Answering questions I am frequently asked about life as a full-time freelance writer
When I first started freelance writing, I was hungry for information and mesmerized by the stories of people who were making a remarkable living by writing. I set off on a quest to see if I could make any money by writing, and a year later, I make a decent income.
I am often asked questions by those who are just getting started in the field, so I decided to address some of the most frequent questions in this article.
How Did You Get Started?
A little over a year ago, I stumbled into this terrific thing that I didn’t know existed. The gig economy had become a booming industry before I ever heard of it. I thought I would tentatively stick my toes in the water, so I did some research about platforms.
As a writer, Upwork made the most sense, so I created a modest portfolio and added my profile. I also knew that I would want to add private clients as soon as possible. Private clients add stability for numerous reasons.
Among the most important is that any platform can close its doors without giving any notice to the freelancers that depend on their services. I also read horror stories of people waking up one day to discover they had been kicked off the platform. Last but not least, all the platforms take a substantial amount of the money you make.
That said, I think Upwork is a great platform to use if you are starting on your freelancing venture. If you want to read about what I like and don’t like about Upwork, you can read the article linked below.
In the first few months, I was overwhelmed by the number of opportunities available. I also had very modest goals, so surpassing my goal for the year in a few months was a bit thrilling. Looking back, I was very naive about the demand for freelance writers with a strong work ethic and a willingness to learn.
What Was the Most Important Step to Success?
We each take different paths on this journey, and we all define success differently, so what was right for me may not be what is right for you. The most important realization I made was that if I wanted to be successful, I was going to have to take a significant step outside my comfort zone. If I only wanted to write about the things that interested me or with which I had relevant experience, then my path for growth was much more narrow.
Everyone told me to find a niche right away, but after over a year of experience, I don’t think that is the best advice. If you are just getting started, write for all types of subjects and clients.
There are numerous benefits to taking on a wide array of freelance jobs. The skills I learned, such as updated SEO best practices, how to research using highly reputable sources, and flexibility in my writing style, have served me well.
In taking this approach and treating every job as a learning experience, I eventually found my niche. I am a paralegal, and I specialize in legal writing for law firm websites. I also do on-demand paralegal work, and I love it.
However, I still several long-term clients outside the legal field. I have kept these clients because they are either terrific clients or because I always learn something new in writing their content.
I think I am a better, more well-rounded writer because I did not niche right away. In the past year, I have written about everything from finding your lost dog to an in-depth analysis of the impact that artificial intelligence in software is having on the legal field.
Even now that I have established long-term clients in the legal field, I know that not writing exclusively for that field is keeping me abreast of current trending topics, new styles of writing, and SEO.
Do I Still Have to Hustle Clients?
Other than a couple of weeks of panic after the initial COVID-19 shutdown, I rarely apply for jobs anymore. Now, clients find me, and I turn down jobs almost weekly. I remember reading someone say something like that at the beginning of my journey and wondering if that was possible for someone who was hoping to make a full-time living from freelancing.
It is, but I would say that has only been in the last three to four months that I have reached that place. If you are new to freelancing, expect to do plenty of hustling for the next job. The better you are, the better your reviews will be. The more clients you have, the more attractive you look to other clients.
I never take the clients coming to me for granted. I never hit the cruise control because I have enough work with long-term clients. I know this can change almost overnight, so I comb through the boards and postings at least once or twice a week to make sure there isn’t some golden opportunity I might be missing.
How Does a Typical Week Look?
I laughed typing that. There is no such thing as a typical week for me. Up until the last two weeks, I had hired two other freelancers to help with overflow work, and I was still working sixty-hours plus a week. I had been doing that for a couple of months.
The problem, or blessing, depending on your perspective, is that I had gained some terrific new clients with engaging, exciting writing and paralegal projects. However, because they were new clients, I wasn’t willing to let go of other long-term clients that didn’t pay as well but were dependable.
Once I knew the newer clients were dependable, I did have to let some lower-paying clients know that I would not be able to take on the same volume of work. As you should always do in any business, I gave them plenty of notice, and I continue to write for them on an as-needed basis.
The last couple of weeks have been a nice reprieve. I have been able to get everything done that I need to in less than forty hours a week, with a shout out to the two fabulous freelancers that have been helping me.
I stick to a pretty typical day of getting up early and working until the late afternoon, but when life needs to happen, like appointments or things with my kids, then I may be hacking stuff out at 10:00 pm. That is one of the greatest advantages of freelancing.
I also take vacation weeks. I will let clients know in advance, and slow things down dramatically if we are headed off on vacation. We went to California in March, and I managed to get almost everything done ahead of time, and only took 5–6 hours one day to finish everything else up.
We like to travel at every opportunity. Sometimes, not far, but our RV stays at the beach all summer. I can write just as well from the RV (maybe better), so I throw my laptop in a backpack and can work from anywhere.
Do I Still Love What I Do?
I can answer that one with a definitive yes. That does not mean that I love every single day of my career. I don’t know anyone who does. Some days suck, and sometimes, it is my fault.
I have bitten off more than I can chew and hit the panic button more times than I can count. Other times, it is difficult clients with unrealistic expectations, but that happens less and less as my career progresses. You develop an instinct about clients, and I do my best to avoid clients that may not be the best fit.
I love that rarely do two days look alike. I enjoy new opportunities and new challenges that keep me engaged and loving what I do. I like taking the time to get to know my clients and crafting the right content to fit their needs. Even more than a paycheck, the satisfaction of knowing I gave my absolute best to a project is profoundly fulfilling.
A bonus to freelancing is that my kids, who are adults, or soon to be adults, see me doing something unique and different. They now know that the only path to success does not have to be the traditional workforce. It has encouraged them to think outside the box for creative ways to meet some of their financial goals.
Know your goals, but do not be afraid to dream big. The gig economy was thriving before COVID-19. Now, many companies are moving to a more remote workforce, and the traditional workplace model has been turned upside down. We cannot begin to predict how these changes will impact the gig economy, but I think it will result in a host of new opportunities.
Be open to learning new things, and don’t be discouraged by failures. They will happen, but make up your mind beforehand that each is a learning opportunity. I have made plenty of mistakes, so one of my goals is just trying never to make the same mistake twice.
Dena Standley is a freelance writer specializing in content marketing for law firms and other businesses. You can find out more by visiting https://writesolutionspro.com/