RANTS & RANDOMS

What I’ve Learned from being a Blogger Turned Full-Time Writer

July 17, 2016

Delia Food Stories

I remember when this blogging world was all fields – lovely, hazy meadows with skinny wild flowers waving their heads gently in the breeze. We would all skip along holding hands, telling each other nice things and thinking about kittens. We were friendly, is what I’m saying, and it was a rosy little place full of mostly good intentions – everyone did it because they loved cooking and sharing recipes with other people. There certainly wasn’t any money in it.

Twice a week we’d tappy tap out a recipe on the keyboard and post some just-about-acceptable photos to go with it, then sit and wait eagerly for comments. People used to comment a lot more. They were eager to chat, to let you know they were reading, to just say hello or start a conversation about a recipe.

The world of blogging now, in certain corners, is toxic. Self-promotion is important for a successful blog but it seems like it’s all that people care about. Motivations do not come from the same sunny place and I feel like those of us who started doing it for the love are constantly being advanced on by a dark army of idiots with giant SLRs.

So there are the ones who make us all look bad, the blogs that are just free advertising space, then at the darkest end of the spectrum, there is the clean eating brigade, who are either dangerously narcissistic or just not very well. That’s how this little world of ours has evolved. How sad.

This is what the internet used to look like.

This is what the internet used to look like.

I’ve been thinking, while all this has been happening, about how much my life has changed since I first started this blog. That was ten years ago now, and what began as a hobby has become my full-time job. I split my days between freelance food/recipe and travel writing, my role as food and drink editor at Londonist, and the occasional sponsored content on here.

I am very happy, but I’ve made a shitload of mistakes along the way and since I’ve now been doing it for a good while I thought it might be helpful or interesting to share a few things I’ve learned, particularly about lifestyle and how to look after your mental health.

One of the biggest changes for me has been making the jump from working 9-5 in an office to working from home. Oh, how I used to dream of this when I was chained to a desk. Imagine the possibilities! Cooking whatever you like for lunch, popping out to see a friend perhaps, making your own work schedule, even just having time to do all the domestic shit like put a wash on. And yes, all those things can happen but guess what? Uh huh – it isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. I’ll start with some basic advice for bloggers or indeed any writers who are thinking about going full time.

Oh and I’ve illustrated this post almost entirely with photos of cats. Soz.

Look After Yourself

Get showered and dressed

Seems like something you’d always do, right? It’s amazing how quickly you become really lazy. When I first started working from home it could be 11am before I showered. Don’t do it. Getting up and ready as normal makes you feel like you’re actually doing a job which is good because guess what? You are.

Make a proper work space

Again, this seems obvious but now your office is your home, you’ll need somewhere you can call a work space – somewhere you can shut the door on if you want to switch off because trust me, switching off is going to be a problem.

Exercise

This is something I’ve found really helpful. Who knew, eh? Being a food writer can make you fat and that is what happened to me. I became very unhappy and the combination of being upset about my weight and working in isolation was a dangerous thing. I now train with someone 4 or 5 times a week. Is it expensive? Yep. To me, though, it’s a non-negotiable expense. It gets me up, gets me moving for the day and finally the weight is coming off. I’m so much happier now, and you can’t put a price on that.

This is like exercise, right?

This is like exercise, right?

Remember to leave the house

Another reason why the exercise is helpful. Just getting out and walking, clearing your head and looking at something other than your computer screen is really important for your mental health. You don’t realise how much even the journey to work, stressful as it may be, performs that important function.

Be strict about your working hours

I am still bad at this. Working for yourself is so scary in many ways that it’s really quite hard to switch off. You’re worried all the time that no one will ever want you to work for them again so you constantly push push push to make sure everything is done. The result for me on many occasions has been that I’ve taken on more work than I reasonably have time to do.

The e-mails are always there and because you never actually leave the office, you can always just start working again before you even know what you’re doing. E-mails are a menace and I can easily spend 4 hours a day on them alone. Be ruthless – when work is over it’s over. Like I said, though, I still haven’t managed this myself.

Get some accounting software

Boring but important. I use Wave. You’ll also need to put money aside to pay your tax bill. YAWN.

Keep an eye on your mental state

Okay, now we’re getting into the meaty stuff. Working from home, alone, can drive you a bit loopy. I’ve had some quite difficult periods where I’ve struggled to cope. One of the main issues, for me, is the fact that there’s no longer anyone else to bounce ideas or problems off. When I worked in an office all I could think about was finally getting away from the bullshit office politics, and then I realised working alone came with its own set of problems.

It’s very easy to become extremely stressed out because things can get out of perspective quickly. What is, in fact, a tiny problem can become a big one because there’s no one at the next desk to give you any perspective, there’s no office full of people with their own problems to give you points of reference. It’s hard and as someone who constantly feels guilty about things anyway for no reason at all, it’s something I really have to keep an eye on.

Is this called hygiene? Also, why is your pastry so shit?

Is this called hygiene? Also, why is your pastry so shit?

Think carefully about which opportunities are worth taking

I get approached by brands and PRs constantly. It’s part of my job and I no longer see them as the enemy, as many bloggers do. When something’s a hobby, PR contact is quite annoying, but now I do actually have to read every press release. Anyway, the point here is about being selective. As I said before it’s scary working for yourself because you feel constantly scared that you’ll run out of opportunities so you might end up taking offers that deep down, you don’t really want to do. This can play havoc with your image and also with your emotions, so be careful. What I do now is ask myself this question: would I write about this if I wasn’t being paid money to do it? That usually makes the decision quite simple. You might make mistakes, though, and that’s okay.

Dude, HOW many unread e-mails?

Dude, HOW many unread e-mails?

You might make some mistakes

And here’s the biggie. Oh man, have I made some whoppers. There are a couple of jobs I’ve taken on in the past which I definitely shouldn’t have done. It was a combination of pressure from people I was working with to do them, desperation to make the writing work and, frankly the fact that I needed the money. We were in financial shit at the time and I did a couple of things that I felt I had to, to survive. Biggest regrets of my career as a writer so far.

It took me about two years to get over the emotional trauma of making those mistakes (I told you they were big) and I’m still upset about them now – the difference is that I know it’s not the end of the world. It happens. I’ve had conversations with people since who’ve done similar things and I’ve had to put it down to experience. It’s easy to think everyone else’s path to success is perfect when you see artfully styled selfies on Instagram, all the trendies beaming out of a photo at someone’s book launch. Well, you know what? Their lives aren’t perfect either – the difference is they just pretend they are.

I've had my share of face palm moments.

I’ve had my share of face palm moments.

Final thoughts

That was all a bit emotional so here are some final thoughts on a more light-hearted note.

You need to be prepared for your house to turn into a Royal Mail delivery depot. I live in a block of 40 flats and am often one of the only people at home during the day.

Consider getting a giant padlock for your fridge and lobbing away the key because that bastard is right down the hall and it’s going to be a problem. See also: exercise.

Tea will take on a level of importance you never thought possible. Some people do it with coffee, I believe.

The tea area.

The tea area.

Don’t buy a TV or download any gaming apps on your phone – ever. If you start a box set be prepared to lose two full weekdays.

Don’t kid yourself about hangovers. Yeah, so you can get up a little later maybe, and no one else really knows where you are, but it’s just too anxiety provoking when you get behind with work. Not worth the guilt or hassle. Be professional.

Don’t do a PhD at the same time. Really dumb. They’re hard enough when people do them full-time, APPARENTLY.

Finally, there will be a time when you neglect your blog – it’s inevitable. People are paying you to write and so you must prioritise that work. I’ve started posting on here regularly again because I love it, and also because I can write what I damn well like. I really didn’t realise what a wonderful thing that is until people started giving me job specs and editing my work. It’s about freedom and creativity and it’s my own little happy corner of the internet. I fully intend to keep it that way.

You Might Also Like

70 Comments

  • Reply Aaron Vallance (1dish4theroad) July 17, 2016 at 5:44 pm

    As a newbie food blogger, I found your reflections really fascinating. Learning from mistakes is so true. I think I’ve been lucky to have found some friendly co-bloggers, and have yet to encounter the dark side of blogging! Good luck with it all! ☺️

    • Helen Graves
      Reply Helen Graves July 17, 2016 at 5:47 pm

      Ha! Yes there are still plenty of lovely bloggers out there, it’s just interesting to see how the whole scene has changed. I’m really pleased you liked the post 🙂

  • Reply Alex July 17, 2016 at 6:14 pm

    Helen, I’ve been a long term reader in various guises since the meatwagon days – whatever the whoppers were, you’ve either buried those corpses well or I enjoyed them anyway.

    Some bloggers are the most naked sell-outs, I’ve never considered you to be one and I’ve always enjoyed your writing.

    Alex

    • Helen Graves
      Reply Helen Graves July 17, 2016 at 6:59 pm

      Thank you, Alex! That’s such a nice thing to say. Ahh, the meatwagon days, eh? And now a Meatliquor is opening in East Dulwich!

  • Reply Lizzie July 17, 2016 at 7:52 pm

    Useful article for anyone about to work for themselves I think – not just food bloggers ????????

  • Reply Lizzie July 17, 2016 at 7:53 pm

    Not sure why that comment has all the question marks btw – the original was some emojis…

    • Helen Graves
      Reply Helen Graves July 17, 2016 at 9:34 pm

      Oh haha, I just thought you were REALLY asking the question.

  • Reply Marcus Bawdon July 17, 2016 at 8:01 pm

    Great advice, I’ve always worked in my pretty sheltered little BBQ/Meaty niche a lovely quiet little place with hardly anyone in it…but it seems to be changing as more and more people are getting interested in BBQ…I’m very cautious bu have made a few mistakes in my 5 years….the thing about mistakes is they are an important part of growing
    Cheers
    Marcus

    • Helen Graves
      Reply Helen Graves July 17, 2016 at 9:34 pm

      Absolutely. I wish my mistakes hadn’t been so huge but hey, you’re right, it’s all part of the journey and accepting that makes things much easier.

  • Reply Alexandra July 17, 2016 at 9:19 pm

    Hi Helen, I just wanted to say hello and thankyou so much for such a brilliant post…I’ve been blogging for a while and while there are some lovely people out there, there are also those who can make you feel less than great about your work if you let them. It’s incredibly hard at times (most of the time actually!) not to compare yourself to everyone else and what they’re doing and achieving and to how many people compared to you but I just try to remind myself how much I love to write and how much I love food in all its forms and I try to rise above my own inner ‘Negative Nelly!’. Thankyou for your honesty…I loved it. xx

    • Helen Graves
      Reply Helen Graves July 17, 2016 at 9:36 pm

      Isn’t comparison just the worst thing? Not just with writing but in general. I love that quote which says something like ‘don’t compare the inside of your life with the outside of someone else’s’ – a goodun worth remembering I think.

  • Reply Alicia (foodycat) July 17, 2016 at 9:29 pm

    Your cats are so photogenic!

    • Helen Graves
      Reply Helen Graves July 17, 2016 at 9:36 pm

      Ha! Yeah they’re model cats for sure.

      • Reply Alicia (foodycat) July 18, 2016 at 8:34 am

        That obviously wasn’t my main thought about this post, I just wasn’t able to articulate properly.

        • Helen Graves
          Reply Helen Graves July 18, 2016 at 10:36 am

          That’s okay! Cat comments are always welcome 🙂

  • Reply Niamh July 17, 2016 at 10:33 pm

    I agree with all of this, Helen, and I too have made mistakes. Absolute corkers, massive ones! But, you know, that is how we learn, right? Working from home can be so hard. I have started to hate it.

    Some people will always be critical, particularly about sponsored content, I think the secret is being very sure of it as you describe above. I do the same. My readers don’t mind at all and actually are quite positive about it most of the time. As are yours, I am sure. I am open to constructive criticism and always think about it but if I realise that people are just being bitchy or negative, I immediately tune it out.

    • Helen Graves
      Reply Helen Graves July 18, 2016 at 6:44 am

      Yeah I have had both sets of comments about sponsored content but I found when I did my reader survey that actually most people don’t care at all as long as it is clearly labelled! I was surprised. There are always people out there ready to have a pop I guess, which is sad. Despite everything though I do still love working from home. I guess we just have to get through those difficult periods and I know you struggle like I do. It seems that everyone does which I’m kind of relieved to hear!

  • Reply Amanda July 17, 2016 at 11:16 pm

    Hi Helen – and thanks for writing this post. You’ve put so much common sense into words that I don’t know which bits I like best.
    The business of looking after ourselves is paramount. I’ve seen the slight look of scorn on the faces of delivery people when I’ve answered the door in pyjamas – at noon. And I don’t know why I was surprised to discover that I’d lost all my muscle tone. What did I think would happen if I sat on my bum in front of a screen for 12 months?
    And don’t get me started on all of the shallow poseurs, self-promoters and pretenders in the field – especially on social media. If anything makes me give this gig away it will be my despair over the growing lack of authenticity – a trend which makes me wonder why I still make the effort some days.

    • Helen Graves
      Reply Helen Graves July 18, 2016 at 6:46 am

      HA HA yes the delivery people! My DPS guy (yes I do refer to him like that, and I know his name) is so used to it now he’s just really friendly but I used to feel like saying ‘oh sorry I’m ill’ or something equally ridiculous when actually I just wasn’t dressed yet.

      And yes to the growing lack of authenticity, that’s exactly what it is.

  • Reply Mabbs July 18, 2016 at 5:21 am

    Great advice here, Gravemund. I’ve always envied the home worker’s life, until I had an accident and had to work from home for two weeks. It drove me totally bonkers. Nothing but admiration for the people who have the discipline to do it!

    I’ve always believed strongly that it’s better to regret things that you did do, rather than those you didn’t.

    I’m always here for idea-bouncing if you need it! Lots of love xoxox

    • Helen Graves
      Reply Helen Graves July 18, 2016 at 6:47 am

      Brilliant advice there Mabbers in the bit about regretting what you did do rather than what you didn’t. That’s a good un! Also thanks dude, I know you’re there for me. You’re awesome xxx

  • Reply Tenele July 18, 2016 at 5:52 am

    Wow I can relate to so much of this. I left employment to run my own cake decorating business from home and I went slightly nuts. I thought it would all be sunshine and chocolate but it was getting around in track pants with no make up and crazy hair. Talking to the cats as if they were human (no more cutesy voices) and I became a total bore, no outside contact with the world gave me little to talk about. It was a bit depressing really.

    • Helen Graves
      Reply Helen Graves July 18, 2016 at 6:48 am

      Haha! I still do the cutsey voices I’m afraid, it’s just now I’m more in danger of doing them to actual people.

  • Reply Neil Davey July 18, 2016 at 8:12 am

    Great piece. Interesting to read as I sort of came it all from the opposite side – Freelance Journalist who then blogged – and am about to dip a toe back in the waters on a website / blog project with some other journalists who are as fed up as I am with the commissioning structure in some places, and looking to get back to writing for pleasure. There are many days I feel like the only thing I’ve written are email replies…

    Some sound advice there. I’d add that smart phones and standard responses are a very useful combo: I reply to non-urgent invitations etc while on public transport as my phone’s predictive text has learned my stock ‘thanks would love to attend/thanks but no thanks’ responses. I also use tube journeys to file away lots of general info press releases and e mails rather than have that cut into my work day. I’d also add ‘don’t beat yourself up over non-constructive days’. There are many days I’ve felt like I’ve achieved nothing but, actually, I’ve either then blitzed everything I needed to do in matter of minutes later that day or the following day. Sometimes the subconscious needs a little time to find solutions. You eventually spot the signs though and those are the days I might head somewhere new for lunch, or take a walk in the park or watch a movie. It all gets done and, if you cast your mind back to days in offices, with the phone going, people stopping at your desk for chats, etc., you soon realise that you get more done in the average hour as a freelancer than many get done in a morning in an office.

    I also know what you mean about the purity of writing, of blogging / writing for pleasure and personal fulfilment. I found myself sitting next to a group of ‘next gen’ bloggers at an event recently, and the talk wasn’t of places theyd just discovered or trips they were planning or great flavour combos they’d just created, it was all about hit rates, hashtags that have boosted their social media response rate, and moaning incredulously about other bloggers who have been invited to things they haven’t been when, well, they don’t even host their own site or bother photoshopping their images…. If it ever feels like work, surely you’re doing it wrong?!

    • Helen Graves
      Reply Helen Graves July 18, 2016 at 10:35 am

      Oh my goodness that’s so depressing about the bloggers! SO depressing.

      That’s a really excellent point you make about the non-productive days and I’m really glad you left this comment because that should’ve been in the post. I think it’s not because that’s something I’m only just getting the hang of now. It’s so true. Sometimes I can bash out several tasks in a couple of hours, when I would’ve sat around for hours not being able to write anything which is a total waste of time.

  • Reply Sudi Pigott July 18, 2016 at 8:59 am

    Hi Helen Really useful and honest stuff, even from an old pro like me who still has those times of doubts and blocks when need plenty of help to push on. Prioritising often hard.. I admire your honesty and am going to take some of your advice. Started with a good walk this morning to ensure I wasn’t working on my own all day. I’m determined to start blogging more to have my own space. Would be lovely if our paths crossed sometime. That don’t compare the inside of your life with the outside of someone else’s is so true. Sudi x

    • Helen Graves
      Reply Helen Graves July 18, 2016 at 10:37 am

      Yes, I am sure our paths must cross at some point! Have definitely seen you from the other side of the room at an event or two but never made it over to hi. It’s great to hear from established writers that the same issues are still relevant. We have to stick together! x

  • Reply Morrighani July 18, 2016 at 9:02 am

    An enjoyable read. Keen to expand my blogging horizons (I’ve been doing it almost as long as you ) but also quite like not making any money from it so I can write what I like!

    • Helen Graves
      Reply Helen Graves July 18, 2016 at 10:37 am

      I think there are ways of doing sponsored content, and I do run it occasionally, but yeah, it’s lovely to have a space with total freedom.

  • Reply Tara July 18, 2016 at 9:02 am

    Thanks for the advice! I went freelance as a print designer last year and am still finding it difficult to remember to leave the house and exercise – good advice, thanks for the reminder – I managed to avoid leaving the house for two whole days last week (really bad! It’s so much easier to remember in this lovely weather!)

    I was wondering, would you not recommend getting an accountant rather than using accounting software? I’d like to manage the financial side myself but I’m kinda thinking that time = money so might be best handing it to a professional?

    Thanks xox

    • Helen Graves
      Reply Helen Graves July 18, 2016 at 10:38 am

      When I say accounting software, I mean somewhere to log your expenses and send invoices. I pay an accountant to do my tax return every year.

  • Reply Rachel Wobus July 18, 2016 at 9:05 am

    You have a really engaging and honest sincere style, totally enjoyed reading this thank you. I part time write and pay time work as I’m not sure full time writing is for me yet! And yes re showers, otherwise the dressing gown takes over hmm

    • Helen Graves
      Reply Helen Graves July 18, 2016 at 10:38 am

      That’s lovely of you to say, Rachel, thank you 🙂

  • Reply Sarah July 18, 2016 at 10:16 am

    I’m not sure what those mistakes were! Perhaps they weren’t glaring ones to the outside world – though there was a time when I was too busy to follow blogs for a while.

    I started a new blog this year and I think I’ve been inspired by you and your love of Peckham. Mine is mostly focused on my local neighbourhood (Tottenham), which keeps getting better and better. Though the closest I come to a press trip now is a short walk to whatever new venture has just started on the local industrial estate…

    It’s going to remain a hobby now – I feel I’ve dropped the ball a bit as I haven’t updated it since starting my new job. The new job is a keeper – the blog was an antidote to the old one!

    • Helen Graves
      Reply Helen Graves July 18, 2016 at 10:40 am

      That’s lovely that you felt inspired by the blog! I loved doing the really hyper-local stuff and it’s something I’m definitely going to get back into in the future. Don’t beat yourself up about having non-productive blog periods, it’s inevitable with a new job.

  • Reply Lynne Clark (josordoni) July 18, 2016 at 10:22 am

    Really sensible advice Helen. I started working from home, by myself, in the 1990s, and although there were no smartphones or fancy apps to take up my time, there were Dungeon and Dragon games, bulletin boards and forums, and working friends at the end of the phone. I was so frightened by what I had decided to do that it actually made me freeze and stopped me doing the work I should have been that would have made me a success.
    In the summer, there were days when I didn’t actually dress at all, just played on the computer, naked, until just before my husband would get home. Then I would scurry to look as though I had spent a full day working hard. I now realise that I was suffering from heavy depression, so that is also something to keep a wary eye out for.
    About 10 years ago I also started my blogging, and I also loved the feeling of community and the friendliness of the foodistas at that time. Then recently, it has become more about numbers and monetising. I hated it, and really let the blogs drop away. But there was also a bit of me that was hugely envious of the rewards that a small group of people were gleaning from their monetising, and that this was a group that refused to let me in. So I walked away from it all, it was making me too negative, too focussed on what I didn’t have, and that was not going to keep me well, was it?
    So now, I rarely work with PR companies – which is not to say I wouldn’t like to, just that I am not often approached – and simply write my recipes, with my scaggy pictures, as I used to.
    I am a more relaxed person all round, I think.

    Oh, and yes, I get washed and dressed in the morning now. Well, my husband works with me now. I don’t think he would appreciate working alongside a fat, naked lady!

    • Helen Graves
      Reply Helen Graves July 18, 2016 at 10:45 am

      Thanks for your comment Lynne. I think it’s a really hard lifestyle and if you’re in a bad place then I assume it can only make things worse. It sounds like you’re doing great now, though 🙂

      I really miss the community feeling with blogging, and I just don’t think it’s something that will come back unless we really try and encourage it.

      • Reply Lynne Clark (josordoni) July 18, 2016 at 2:58 pm

        i totally agree that we should encourage it; I think Twitter helps some, but what other ideas do you have? It isn’t always possible to meet up face to face (no time) and, for some people, an online community is actually preferable. I miss the old forums, they used to be excellent for establishing a feeling of support.

        • Helen Graves
          Reply Helen Graves July 18, 2016 at 3:54 pm

          I don’t have all the answers I’m afraid… I wish I did!

  • Reply Danny July 18, 2016 at 10:38 am

    Add don’t do television adverts. Because for the rest of your life, some people will forever call you ‘Power Bald’.

    Otherwise, this was very informative. I do pine about the good ol’ days sometimes.

    • Helen Graves
      Reply Helen Graves July 18, 2016 at 10:46 am

      LOLZ!!! Haha. Sorry, it was just too easy. How about just PB?

  • Reply Hazel Smith July 18, 2016 at 11:56 am

    You are lucky your writing has been accepted and that you get *PAID* for it. I’ve recently had 4 articles accepted by a travel magazine/webiste. They don’t pay. But I love it. I am also taking my BA in art history at the same time. Uh oh.

    • Helen Graves
      Reply Helen Graves July 18, 2016 at 12:55 pm

      You’re right, I am lucky, but also I have done some unpaid work in the past. I have my fingers in a lot of different pies too, in order to earn a living. It ain’t easy but we have to make it work I guess. As long as you love it, that’s the main thing. It’s when you stop loving it that the problems start.

  • Reply Louise July 19, 2016 at 9:57 am

    Thank you for this. I thought it was just me and everyone else had their shit together. I am working on all of the above, especially the idea of getting dressed and exercise. I get by talking to myself and the dog. When the dog starts talking back I shall seek help, in the meantime I shall take comfort in not being alone.

    • Helen Graves
      Reply Helen Graves July 19, 2016 at 11:46 am

      Yes, I do the same with my cats! Animals are brilliant at keeping us sane.

  • Reply Hannah Jade July 19, 2016 at 11:34 am

    I wish I’d been around in the old blogging days! I’ve been at it for a few years now but so often it’s a popularity contest based on self-promotion and what others can do for you rather than genuine interest and friendship…I guess that’s what happens when money starts to get involved, and I’d imagine a lot of young people use blogging in the hopes that it’ll help them get a job. At least we can always find solace in old-style food media!

    • Helen Graves
      Reply Helen Graves July 19, 2016 at 11:48 am

      Yeah it’s a shame and of course I don’t want to romanticise it too much but yeah, nowadays things can get depressing. There are still plenty of lovely people out there of course.

  • Reply Sally - My Custard Pie July 19, 2016 at 3:51 pm

    Hallelujah. Pretty much everything struck a chord here. From putting on weight to making sure to get out of your pyjamas to the guilt factor. I recently wrote an article about blogging for a publication and I pretty much said exactly this as my motivation for blogging: ” It’s about freedom and creativity and it’s my own little happy corner of the internet.”
    The blogging community has changed but I still meet really brilliant new people (including new bloggers) who are motivated by this too.
    I thought you might end this post by saying you were stopping the blog – so glad you didn’t. Love reading your writing (horribly allergic to cats).

    • Helen Graves
      Reply Helen Graves July 19, 2016 at 4:02 pm

      Oh ha ha! Of course, it hadn’t even occurred to me that it might sound like I was stopping. NEVER! Well, not any time soon, anyway.

      Thanks Sally, glad it all rings true.

  • Reply Gillie July 19, 2016 at 7:48 pm

    This advice is also spot on for full time mum’s. It’s so easy to get locked into the house without any adult conversation, and the personal hygiene begins to slip, the fridge becomes your best friend ever, and adult life begins to get lost in a sea of nappies and bottles.

    I’ve loved every single of your articles! You bring a sparkle and happiness to your writing. You love food and it shows. There isn’t any of the ennui of the jaded foodie pallet, or the chasing of the food/ingredient/drink of the moment. You write about what you like to eat, what you want to fall face first into, and even more lovely is your willingness to talk about your mistakes. Makes the rest of us not feel like such losers in the kitchen when things go pear shaped and inedible. As for your mistakes? Well, we have to do what we need to do to keep the lights on and the money coming in. In this corner of the web you are adored, so take a deep breath, step over that mistake and keep going.

    • Helen Graves
      Reply Helen Graves July 20, 2016 at 7:33 am

      Ah! Yes I can imagine. I don’t have kids as you’ve probably ascertained but I can certainly see how this applies.

      Thank you so much for your kind words, too. These comments really make my day.

  • Reply Chris July 20, 2016 at 8:30 pm

    I thought at first that was going to be the worlds longest resignation letter.

    Glad it was the opposite – have enjoyed reading your posts – and never commenting before ???? – for many years!

    Keep on keeping on

    • Helen Graves
      Reply Helen Graves July 21, 2016 at 8:25 am

      Haha! Someone else said that and I really hadn’t thought about how it sounded until they said it. Lovely to have a comment from you after all these years though, so thank you 🙂

  • Reply Deborah July 20, 2016 at 10:30 pm

    As long as you have those cats you’ll be fine. I mean it! 🙂

  • Reply MattB July 21, 2016 at 4:36 pm

    This is brilliant: so much of what you say here can totally be applied to academic life. As in, working from home, needing to do exercise, spending all your time alone etc. Totally agree on the PhD too: my partner has spent the past few years doing one (I did one 8 or 9 years ago) and it is so all-encompassing and bereft of proper boundaries that you really need to get your shit together in this way. Thankfully she’s finished now, and we’re in the process of starting a sort of politically-motivated food/travel blog – we live abroad and travel a lot so think we possibly have interesting things to say – so this is all so helpful in helping think through pitfalls etc. Great post.

    • Helen Graves
      Reply Helen Graves July 21, 2016 at 4:52 pm

      Thanks Matt. Good God do I wish my PhD happened 8 or 9 years ago! haha. Well done for getting through it. It’s just weird, with academic work, how one little problem can take an age to work though. You’ve written most of a paper and then one bastard number can hold you up for a month.

  • Reply Jess July 27, 2016 at 1:51 pm

    One of the commenters above mentioned that some of this applies to doing a PhD and I definitely agree! I work from home some days and I definitely find the bit about creating boundaries the hardest bit. I guess in part because you’re in charge of measuring ‘have I done enough?’ each day, and that becomes a bit more difficult when it’s not an office job and you can physically *leave* your place of work. Anyway, thank you for this. And also as a long-term reader, just want to comment that the fact that you’ve started blogging a bit more again recently hasn’t gone unnoticed and is appreciated (even though I understand paid work is a priority for a freelancer)!

    • Helen Graves
      Reply Helen Graves July 27, 2016 at 7:25 pm

      Yeah I think it can apply to a lot of jobs where you’re at home along. I’m just so chuffed everyone has found it so useful.

      Also, I’m so pleased people are noticing that I’m blogging much more again. I went through a period where I wasn’t very happy and the blog suffered, then I did the reader survey and everyone said they missed the blog so I’ve made an effort to find time for it again. I’m so glad I did because I didn’t realise how much it makes me happy. I’m really glad you enjoy reading. Thanks so much for your comment 🙂

  • Reply Abbie July 27, 2016 at 5:19 pm

    Hey, just came across your article on Twitter and really loved it – as a fellow food writer who quit her job just over a year ago (having now waded into the self-employed/freelance life for long enough to feel like I’m far from the shore) I *so* understand all of this – the anxiety, the guilt, the fear (oh my god the fear). Good to see you seem to have a handle on it all, it’s important to know not to compare yourself to other people’s showreel. If you ever need a natter, I’m all about the co-working days and would be happy to link up 🙂 They keep me sane, and hearing someone else talk about that issue or problem or epiphany makes such a difference. Abbie x

  • Reply Meg August 3, 2016 at 1:53 pm

    Thanks for a very useful article on the realities of working for yourself. I’ve just survived my first year as a freelance writer and artist (after an MA) and while I’m pretty used to motivating myself, boy I was not ready for the fear about where the next job was coming from, which to take etc., not to mention the general lack of structure and human contact. I’m glad to hear you’re doing well. I’ve found exercise a massive help too – never thought I’d ever go to the gym four times a week but it does work. As Tim Minchin says about exercise, ‘they’re right, you’re wrong – just do it.’ 🙂

    • Helen Graves
      Reply Helen Graves August 3, 2016 at 6:38 pm

      Brilliant Tim Minchin quote! I shall use that, thank you. I don’t think I could do without the exercise now as I had a particularly difficult period recently and I honestly think working out was really helpful for helping me to keep my shit together.

  • Reply Leslie December 29, 2016 at 1:00 pm

    I know I’m posting this well late to the party but I have to agree with this post x1000. I went freelance (as a music PR and part time music journo) about 10 years ago. I worked from home for the first 2.5 years and made Every. Single. Mistake. listed above. I don’t even know where to start with what I agree with most, but I’d echo the sentiment about a designated work station and reminding yourself that when work is done, it’s DONE. Whatever you do, keep your laptop (and phones/iPads/etc) out of your bedroom, otherwise you’ll wake up at 3am for a glass of water and be tempted to start answering emails again. I swear I didn’t sleep for more than two hours at a stretch for that first 2.5 years – literally. I eventually took some very cheap shared office space and worked from there 3 days a week and the other two at home (enforcing a strict “no weekends unless it’s an emergency” rule) and it was 100% worth the extra money.

  • Reply Jeanette January 15, 2017 at 10:56 am

    Thanks for such an honest, helpful and humorous post I’ve been chuckilng away with coffee in hand. I’m no food blogger ( just a greedy cow who loves food & cooking) and actually work from home as a knitwear designer. Having had 7 months off due to illness I’ve recently returned to work and thought taking up the 31 day blogging challenge would encourage me to write as part of my recovery (I had a couple of brain tumours removed so please excuse any rambling and /or mistakes). Whilst I found daily blogging a huge challenge, it took me 2 and a half hour hours to write what should have been a 15 min post, but it definitely becoming less of a chore and much more enjoyable. Reading your post just proves that the best blogs are written by those, like you, who post for pleasure rather than for the £. Thank you!

    • Helen Graves
      Reply Helen Graves January 18, 2017 at 12:48 pm

      What a lovely comment Jeanette, thank you. It really did become very clear how lucky I am to have this site when I started taking commissions from others. You rarely get to say half of what you’d like to, and there are so many constraints it can be disheartening. It sounds like you are enjoying writing for pleasure again, too. Here’s wishing you the best of luck with your recovery.

  • Reply Peach April 2, 2017 at 9:56 am

    What lovely perspective on a double edged industry with so much potential for good! Only just stumbled across this post at random, but will certainly be reading the rest of the blog now. Keep up the good work!

    xo
    Peach

  • Reply Meg August 9, 2017 at 4:24 pm

    Slightly different but a year ago I quit my full time job and started my own company. I’ve now started food blogging as well and I love it (and am hoping to do more of it). I wish I’d read this article when I’d just quit my job – I used to hate being chained up in an office and I would never (ever) go back to working for someone else because I love the freedom but the struggle to remember to look after yourself mentally and stay focused is so real when you start out (and even some days now!). Thanks for the great article!

    • Helen Graves
      Reply Helen Graves August 9, 2017 at 5:13 pm

      The struggle is indeed VERY real when you first start. Now I start work earlier than ever but omg I remember just flailing around when I first started, thrilled at the idea that I could just do what I liked. I realised um, not that quickly actually, that doing that wasn’t going to get me anywhere! Well done on making the move, by the way, I hope it’s all worked out for you 🙂

    Leave a Reply