt tags and now not only can I build a website (albeit a WYSIWYG one), I can (usually) fix it when it stuffs up.

If you are a fellow soloist, what skills do you need that have nothing to do with your expertise? I would love to read your input in the comments.

Till next time,


About the author: Nicole Leedham

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Nicole is the Word Barista at Black Coffee Communication. With more than 20 years in the communications game, she has developed some strong opinions on grammar, punctuation, copywriting and, well, pretty much everything. When she is not sharing these opinions – for the benefit of her clients, of course – she enjoys relaxing with a good book and a good red. Her young children, however, have a different agenda.

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1 reply
  1. Work YourWords
    Work YourWords says:

    Oh dear! Glad you got it sorted. After recently paying for a new website that was built by clever designers, the one thing they told me not to do in the back end was click ‘Upgrade to latest version’! This probably sounds really dim, but the one thing I’m having to learn (and I kind of loathe it) is to be a salesperson. Ugh, imagine having to actually TALK to people and tell them why you’re good at what you do and why they definitely need you?? :-)

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