My Freelance Story – Jo Savill: Science Communicator


Freelance Interview with Jo Savill. Jo is based in Tel Aviv, Israel after moving there two and a half years ago from Australia to be with her now husband. Jo is a Freelance Science Communicator and also writes a blog about entrepreneurship and running a small business.

She says she’s still in the beginner’s stage of being a freelancer, and she’s still constantly learning new things about being her own boss.

What Work Did You Do Before You Went Freelance?

I’m a Science Communicator, which means I’m an expert in communicating everything from the simple to the complex in a wide range of formats. I’ve given science performances to thousands of people, written for websites, magazines and newspapers, implemented strategic communication plans, managed scientific grant proposals and managed numerous projects and events.

I’ve worked in a big4 accounting firm managing science grant proposals, for research institutes communicating their research and in a science centre developing kids’ activities.

What Triggered You Going Freelance?

Immediately before I started freelancing I was working in a job that I did not find fulfilling. The hours were long, the pay not good, and the work uninspiring. I wasn’t using the skills that I knew I had, and instead was fitting in the mould of what the bureaucracy wanted. After many months of being unhappy with my job, I finally quit and went out on my own.

On top of this, I had moved to Israel from Australia, and I found working in such a different cultural environment challenging. Considering freelancers are well paid in Australia, I thought I should use the connections I had to work online from Israel for Australian clients.

Where Did You Find The Help Or Advice You Needed?

Jo Savill Freelance Science CommunicatorTo start with, I asked people I knew who were freelancers back in Australia for information on being a freelancer in my industry, like how to write and invoice, what kind of prices I should charge, how I should charge clients, etc. That was extremely helpful because I was finding it hard to find this information online. I then just went with my instincts, emailing former colleagues and friends to tell them that I was now a Freelance Science Communicator.

When I started asking questions about how to get more clients, how to create a better freelance business, I went online and started reading. I got lots of ideas online, some of which I’ve put in place.

What’s The Best Thing About Being A Freelancer?

The freedom. The freedom to work from home, open a window, sleep in when I’m tired, be my own boss, and create my own future. I love that I don’t have to deal with office politics, bosses I don’t respect, and unpleasant working conditions.

What’s The Hardest Thing About Being A Freelancer?

I find that my fears are my worst enemy as a freelancer. The fear that you won’t be able to earn enough money from this path. The fear that what you’re producing isn’t want your clients want. The fear that you’re missing out of career progression by doing your own thing. The difficulty of getting stuck and being uncertain as to how to progress.

The way that I deal with these fears is to keep on doing things that build my business, whether that is writing a blog entry or emailing a potential client, the only way to put those fears aside is to keep doing. Sharing my concerns with a close friend also helps to put them in perspective.

How Do You Find Your Clients?

I started by contacting people I used to work with back in Australia, and received some work through them. Since then, I’ve gained new clients mainly through word of mouth. I read mailing lists from my industry (the Australian Science Communicators in particular), which sometimes lists freelance opportunities. I also try to stay present in the minds of my friends via Facebook, because I see them as my best ambassadors.

How Do You Manage Your Time?

This is an on-going challenge for me. I try to be quite fluid with my working time. I make sure that I meet friends for coffee during the day to get me out of the house.

One technique that I find works well is using 20-30min blocks of time (and set a kitchen timer) to get me started on challenging projects that I try to put off. I promise to work on just one thing until the timer goes off, which is important for me as I tend to try and do too many things at once!

I write lists each day with the top things I want to achieve on them. I’ve found I’m still learning how to manage my time, and I’m enjoying the process of figuring out what works best for me.

Do You Have A Daily Routine Or Work To Set Hours?

Not really. I tend to wake up late and work later into the evening. I enjoy the flexibility of doing errands during the day when I need to.

What Technology, Websites, Or Apps Are Invaluable To Your Working Life?

My Samsung galaxy II smart phone is invaluable – I can read important emails when they come in even when I’m not in front of the computer. This gives me more freedom during my days.

Jo Savill at WorkI enjoy using Evernote to store ideas for my business, interesting things I come across, and drafts of articles I’m working on.

Social Media is the devil, but it also helps me immensely with self-promotion and keeping in touch with friends and contacts. My favourite is Facebook, because I have a strong network there, but I enjoy Pinterest a lot, and it doesn’t seem to take up as much time.

I find it really helpful to set up filters on my Gmail so that all the newsletters I’ve signed up to don’t appear in my inbox, and only the important messages do (using the ‘straight to archive’ option). This means I can set aside time to catch up on email newsletters without letting them disturb me during the day.

How Do You Manage Your Clients?

Seeing as I work from home, I try to be in regular email contact with my clients, so they know that I am paying attention to their needs, responding promptly to emails and skyping when it’s necessary.

Would You Do Anything Differently If You Had To Start Again?

I’m trying to think what I would change, but every idea I come up with is something I can still do! So I would say that I would just go for it from the beginning – contact every relevant person and put myself out there to get a strong client base right from the start. Saying that, it’s something I can still do now!

What Advice Would You Give To Anyone Considering Going Freelance?

Go for it! Ignore the voices in your head and get stuck in to finding your clients and doing great work. You can always learn new things along the way and when you encounter them. Ask questions of other freelancers and friends, and you’ll get there!

Follow Jo on Twitter


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