THE JOB CENTRE – LAURA WILLIAMS

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Age: 29

Occupation: Writer/Digital Nomad

Which means: That she writes. For a living. And travels. A lot. 

Did you go to university? I went at 22 as an independent mature student, after taking four gap years to travel the world, work, and do a part-time business degree that I quit after the first year because LOL, that is SO not me! I entered the University of Derby as a Creative Writing student, later switching to Creative Writing and Media Writing so I could diversify my skill set. That’s the advantage of going to university a little bit older – you know how to get the most out of it, and aren’t afraid to ask for it!

What was your first job after graduating? I spent the year after I graduated running a children’s language school in Rome, a job that allowed me to spend my mornings working on my web presence and writing a book. That gave way to moving to London where my self-compiled digital knowledge – that I understood the online world, how digital marketing worked, social media, and that I could demonstrate the ability to create high-level content that people actually wanted to read – got me an internship in SEO, that within the month had become a full-time job. I quickly side-stepped in PR, and then left to go freelance.

Did you always know that you wanted to be a writer? Yes – but then I forgot. Got talked out of it. They don’t encourage you to pursue many “creative” jobs at school, do they? Even at university, on my course, they discouraged us from thinking we’d make a full-time living from writing. We were expected to use creative writing as a string to our bow – one of many things we’d do as part of a “portfolio career”. Coming back to writing full time feels like coming home.

Do you have an agent? Yes, I signed to Ella Kahn of Diamond Kahn and Woods Literary Agency in April 2015, after a publishing house approached me and said they were interested in my work.

How important is it to have one? Ella has been a guiding light for me, navigating the complicated pitching and submission process in a way I can only marvel at. She does her job – liaising with editors – and I do mine: writing something worthy of their attention. Signing with her has been a huge step in my writing career, both for the tangible results she’s yielding, but also for the support. Writing is such a lonely pursuit that it’s nice to have a teammate, now.

How did you land one? I got her by writing a blog post about needing representation, that got shared on Twitter and she saw it. I talked to a bunch of agents, but Ella co-founded her own agency at 25, so I knew if she trusted herself enough to do that, I trusted her too.

How do you come up with book ideas? Everything I do is personal memoir, so it’s direct experience that informs what I write about – from my digital journalism stuff, to the blog, to the ebook I just launched about being braver in our everyday lives. My full-length manuscript is something I am currently trying to get traditionally published, but that is about my life, too.

How long does it take to write a book? My eBooks take about three weeks to compile, and my full-length book years and years. Writing 90,000 words for that one has been the journey of a lifetime, but now I know how to do it I hope the next one will be quicker!

How many times have publishing houses rejected you? My agent doesn’t tell me that! She only tells me the good news, and it’s a process we’re still going through.

What does a typical day at the office look like for you? Well, every six weeks or so I live somewhere new: this year alone I’ve worked from Bali, Malaysia, Bangkok, India, Derbyshire, London, Rome and I’m answering these questions from Istanbul! So my routine changes constantly but mostly I try to be up and out at a local café by 9 or 10 in the morning, where I do my most creative work (book writing) first. I’ll eat lunch, wander around whichever city I’m in, maybe take a yoga class and meet friends for dinner or carry on working. I do about 8 to ten hours work a day, four or five days a week, broken up into a way that serves my life – rather than altering my life to fit my work.

Let’s talk blogging. Why did you start your blog and how much of a part did it have to play in getting you to where you are now? My blog has been everything in getting me to where I am now. It’s been going since 2008, and in the first instance has been a place to simply practice writing. I found my voice through keeping to regular updates, and once I had my voice I started getting to grips with different ways to promote my work: newsletters, social media, different styles of posts. I’ve grown a small but committed readership and that is why my agent signed me: I demonstrated that people, my readers, were already invested in me. Like I said, I got my first job in London because of my blog, too.

What are your achievable goals? To get my first book published, write a second one, and keep living all over the world as I do it. I think I’ll always blog – it’s such an intimate medium, and I find real joy in connecting to my community that way. I’ve considered running ads on site too, so maybe it will grow to accommodate that – but only if it “fits”. I’ll never do sponsored posts, I don’t think. I just want to keep telling stories. I don’t want to *become* the advert.

If you could do anything other than what you do now, what would it be? I’d be a hairdresser, I think. But honestly: I cannot conceive of a world where I don’t write.

You talk about your “tribe”. How do you recommend someone find theirs? Do you actively scout it out or leave it to fate? The only way I have ever found “my people” is through doing me. Whenever I’ve tried to manufacture aspects of my personality to attract the attention of people I thought I wanted to be friends with, it’s never worked. Folks recognise inauthentic personalities a mile off. I find that whenever I stop seeking approval from others and commit to writing good stories and living my best life, I fall in line with others vibing at the same level. The universe knows what she’s doing that way.

That said, I always reach out to people – online and IRL – to tell them when I like what they do. That’s’ been the beginning of many a friendship! Everyone likes to hear when they’ve positively affected you (but no brown-nosing!)

And finally, what one piece of practical career advice would you give to your younger self?

Create a portfolio of work. No matter what you do: nursing, teaching, writing, topless dancing – you need a go-to place online where – at a glance – a potential employer can see your experience, your passion, and how you’re contributing to the industry you want to be part of. Be a thought leader, investigate why your field works as it does and show that you’re willing to work to make it better. Even Tweeting about your industry is a good start, or keeping short blogs. Be proactive, and be prepared for a career path that is a wiggle of stops and starts – nobody gets their dream job at 22.

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I really love what Laura does. She’s real. And I like that.

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