nDash’s Managing Editor, Jenn Greenleaf, talks to Gemma Clare about how she balances her career as a freelance writer with being a new parent and more!
Background: The Highlights
With over a decade of experience, Gemma Clare writes from experience. Her expertise includes creating content for education, parenting, and childhood development topics. Her background includes having experience in the classroom as a:
- Inclusion Leader & Special Educational Needs Coordinator (SENco)
- Part of middle and senior leadership teams
Here’s a snippet from Gemma’s LinkedIn profile where she describes what she’s passionate about:
“I’m a big believer in responsive, restorative, and inclusive practice in both parenting and education, with a focus on the emotional needs of a child before anything else.”
Balancing a Career as a Freelance Writer With Being a New Mother
Jenn: Before we begin, I want to congratulate you on your new baby! I know from experience how challenging it is to balance a freelance writing career alongside raising a newborn. I know you’re relatively early in this. But can you share what some of your biggest challenges are and what solutions are working best to solve them?
Gemma: Thank you!
Our son is just shy of a year old now. (I know it’s a cliche, but it really has gone so quickly!) He’s an absolute ray of sunshine, and I’m learning from him every day.
I would say the biggest challenge to freelancing alongside raising our son is finding the balance between having enough time with him, rest for myself, and time to write. I’ve had to squeeze writing in around his nap times and say no to a few projects that would have stretched me too thin. He’s just started some part-time childcare and is absolutely loving it. This gives me a chance to focus on my writing, and I’m now able to take on more projects, which has definitely made things easier.
Jenn: What advice would you give another freelance writer who is facing these same challenges?
Gemma: I’m very honest with my clients about being a working mother and think it’s important that freelancers are transparent about this, or other challenges, when setting up working relationships. I’m still working part-time and am realistic with timeframes. I’ve found that as long as these things are communicated well from the get-go, people are very understanding.
I constantly have ideas of how to expand my business and grow as a freelancer running through my head. I’ve had to put them on hold for a bit and focus on client work to avoid burnout. I’d advise any freelancer who is struggling to find the balance to list everything they want to achieve and pick out what is realistic with their current situation. There will be opportunities to tick off the other things on the list in the future!
I also think rest is seriously underrated as a productivity tool, and find that I write better when I’ve taken care of my own needs first. For me, this might mean taking my dog for a stroll, fitting in a bit of yoga or meditation, or taking a pause to read a book. These things all do wonders for writer’s block and creativity!
Jenn: I notice that your portfolio centers on education, parenting, and child development. Can you tell me a little bit about why you’re passionate about these topics? In other words, have these topics always been your focus, or did you have to go through some trial and error before finding your niche?
Gemma: Education has always been my main area of interest. I’m a qualified teacher, and Special Educational Needs Coordinator (SENCo) and loved my time in the classroom being ‘Miss’!
I started writing as a side project while teaching because I love sharing my passion and ideas with others. I’m very fortunate to be in a position where my writing has been successful enough to focus on just this for now. I plan to return part-time to the classroom when my son starts school, and I have time for both again.
Our son is a huge source of inspiration for my writing, and being a parent has given me a new perspective on the topics I write about. I mainly focused on education pieces before his birth, but now I’ve added parenthood and pregnancy as areas I can write about from personal experience. I’ve found it refreshing to add another area of expertise to my portfolio of work, and enjoy learning more about parenting. There are many crossovers with my work in education, and the two niches work well together.
The Rest of nDash’s Discussion with Gemma Clare
In addition to her career as a freelance writer, Gemma works as a special development officer. In this role, she provides support to young carers between the ages of eight and eighteen. Her work also involves managing a team of support workers and deputizing for the Service Manager.
Jenn: Your teaching background is incredibly interesting, especially your experience with TEFL Teaching in Thailand and with being an inclusion leader. Can you tell me a little bit about that? Did your teaching experiences influence your freelance writing career?
TEFL stands for ‘Teaching English as a Foreign Language,’ and I’m a qualified TEFL Teacher. I’ve taught students from nursery to secondary age in Thailand and have taught primary-age children in Uganda. I helped to organize and run an ‘English Language Conversational Camp’ in Thailand where schools from the local area came together to learn English through games and activities. In Uganda, we ran a joint school project with the school I was teaching in and created a music video together on the theme of happiness.
Inclusion is hugely important to me. I loved being an Inclusion Leader and advocating for all pupils and their experience of belonging. It was a privilege to help children to feel valued, heard, and supported in school. I was responsible for the day-to-day running of the school’s inclusion and special educational needs policies. I did a lot of work with parents, carers, teaching colleagues, external agencies, and children with additional needs.
It’s definitely my goal to bring both of these experiences into my writing. I love writing about inclusion, additional educational needs, language learning, and education across different cultures. My career so far has given me a wealth of specialist knowledge that I can draw on, and I find this is often what attracts clients to work with me.
Jenn: How did nDash become part of your journey as a freelance writer?
Gemma: To be honest, I signed up for the nDash copywriting platform about a week before I gave birth! I haven’t had the chance to work with any clients via nDash yet but look forward to connecting with people through the platform now that my schedule has opened up with space for some new clients.
I love that nDash focuses on industry subject-matter expert writers and connects them with great businesses. It’s a trusted platform where both writers and clients can be confident in securing a great working relationship.
Jenn: Can you tell me a little bit about Shorts & Tales?
Gemma: Shorts & Tales provides animations and motion graphics. My wonderful partner started his animation company 8 years ago and works with a variety of clients, including BBC, Facebook, Google, Greenpeace, and many other well-known charities and organizations.
We realized that there was a demand for written services alongside his animation work, including scriptwriting and copywriting. We decided to combine our skills and passions, and I’m now the lead writer and co-director of the company.
This work is a little different from my freelance writing at Gemma Clare Content, and I love both for different reasons! It’s definitely helped me to develop my writing, and I’ve enjoyed the challenge of writing for different industries and audiences.
Jenn: Part of the work you describe on your website includes being a contributor to roundtable discussions in educational think pieces. Can you tell me about your experience with that and how it enriches your career as a freelance writer?
Gemma: I’m a big fan of roundtable discussions!
I find the multiple perspectives of different contributors help me to gain a deeper understanding of a topic or issue, and I enjoy learning from other experts in the field. I think it’s so important to share ideas, learn from each other and listen to a diverse range of voices and perspectives in order to grow, both as an educator and as an individual.
Ideas from roundtable discussions have definitely influenced my writing. When someone has raised a point that I hadn’t considered or made me think about a topic in a new light, I’ve gone on to research it in greater depth. It’s a great way to find fresh ideas and angles for my content.
Jenn: What’s the best advice you’ve ever received since becoming a freelance writer?
Gemma: That’s a tough one!
If you’re after an inspirational quote, I’ve always loved: ‘If you never try, you’ll never know.’ I try to go through life without being left wondering, ‘What if?’. I think it’s really important to take risks and try new things, even if they seem scary or difficult at first. Some of my greatest achievements have come from taking a chance outside of my comfort zone.
In terms of practical advice – I think something a lot of new freelancers struggle with is how to set their rates. It can be hard to figure out your worth and accurately charge for the amount of thought, effort, and time that goes into a piece of writing.
I received a lot of advice about rates from fellow freelance writers. And I learned that I was under-charging for my level of technical subject knowledge. I feared I would lose clients by raising my rates, but luckily all of my existing long-term clients were happy with my services and wanted to continue working with me, and I haven’t seen any loss in new projects.
nDash has a really useful guide on rates which can help clients see what a fair rate is for their project and help freelance writers set their prices.
Jenn: Which tools do you find are the most helpful for keeping your freelance writing career organized and running efficiently?
Gemma: Luckily, I’m a naturally very organized person, and I love keeping lists!
I use Asana to keep on top of my projects and tasks and prioritize my workload. Google Docs helps me to share projects with my clients. They can comment on things directly, and I find that really helps with our collaborative workflow. Some clients prefer to use Slack to communicate. I’m happy to follow along with what works best for them.
In terms of writing tools, I keep it pretty simple! I love using Scrivener as a word-processing tool and to organize my research. I check my work with Grammarly and Hemmingway to catch any basic mistakes or overly complex sentences before thoroughly proofreading myself. Occasionally, I use SEO tools depending on the project and the client’s requirements.
I find the business side of things a little more challenging but have found tools to help me with this. Shorts & Tales uses Xero to manage our finances. I’ll be moving my invoicing across to this platform in the new tax year to simplify my accounting systems. We also work with a lot of American clients and use Wise to simplify payments on both ends. Shorts & Tales also hires an external accountant to handle the financial side of things, which frees us up to focus on our creative work.
Jenn: When you’re digging into the details of an assignment, do you prefer referring to statistical data or interviewing subject matter experts? Or a combination of the two? And, as a guest lecturer for PGCE students, do you get called on often to participate in interviews with other freelance writers looking for your expertise?
Gemma: This really depends on the project and the intention of the piece of writing. I’m a self-confessed research nerd and enjoy the process of finding statistics and relevant academic research to support my writing. ‘Help a Reporter’ is a great tool to connect writers to industry experts and find new perspectives on a topic.
Sometimes other freelance writers ask me to take on projects which call for an education or parenting specialism. I really appreciate that. Likewise, if a project comes to me that I don’t have the specialist knowledge or capacity for, I have a network of freelance writers who I can recommend.
Thank you for taking the time to chat with me about your challenges being a freelance writer, advice for other writers, and more!
Work with Gemma Clare on nDash Today!
Do you have projects that align with Gemma’s background in education, parenting, or child development? Check out her writer profile to see how her content creation services can help level up your strategy: Gemma Clare.