Have you dreamed of owning your own schedule or maybe just making extra income on the side with your writing? Freelance writers seem to have the dream job, writing and getting paid for it. It seems easy, you just need a computer and Internet, and you are set. But it can be a hard world to break into. The competition among freelance writers can be fierce. For the past few years, I have been working as a freelance writer and editor. I’ve learned many lessons along the way helping me to sharpen my skills and lean into what it is I desire in my life.
1. Set goals
The biggest lesson I have learned over the past few years as a freelance writer has been setting goals. I knew I wanted to find more flexibility and freedom in my life beyond the traditional 9-5 job. I set out my short and long-term goals. Before I left my job, I began submitting my writing to unpaid journals and blogs and moved up to paid after building my portfolio.
After developing a good portfolio of paid and unpaid work, and a good chunk of change in my savings. I made the leap to full-time freelance.
2. Learn from the wins and losses
I have had many wins and losses along the freelance road. After finishing any project, I like to take time to evaluate what I have learned. One of the biggest failures I’ve had to learn is valuing my work for its worth. At the beginning, I was almost giving away my services for free. I was working all the time and barely making ends meet.
3. Expand on the subjects you’ll write about
We all have specific types of writing we love. I enjoy writing the reflective personal essay or spiritual meditations. However, I needed to expand the types of things I wrote about to become successful as a freelance writer. I have written on a variety of projects from flooring to plugins to real estate. When a topic is new to me, I spend time researching and familiarizing myself with the subject. I have become an expert on many new topics which makes me a more marketable writer for future projects on the same subject.
4. Use a writing coach or editor
If you feel stalled as a writer, find ways to push yourself to grow and expand into a new stage of writing. Consider hiring a writing coach or editor, who will work closely with you to develop your writing skills beyond their current state. You can also find a professional writing group in your area. Meetup is a great option to find a variety of groups and times.
As a freelance writer, you don’t always get helpful feedback, or you might receive not so helpful comments from trolls. Finding positive voices to improve your craft develops your skills and abilities.
5. Create space and time
I live in a tiny space, but it has been essential to carve out a small nook for an office. Working from home creates its own challenges, including feeling like work. By developing an office space or nook, you trigger your mind to think: work!
Along with creating space, you need to set your schedule. I am an early riser, so I have created a flow for my work day that includes a pretty early start, usually wrapping up by four to five in the afternoon. I know myself. I am not a night owl and do not do my best work in the late afternoon and evening. Create a schedule that highlights your strengths!
If you don’t create space for yourself, you can work all the time, and before you know it, you will be completely burned out.
6. Get out of your own head
As an introvert who is working from home, at times I can get stuck in my own head. Making sure I get out to see friends, volunteering, and joining Meetup groups help me remember there are many rich and full parts of my life. Experiences are a writer’s best friend. We write best about what we experience. So get out there and experience life!
7. Be willing to do the smart, hard work
Getting a freelance business off the ground is hard and demanding work. In the effort to have more control over my schedule I prepared mentally for the first year or two, I am going to be working a lot and maybe not always on the projects I am most excited about, but I have decided the hard work right now is worth the future outcome.
8. Network, network, network
Networking reaps great rewards for me. When I was venturing out on my own, I went through my contact lists and sent a personal email to friends, former colleagues, and acquaintances that I felt comfortable sharing my request with detailing what I was doing and asking them to keep me in mind for any projects they might have or to share my information with their friends and colleagues. It has yielded a variety of clients for my freelance business, both short and long-term projects.
I also bartered with a friend who creates websites doing editing for her in exchange for a beautifully designed website. Sharing my writing and website on my social media pages has also provided me with free exposure and support from the people who believe in me most — my friends and family!
Jumping into the freelance waters is a big decision. Take your time to think about it and develop a plan a action. Be clear about what you want and need out of your work, both personally and financially. In the meantime, write, write, and write some more!