Freelancers, Interviews, Journalists

Balancing the Grind With Kate Leaver, Freelance Journalist, Author & Speaker

July 17, 2019

Kate Leaver is a journalist, author, speaker and branded content specialist. She currently writes for The Guardian, The Independent, The Telegraph, Glamour, British Vogue and Refinery29.

This conversation is brought to you by HelloFresh, delivering delicious ingredients and simple recipes straight to your doorstep each week.

1) To kick things off, could you tell us a little about your background and career?

My first book, The Friendship Cure, came out last year and I’ve just started working on my second.

I write about pop culture, women and mental health for places like The Guardian, British Vogue, The Independent, Glamour and Refinery29. I contribute regularly to Future Women.

I write a weekly friendship column for British website Metro. I also work in branded content, consultancy, events and speaking.

I used to be features editor at Cosmo and senior editor at Mamamia. When I moved to London, I worked as relaunch editor on J.K. Rowling’s website, Pottermore.

2) What is your current role and what does it entail on a day to day basis?

As a freelance journalist, author and speaker, my days can be quite different.

Sometimes I do desk shifts at somewhere like Glamour magazine, but most of the time I work from home with my dog, Bert.

It involves a lot of pitching articles, chasing new work, doing consultancy for brands, speaking about friendship, appearing on panels and going on radio or TV.

Being in charge of my time is almost always a joy and I really value being able to choose what I work on (and hang out with my dog).

3) What does a typical day in the life look like for you? Can you take us through a recent workday?

OK, so let’s do yesterday. I got up at 8ish, had my overnight oats, did my morning Instagram scroll over coffee and took my dog for a walk. I called both my parents for a chat.

I went in to the BBC to be on my favourite radio show, Woman’s Hour, to talk about our expectations of friendship.

When I got home again, I took some calls from Snapchat, who I’m working with on a new report. I brainstormed ideas for next week’s column with my editor and got in touch with some experts I want to interview for my next book.

I also snuck in a cheeky Pilates class in the middle of the day because you can do that when you work for yourself. I wrapped things up by 6pm, just as my boyfriend walked in the door. We made dinner together and then watched telly till bedtime at 10.

4) Do you have any tips, tricks or shortcuts to help you manage your workload and schedule?

Recognising that I’m not a morning person really helped. I take my dog for a walk in the mornings while my brain is properly waking up. I’d say it’s really important to work out when you function best, if you’re setting your own hours.

I also try and keep things within a sort-of 10-6 time frame (unless I’m doing an evening event). Being quite strict with boundaries between your professional and personal lives helps. Know when to put your phone down, shut your laptop and be free.

5) In between your job, life and all your other responsibilities, how do you ensure you find some sort of balance in your life?

I’m quite diligent about my work-life balance. I make a lot of time for my boyfriend, my dog, my fam, my friends and my TV shows.

Because I am my own boss, I can really control my own workload. I find being in nature really helps – when I’m in London, I go walking on Hampstead Heath and when I’m in Sydney, I do the Bondi to Bronte walk.

6) What does work life balance mean to you?

It means consciously making time for rest, my boyfriend, friends, family, my dog, all that lovely stuff.

It means keeping my work within reasonable hours, trying to not feel like I should answer emails immediately and at any time of day and being kind to myself with my expectations.

It means re-evaluating my idea of what success looks like – I now include work life balance in my parameters for success and actively try to cultivate that.

I’m invested in my career, but I also think I work to live. I think it’s really important to protect my personal life and my down time.

7) What do you think are some of the best habits you’ve developed over the years to help you strive for success and balance?

Keeping in regular contact with my friends, even when it’s just by WhatsApp. Having a regular bedtime and sticking to it. Walking and Pilates. Doing work that I actually care about, with people I like.

Going freelance and being in charge of my own time.

8) Are there any books that have helped you improve over the years?

I really fell in love with long form non-fiction writing when I read Stasiland: True Stories from Behind the Berlin Wall by Anna Funder and The Psychopath Test by Jon Ronson.

They changed my perception of what it was like to write about real events. Anna and Jon make me want to be a better writer.

9) What is the number one thing you do to make sure you get the most out of your day?

Honestly? It’s probably get enough sleep the night before. I’ve been a pretty chronic insomniac all my adult life and I’m often up at 3 or 4am, going through every mistake I’ve ever made. It makes an enormous difference, getting some actual proper sleep.

10) Do you have any last thoughts on work, life or balance that you’d like to share with our readers?

Just that it’s possible to make a freelance career work. It can be frightening and unstable and isolating, but it can also be brilliant and restorative and inspiring and lucrative.

Apparently half of us will be freelancing by 2020, so it’s worth thinking about.

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