I used to work at a bank. When people hear that you work in Canary Wharf they assume you own a yacht and earn a salary the size of tower bridge. Sadly, this wasn’t the case for me. I was in an administrative role, and I hated it. Every day I’d turn up and sit down in a grey cubicle, settling in for an eight-hour stint of reading and drafting contracts. Same lunch every day, same train home. My manager was insufferable.
About a year ago I decided I wanted to do something else. I’d been interested in publishing before I started at the bank. I’ve always loved reading and picking holes in people’s language, but I never managed to make a career out of it. I applied to a few junior positions at publishing houses, but every time I got the same response: ‘you haven't got adequate experience’. Then a colleague recommended this freelancing platform. It’s sort of a place where people can advertise themselves and sell their skills to people who need them. So I set up a profile and wrote a little bit about myself.
A few months went by without much luck, so I decreased my fee. Eventually someone asked me to edit their book. It was hard fitting it in with work at first, but I found the time. I did bits of it on the train home, and bits of it before bed. When I’d finished editing it, I sent it off, and the client was really pleased. She left a favourable review on my profile, and before I knew it I had offers of work piling up in my inbox. I was daunted by the quantity at first, and I didn’t think I was going to be able to get through everything, so I went down to working part-time.
One of the books I edited got onto the bestseller list - naturally the author was over the moon, and was really thankful for my help. I asked her to leave a review mentioning her success, which she did. Soon enough, I had a large number of glowing reviews, which meant people were flocking in with their manuscripts to benefit from my skills - and I hadn’t even been hired by a company to do it. After about a year of working in this way I applied to another publishing house for a job. They gave me the same answer as they had before.
For me, freelancing has been the key to not only leaving an unfulfilling career in banking, but it’s led me into a thriving career of my own. The really incredible thing the freelancing platform style of work has allowed me to do is continue my previous job, and I didn’t have to take the risk of leaving to pursue what I really wanted to do. I'm still enjoying freelancing, but it’s difficult to convert my experience in editorial work as a freelancer into something a publishing house will take seriously.
The only issue I can see is that it’s hard to verify what I have and haven’t done as a freelancer. Sure, people can leave reviews on the platform, and write testimonials, but it’s not as easy to represent what I’ve achieved as a freelancer than it would if I were a professional editor. This is largely because reviews are subjective and easy to falsify: therefore, there needs to be a new system that can index and represent the reputations of freelancers across platforms, based on true and objective information that can be trusted. This is a major hole in the formula for freelancing platforms: if people are to use freelancing as a way of gaining a foothold in a new career, they have to be able to record, represent and export their work in a trusted, secure manner.