What made you start your own business?
My first freelance business was as a journalist working for women’s magazines. I had previously been employed by a number of magazines as a staff writer however I was craving some more variety and the freedom of being able to work in my own time rather than office hours. I also found office politics was getting me down.
Then in 1998, I re-trained as a complementary therapist and started a new freelance business combining my new training with my journalistic skills to write articles and books on massage and complementary therapies.
I now have my own training school running holistic therapy courses and also have a clinic offering treatments including massage, reflexology, aromatherapy and Indian head massage. This brings plenty of variety and opportunities for professional and personal development which is always important to me.
With my new business, I get the chance to travel to teach, and also meet some really interesting and inspiring people.
How long did it take you to establish yourself/the business?
My first business was not too difficult as I already had a lot of contacts in the journalistic business. My second business has been harder to establish but I have worked really hard and explored lots of different avenues such as social media and giving talks to groups.
Do you have any tips for anyone looking to start out or grow an existing business?
Someone once told me that unless you tell people that you are around, how will they know what they are missing! You can’t expect to put up a website and expect people to come to you, it’s so important to keep up your presence. I took a year out to do a Masters Degree and when I got back to work it was like starting all over again. I try to make a lot of different contacts, people that I really like and trust, and it helps to promote each other’s work.
How has it been juggling your work with your personal life?
One of the reasons for going freelance was that we wanted to have children and I wanted to be a hands-on Mum. We have managed with a variety of child-minders, creches etc and I haven’t ever had to make an excuse to go to a school play or sports day – I just juggle my diary.
What are the biggest challenges you face?
In terms of creating an income I know that I tend to do too much voluntary work and this can be a problem as it takes up so much of my time and I get very tired. Then when I am tired, I don’t do exercise and I get even more tired and less creative, so it’s a downward spiral! Maybe it’s just about realising that you can’t do everything and making priorities especially as you get older!
What are the perks that come with your job?
My real perks are the opportunities that come my way. I never quite know what to expect when I open my emails. Often it is just spam but sometimes there are real treasures. I am just back from working with children affected by the tsunami in Japan which was an amazing experience. And in November, I have been invited to teach in Copenhagen.
Recently, I had an email from a therapist wanting to translate my book on Healing Touch for Children into Japanese. And a couple of years ago, I won an award for Outstanding Achievement in the field of complementary therapies. I also love meeting new people, and many of my massage/reflexology clients have some wonderfully inspiring stories to tell about their lives. As a naturally curious journalist at heart, I love listening and finding out about other people.
How do you tend to find new business?
My new business is from many different sources. Many of my clients and students come to me by word of mouth and personal recommendations but I have found new business through giving talks and through social media. I don’t tend to advertise as I have tried this in the past and not found it to be cost effective.
What advice would you give to aspiring freelancers?
Work with passion. Love what you do. Hold on to your vision and be patient – work will come eventually.
How can our readers find out more about your business?
To find out about the holistic treatments that I offer, or my holistic therapy courses, or books, or to connect via social media then visit my website www.maryatkinson.com