The Female Focus: Sophie Livingston
Introducing Sophie Livingston
We got to chat candidly with one of our fave Twitter pals Sophie, a copywriter and blogger based in Hull. We talked how quitting the 9-5 changed her life for the better, why clients should be looking beyond the ‘London bubble’ for freelance talent and the importance of creating intentional content.
You're based in Hull - Is there a strong freelance community in the city?
Confession time… I’m a bit of hermit. I say ‘a bit of’, but what I really mean is I’m a grade A hermit. What can I say? I love being at home.
Despite my lack of contribution, there is a growing freelance and digital community in Hull. It’s largely based around the marina in the city centre - an area that’s seen a lot of development in recent years. The £4 million Centre for Digital Innovation (C4DI) in particular is a hotspot, and the number of coworking spaces is growing.
It’s fantastic that Hull’s digital community is blossoming. There’s been a real buzz in the city over the last few years following Hull’s run as the UK’s City of Culture in 2017. It’s not half as bad as they say it is up here y’know 😉
We're based in the London bubble - why should clients look beyond the big smoke when looking to work with freelancers?
First up, it’s worth taking a moment to celebrate the fact that clients can look beyond London now. The internet has thrown the doors wide open, making location almost irrelevant. To not look past London could mean ignoring a lot of talent. Also, cities like Manchester, Edinburgh, and Bristol have booming tech hubs that could rival London’s.
Did you know the number of freelancers in the UK grew by 43% from 2008 to 2016? That’s huge. Freelancers now represent 6% of the UK workforce and contribute £119 billion to the economy. While 43% are based in London and the South East, the remaining 57% are fairly evenly spread around the rest of the UK.
Also - and I realise this won’t be the case for all - but the higher living expenses in London have got to mean higher rates, right?
Why should clients look beyond London for freelance talent?
“The internet has thrown the doors wide open, making location almost irrelevant. To not look past London could mean ignoring a lot of talent. Also, cities like Manchester, Edinburgh, and Bristol have booming tech hubs that could rival London’s.”
Why is intentional content so important?
I talk about the importance of creating intentional content because I so often see businesses ploughing time and money into content marketing without any real plan.
When I first started out as a freelance writer back in 2016, I wrote website copy and blog posts for businesses that already had a strategy worked out. Over time, I began to pick up more clients who were freelancers themselves. I found that I could get a lot more passionate about working with one-person businesses like mine.
The problem was the lack of strategy. These freelancers didn’t have the time or resources to come up with a marketing strategy that would prove cost-effective. They’d commission work without having a strong enough sense of how it would fit into their content ecosystem.
My mission, now (and it’s still early days - I’m currently working on a big relaunch of my website with updated services, packages, and resources), is to teach, guide, and support hard-working, determined freelancers to create intentional content that has a clear purpose.
What inspired you to be a writer?
‘Inspired’ is probably the wrong word. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve always loved writing - and writers, for that matter - but I never imagined I’d end up being one.
I’ve had a knack for writing for as long as I can remember, but business was more my thing. I studied it at school and found myself in sales and leadership roles after returning from my gap year. I wanted to run my own business, but I had no big idea or strong calling.
In the end, it was more a matter of circumstance. I wasn’t coping with the 9-5 - the strict routine, the toxic environment, the lack of independence and space for creativity.
I wanted out, and setting up as a freelance writer was a low-risk option that I could crack on with independently. All I needed was my computer and a WiFi connection.
I’ve built my business around my life, not vice versa, and it’s given me so much in a short space of time. I don’t think I could ever go back now.
Do you write for yourself aside from client work?
I journal. Not in a Dear Diary kind of way, but by following prompts, guidance, and exercises. With the exceptions of exercise and therapy, there’s nothing that helps my mental health more than writing.
I’d love to write a book one day (wouldn’t we all?), but for now my focus is on supporting my clients to get more intentional with their content.
Tell us what you're reading right now and why
I’ve been casting a minimalist eye over my life lately, and my once-bulging bookcase took a big hit. I’d been buying books five times faster than I could read them, and it was beginning to feel overwhelming.
I slowed things down, tidied up my Amazon wish list, and charity-shopped a lot of the ones I was never going to read (talking about you, Gone with the Wind).
I tend to stick with physical books for fiction or memoirs (for that downtime away from devices) and go with audiobooks for the non-fiction educational stuff (so I can listen while I’m walking the dog or doing the dishes).
I’m now listening to Daniel Priestly’s Oversubscribed - How to get people lining up to do business with you. Because that’s the dream, right? It’s super practical - full of actionable tips and examples.
“I recently listened to Playing Big by Tara Mohr (“Find your voice, your vision, and make things happen”). It’s powerful stuff. I’d highly recommend it if you’ve got goals but you struggle with low self-confidence.”
Any other must-read recommendations?
Caitlin Moran’s How To Be a Woman has got to be up there. To Kill a Mockingbird is my old fave from the days of English lit, and Donna Tartt is mind blowing - especially The Secret History. For something more current, Dolly Alderton’s Everything I Know About Love was extra special, and The Girls by Emma Cline was a favourite last year.
Being self-employed or a freelancer can be a lonely - what have you done to counteract this?
Working almost exclusively with freelancers, I feel well connected to plenty of other solo business owners, and I’m involved in several online freelance communities.
I like to build strong, friendly working relationships where my clients feel they can approach me and talk openly. This attitude helps us both, and it’s nice to have comfortable back and forth with clients who I can easily relate to.
Where I need to go beyond my clients for business advice or moral support, I’m a member of a Slack group with a bunch of freelancers I met on Twitter. It’s mostly jokes and biscuit-chat, if I’m honest, but it’s nice to have an army of people I can check in with throughout the day.
Who are your favourite freelancers / self-employed individuals or communities you follow and why?
The Freelance Heroes community had a big influence on me when I first started out, and I’ve watched it grow from around 500 members to almost 4000 in about a year. Founders Ed Goodman and Annie Browne run a fantastically supportive community, and I’ve met plenty of people - clients and friends - through my involvement with the group.
What inspires you?
I’m inspired by work that’s done well, and quality will always get my vote over quantity. I find there’s too much emphasis on consistency when it comes to content marketing. Too many businesses pay little attention to the importance of doing good work. You can tell when a business or freelancer has put a piece of content out there just to make up the numbers. There’s already so much crap to wade through online, I don’t believe in adding to the noise unnecessarily.
“The only person you are destined to become is the person you decide to be.” Ralph Waldo Emerson.
(Well, it’s either that or “Write like a motherfucker” from Cheryl ‘Sugar’ Strayed 😉)