“So what is it that you do exactly?” Although I feel I share a fair bit of my personal life online, people I meet often can’t work out what I do for a living. Some think I am a full-time London tour guide. Others think I couldn’t possibly be working as I’m always travelling. (I wish!) And it’s not just my online audience or people I meet for the first time who are confused. Also my family and close friends often have no clue what I’m up to. So to clarify this once and for all, let me tell you what goes on a typical day in the life of Dutch Girl in London.
Yes I’m a freelancer, no I don’t work in my PJs all day
Having been self-employed for 7 years now, I’m not sure if I could ever work in an office again. While some people need certainty and routine to function best, I quite enjoy that I don’t know what project I might be working on next month.
My days are flexible and I decide what days of the week I work and how many hours a day. If I want to watch Game of Thrones during breakfast on a Monday morning, I can! And if I want to go to the cinema or an exhibition in the middle of the day, there’s no one who can tell me otherwise. However, this also means that weekends are a relative concept. I still spend most of my weekend on the computer, either working or writing for my two websites.
Although I might have flexible working hours, it doesn’t mean I wake up late and stay in my pyjamas all day. I take myself more seriously as a professional freelancer if I get up early and get dressed immediately. Not too early of course, 7am is a very decent time to set the alarm for. (Although this has been 6am since spring and the sun rises early.) I remember the days I had to leave my home just after 7am to cycle to the train station and catch the train to work. I am SO glad those days are over!
The ultimate freedom of being a freelancer: to lie down for a nap whenever you want!
After breakfast it’s time to answer my fan mail
Unfortunately there’s not much fan mail to answer. Usually just generic requests for collaborations from brands who have no match with my websites at all and also seem incompetent in finding out my real name. (“Dear Dutch Girl” isn’t as personal as you’d think dear marketing person!)
All year long I receive email requests for my Dutch-language walking tours in London. These tours were the main reason for starting this website so many years ago. Although I know I could put so much more effort in promoting my websites and tours, I am still very proud I managed to build up my business all on my own. I still can’t believe people find my services online!
I offer three standard London tours: trendy east London, Harry Potter and a river walk along the majority of London’s main sights. Around school holidays I mostly get bookings for my Harry Potter tour which is always fun because it’s so cute to see those excited kids view London through a magical lens. But usually I get requests for tailor-made tours so I sometimes spend hours a day putting together quotes and bespoke itineraries for schools, companies and big groups. Clearly this is not the most glamorous part of the job of course. Nor is doing my admin. But that’s also part of being self-employed.
My real job? I’m an editor
Although I’ve been a professional editor for 15 years now, my brother is still convinced I’m a translator. It always makes me laugh because I hardly do translation jobs. He isn’t that far off though as I do have a Master’s in English Translation Studies and worked at a translation agency for 2 years. (But as a project manager.) And I’ve done some small translation projects in the past, including translating the American 1970s Tarzan comic books to Dutch. (For which my sister-in-law was the project manager of so this explains my brother’s perception of me being a translator I guess.)
I never consciously chose to become an editor though. It just happened to me in my previous job. I started there as a project manager but for a lack of projects to manage (I got there just after the economic crisis at the end of the noughties – excellent timing to switch jobs as I did…), I was asked to assist with editorial work instead. It turned out that I was pretty good at that too. (Yeah I know, I am so bloody talented and amazing.)
When I moved to the UK, it was quite difficult to keep working as a project manager for Dutch customers. But lucky for me, I only need a computer and good internet connection to do editorial work. So, I’ve continued working as an editor over the years. I guess I’ve been a digital nomad before I ever heard of that term when I worked away on deadlines whilst on holiday. As I said, working hours are flexible. And sometimes this does require to do some work during the weekend or while vacationing. I’d rather accept a small job and spend a couple of hours in my hotel room working on it to help out a customer than say no though.
I might be self-employed and generate income as an editor and also through my websites, but that doesn’t mean I feel very secure about myself and my skills. Having just turned 40, I’m still not entirely sure what I exactly want to do with my life. I wrote about these doubts and insecurities in a previous Dutch blog post: Wat wil jij later worden als je groot bent?
What am I working on now?
It had been very quiet for me work-wise a few months ago. Really too quiet. You know that image of tumbleweeds illustrating just how dead quiet it is? That’s what my work schedule looked like a few months ago. But thankfully things have picked up again. And typically, everything had to aaaall come in at the same time of course. Because why should deadlines be spread out evenly over a month if they can all be scheduled for the same week? But that’s all okay though, because I perform best under high pressure.
I am working on a number of new and challenging projects at the moment. One of the biggest projects is writing SEO articles for a Dutch glamping website. It’s a fun project as I get to investigate unusual and more adventurous accommodations, but I do find it challenging to write texts in a shorter timeframe. (I tend to rewrite and polish my copy endlessly.) So I expect that working on such a massive project is definitely going to improve my copywriting skills.
Could you imagine glamping in a location like this?
Another big project I am currently sinking my teeth in is writing copy for Dutch textbooks for secondary schools. I have extensive experience with schoolbooks as an editor (my main customers are Dutch educational publishing houses), but being an author is a whole different ballgame. I can’t deny that I find it difficult, but I’m also extremely honoured to have been asked to contribute to a book by one of the leading publishing houses in the Netherlands!
Then there are always some smaller editing and writing projects to work on. Some come in through my website and involve travel-related or London-related articles. And sometimes I also get asked to write guest blog posts. Unfortunately paid work takes priority so it can get difficult to schedule in other projects I’m happy to work on for free.
Keeping up with social media
Why I use social media? To attract more audience to my websites. In the hope of getting more tour bookings and writing projects. That’s why I also spend significant time on creating appealing banners and ‘pins’ to promote my brand and content online.
Speaking of creating banners and promoting my website, this is the Facebook ad I made today to promote the last blog post on my cultural travel blog (available in Dutch and English):
Insider Tips for Your First Trip to London – Day 2
Since my business (i.e. my websites but also my freelance work as an editor) is mainly run online, it’s essential to invest time in promoting it on social media. For work LinkedIn seems to be the main platform future employers or customers use, but I absolutely stink at it. Every time I open the website with the intention of updating it, I close it again with a big sigh and without having made any changes. I’m not entirely convinced this is the platform for me. (If you are a LinkedIn pro and can give me advice, please do get in touch with me…)
I also have several Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest and even YouTube accounts. It’s way too much, I know. I’ve read before that you should choose just one medium and excel in that rather than spreading yourself thin over several. At the moment I prefer to use Instagram so I take some time out of my day to go through my photo archive to seek out suitable images and edit them.
And after work hours
As disciplined hubby and I are with starting our work day, just as disciplined we are with ending it on time. Well, when I’m home alone I tend to work until midnight sometimes so that’s not entirely true. But when hubby’s home with me, I make sure we can dig into our healthy home cooked dinner around 6.30pm. If I don’t go to the gym in the evening for a class, we crash on the sofa after our after-dinner walk and watch a film or TV series or go to the cinema. Although my ideal bedtime would be around 10pm, I tend to play on my phone far too long in the evening. In reality it’s lights out by 11pm.
In closing, perhaps I should follow the advice hubby continues to offer me, encouraging me to respond to the question ‘What do you then?’ with a swift “Oh, I’m a sex editor.” Leave a dramatic pause and wait for the inevitable response: “A ‘sex’ editor?” and confirm “yes, I’m a text editor,” leaving them to wonder if they have a one-track mind. Perverts! 🙂
Are you also self-employed? What does your average day look like? Would you ever consider going back to a regular office job?
And if you are employed (which is absolutely not any better or worse than being self-employed!), do you ever think of becoming self-employed?
As always I’m curious to hear your thoughts and responses, thank you! Zarina xx