Written by Fiona Thomas
Having lived with depression and anxiety for over a decade, I turned to self-employment not because I wanted to, but because I felt like it offered me the flexibility and freedom to manage my mental illness. Out of Office (https://uk.bookshop.org/a/4750/9781789561241) is my way of letting other people know that freelancing is a viable option. It can give you the lifestyle that traditional employment doesn’t offer.
Since publishing the book in 2020, it’s gone on to be featured in Forbes, The Daily Mail, Stylist and Metro. It’s an Amazon bestseller and was recently shortlisted for a Business Book Award. But how did I do it? Here is a breakdown of my writing process for Out of Office.
I opened my mind to the idea of writing a book about freelancing. My attention was focused on books, podcasts, magazines, newspaper articles, movies and documentaries around the topic. I kept a notepad handy at all times to make a note of any ideas that come to mind, and I really enjoyed this exploratory phase of writing. For non-fiction books I love using the Blinkist app to get a general overview of the key ideas of the books I’m interested in before I read the full book.
Audiobooks are another great way to deepen your understanding of a particular subject area, before you settle on a book idea. I also found it helpful to journal on a daily basis. This allows me to organise my thoughts and free write about anything that’s on my mind. You’ll be surprised at how many brainwaves you have when you’re journaling about nothing in particular.
Once I’d spent a few months mulling over my idea, I got a large piece of paper and wrote down all my thoughts about the book. I find doing this with pen and paper is much more effective than writing out words into a document. Try creating a mind map based on a few of the larger topics and gradually noting down any threads attached to each one.
I worked with a stack of post it notes and copied a single word or idea onto each note. Then, I stuck them on a blank wall. I ended up with lots and lots of sticky notes, but then I was able to rearrange them into a loose structure, grouping similar topics together, then rearranging them into an order that makes sense for the reader.
In Out of Office https://uk.bookshop.org/a/4750/9781789561241, I structured the book to follow the typical journey of someone who wants to go freelance. I start by explaining what freelancing is. I lay out the pros and cons, then offer practical advice on how to get started, grow and develop over time.
Your book might offer a step by step process to solve a specific problem. In which case, you should aim to write the book in a way that makes this as easy as possible for the reader to follow. For example, you’ll probably need to explain some of the concepts early on in the book to allow the reader to understand and implement advice you give later in the book.
If you’re creating a non-fiction book proposal to send out to agents or publishers then you’ll need an outline as part of that. Even if you’re self-publishing you’re going to need some sort of plan in place before you sit down to write. I used my mass of post it notes as the basis of my outline, adding on a short introduction and dividing the book into sections, headings, and subheadings.
I didn’t create the perfect outline. It definitely changed over time, but having the framework as a guide was so helpful for me. It meant when I sat down to write every day I could get straight to work without too much thinking or planning.
It took me about seven months to write the first draft of Out of Office https://uk.bookshop.org/a/4750/9781789561241 alongside running my business. I did that by writing in short bursts more or less every day. Even though I’m a full-time writer, I’ve never been able to write for long stretches of time.
I’m a big fan of the Pomodoro technique, which involves writing without distractions for twenty-five minutes and then taking a five minute break. By repeating this exercise two or three times I can normally crank out a few thousand words.
Working with a professional editor is the best thing about being traditionally published. I learned with my first book that although receiving feedback on your work can be a knock to your ego, it will ultimately make for a better book in the long run. So now I (mostly) welcome editorial feedback and get excited to read their comments whenever I submit a redraft.
Releasing Out of Office https://uk.bookshop.org/a/4750/9781789561241 during a global pandemic was definitely a learning curve! I leaned heavily on my friends and business connections to get the word out about publication, asking everyone any anyone to shout about the book. The PR team were great. They helped me get national radio coverage as well as invitations to appear on podcasts and speak and Stylist Live.
I think a lot of new authors forget that you need to promote your book when it comes out. Remember to clear your diary and schedule in some recovery time in between events and appearances as it can get a bit exhausting. In the months leading up to publication I did a lot of work on my own writer platform. I created a lot of freelancing content on my blog, Instagram account and email marketing.
I also started the Out of Office podcast [https://pod.link/Outofoffice] where I discuss freelancing and offer tips for those looking to make the leap, which has been a brilliant way to maintain interest in the book as those initial PR opportunities become less frequent.
More From Fiona Thomas:
Fiona Thomas is an author and freelance writer with work published in iPaper, Grazia, Happiful Magazine and Huffington Post. Her most recent book Out of Office: Ditch the 9-5 and Be Your Own Boss has been featured in Stylist, Forbes, Daily Mail and was shortlisted for Business Book Award.
Link to buy Out of Office: https://uk.bookshop.org/books/out-of-office-ditch-the-9-5-and-be-your-own-boss/978178956124
Out of Office podcast: https://pod.link/Outofoffice