Freelancers / Interviews / Journalists

Balancing the Grind with Rachel Smith, Freelance Journalist & Copywriter

Rachel Smith is a long-time freelancer who mixes up writing work with running Rachel’s List, a jobs board and community for other freelancers. She also co-hosts The Content Byte.

Looking for your dream role at a start-up or scale-up? Check out global career opportunities at The Nudge Group.

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

I’m a freelance journalist, copywriter and content producer – but I also run Rachel’s List and have combined the two for so long. I started off in magazines and was a movie reviewer for many years (a seriously lovely decade of my life).

I’ve since changed things up and added new skills and I do a lot of different things: journalism still, but also heaps of content marketing for brands, and lots of copywriting – and podcasting as well. It’s a great mix.

2) What does a day in your life look like for you? Can you take us through a recent workday?

Everything is in complete chaos at the moment as we’re in lockdown at my parents’ place, so my day is split (sort of) between doing the best I can with home-schooling, and doing all my work in the afternoon and evening. My husband has been overseas during almost the entire lockdown so my parents are trying to help out. 

Normally though, my day involves getting out of bed at 7.30-8am, running around like a headless chicken trying to get my kid dressed and ready for school, looking for library books under the bed, packing a lunch box before walking him to school.

I then do an hour’s walk around my local area, taking in parks for my dose of greenery, and listening to a podcast or some music, or I make calls to friends. I start work around 10am and it’s always different: interviews, research, writing, chatting to job-posters for Rachel’s List and writing ads for them, doing eDMs, heading to Canva to do social media posts.

3) Does your current role allow for flexible or remote working? If so, how does that fit into your life and routine? 

Yes – I’ve worked for myself for 20+ years, and worked from home, remotely, all of that time. I’m not actually sure how my life would work any other way!

4) What does work-life balance mean to you and how do you work to achieve that goal?

Exercise is essential, even if there are times I drop the ball on that one. For me, an early workout is the best way to fit it in, or it won’t get done – and I feel much better when I HAVE done it.

I bought a spin bike off Facebook Marketplace which sits in the backyard and if I haven’t walked I’ll do some HIIT on the bike as a back-up. I also love swimming laps so if I can squeeze that in somewhere, I’m happy. The benefits are huge: a boost to my creativity, decision-making and far better mental health.

I also try very hard to have weekends off, and I’m currently on a mad automation drive to automate as much of my work life as I can. I am always looking for better systems and ways to claw back some time so I can take more breaks! 

5) In the past 12 months, have you started or stopped any routines or habits to change your life? 

I was given a Kindle for my birthday last year (almost exactly 12 months ago) and it has been a complete game-changer.

I never thought about getting one before as I love a real book, but when my husband gave it to me, I fell in love with it straight away. I can read anywhere, usually when I am trapped somewhere (in the dark while my kid drops off to sleep, or waiting in line for something, or – pre-lockdown – on public transport). 

I’ve read so many books this year and having it has made me realise I really wasn’t reading nearly as much as I needed to be. The delicious escapism it provides and the incredible authors I’ve discovered has given me ongoing joy – and I absolutely devour FB threads on good books to read. Unfortunately, it’s a habit that hasn’t been GREAT for my credit card, but I reckon it’s worth it.

6) Do you have any favourite books, podcasts or newsletters that you’d like to recommend?

Gosh, so many. If we’re talking books, I’m working my way through Maggie O’Farrell’s back catalogue right now – Hamnet and I Am, I Am, I Am are my favourites from her.

I also adore anything by Mhairi McFarlane, her books crack me up. Also adored Clare Chambers’ Small Pleasures, Janine Cummins’ American Dirt, JoJo Moyes’ The Giver of Stars, Delia Owens’ Where The Crawdads Sing. I love non-fiction too, especially books on writing, but if I start listing those we’ll be here all day.

Just a snippet of my favourite podcasts, in no particular order, are:

And when it comes to newsletters, there are so many great ones, but I never fail to open these and find something inspiring or fun or interesting in them:

7) Are there any products, gadgets or apps that you can’t live without?

I love Streaks for keeping track of habits. It’s simple, a gorgeous interface and has successfully helped me change a lot of bad habits!

And my absolutely favourite gadget right now is the reMarkable. It’s a digital notebook / tablet that you can use to take notes, save documents in folders, sign contracts, annotate pdfs, doodle, draw, mind-map, brainstorm. It’s pricey at around $750, but the best thing I’ve ever bought for my business. I had a desk with about 25 client notebooks on it and now I have ONE!

8) If you could read an interview about work-life balance by anyone, who would that be?   

Madeleine Dore from Extraordinary Routines is the absolute bomb. I love, love, love her stuff.

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

Don’t overload yourself. Get into nature once a day. Make sure you get enough sleep. All three are hard to do, especially for busy freelancers, but I reckon life and work is so much easier when you have these three down pat.

Before you go…

If you’d like to sponsor or advertise with Balance the Grind, let’s talk here.

Join our community and never miss a conversation about work, life & balance – subscribe to our newsletter.

Start-up Founders, Venture Capital, Private Equity, Accelerators – hear them all talk about their stories where they went wrong, what went right and what they learned!
About Author

Hey there! I'm Hao, the Editor-in-Chief at Balance the Grind. We’re on a mission to showcase healthy work-life balance through interesting stories from people all over the world, in different careers and lifestyles.