Simone Castello is a freelance copyeditor and copywriter. Simone’s business website is simonecastello.co.uk and you can also find her at her blogs From Rat Racer to Positive Parent and Cambridge Ecothrifter.
When I started maternity leave in January 2007 I planned to take a year off and resume my career as inhouse freelance subeditor. I had been doing it for over a decade, so it seemed like the easy option – I had lots of contacts in the industry and knew there would be work for me provided I could find reliable childcare for my child. Mind you, I envied freelancers who could work from home but knew that in my sector opportunities were rare, plus you needed expensive equipment and software. Despite using MACs at work, I had a modest PC at home and no fancy design software.
I soon realised I was missing work so jumped at the chance of using my skills for the NCT, which is the leading parenting charity in the UK. I had become a member before doing their antenatal classes and heard that they were looking for a volunteer to help the newsletter editor at the East London branch. I ended up coediting various newsletters, churning out articles and designing my half with zero budget (we had only money for printing costs). I was lucky to secure a free copy of QuarkXpress by buying a PC magazine so I could use the professional software I was accustomed to. I did enjoy both the writing and the design side. One year later, I was not ready to go back to work. I was enjoying a busy life as charity volunteer, doing some editing work from home (not much though) and training as a breastfeeding helper with the Breastfeeding Network. I started to volunteer for this second charity by assisting my tutor who ran a breastfeeding drop-in in East London. In summer 2008, just before the credit crunch hit the country, I moved to Rugby, where I became involved with the NCT, became newsletter designer and editor of the local newsletter and got involved with the Rugby Breastfeeding Cafe as a volunteer.
Not being in London meant a longer commute if I wanted to resume my career as subeditor. The recession also meant less freelance work so although I had set up my writing and editing business (and created a website to plug it), I was mostly giving Italian lessons and even taught an evening class at a local institute. Then I heard of a new parenting website that needed product testers and I sent my CV. I started writing product reviews, while running two blogs (From Rat Racer to Positive Parent and Cambridge Ecothrifter) and volunteering for my charities.
In November 2009 we moved to Cambridge, where I joined the local NCT branch and became involved with the newsletter and started volunteering at breastfeeding drop-ins. Soon after our move I got an email from an advertising agency who wanted me to write breastfeeding and baby care copy. It turned out to be a big project so I left tutoring behind and became a fully-fledged online copywriter, contributing to parenting websites whenever I could. I have recently started indexing academic journals, which is regular work and makes me feel that my degree in Political Sciences is of some use.
So far I have produced several NCT newsletters for various branches and learnt a lot about design, commissioning, advertising and the printing process. As a subeditor for major national magazines I was part of a big team, so I was only involved in editing, rewriting, writing the odd feature, fact-checking and perhaps a bit of design but didn’t have to concern myself with production processes, distribution, overall costs and advertising revenue. I kept in touch with the media industry through moderating a group called subsuk (from 2006 till practically yesterday) but have given this up as I am now a copywriter more than a journalist. I’m not the only one, most people I know from journo forums have moved into PR, advertising, corporate writing and more lucrative fields. Aside writing and indexing I volunteer for my two charities and have started to get involved in my daughter’s preschool activities.
So this is the story so far. My office is basically an antique kitchen table full of useful junk. There is a spare room upstairs which has been kitted out as an office but it’s not practical as I need to keep an eye on my daughter when she is at home. She goes to preschool three hours every afternoon and unless my partner is at home, she is around while I toil away. If I need total silence I work after she has gone to bed or wake up really early in the morning.
I confess I do miss social interaction but not the commuting to different workplaces every week (unless I got a long-term gig) nor the office politics, from which an in-house freelancer is not totally immune.