I never in a million years imagined my life would look like this. In a past life, I wrote an article per month and my editor would give in back to me with more red than black. By the time the company published it, it was unrecognizable to me. I felt gross even putting my name on it because it wasn’t my words, but the blog showed me as the writer.
My morale was depleted and I was convinced that I was not a good writer. Writing just wasn’t for me. I didn’t know how to make sentences flowery or how to describe things that transported people. I just wrote like I talk and apparently I talked extremely basic.
Now, I write upwards of 15,000 words per week that people pay me for.
It seems like one day I woke up and this was my life, even though I know I worked hard to get here. I wish I had documented my process better so that I could give better insight into how to replicate the journey, but honestly, it took a lot of trial and error and throwing shit at the wall until I found something that really stuck.
I freelanced in every single industry and niche and tried to leverage every single one of my marketing skills to find clients. I was doing entirely too much and overwhelming the people I was trying to help.
I didn’t start to get traction with clients until I drastically simplified my offer and my approach.
Instead of offering every marketing service under the sun, I started just offering content and writing. Turns out, people need writers and don’t want to do it themselves.
Deciding to Commit To Writing Full-time
Before I quit my job and pursued freelance, I was a marketer. As a freelancer, I still dabbled in different marketing projects before I committed to being a writer full-time. When I was doing various marketing projects, it made it really challenging to market myself to people that I meet, which made it more difficult to make a name for myself as someone who offered specific services.
It’s not like I just woke up one day and decided to call myself a writer. I had to do a few projects here and there until I could look at my portfolio of projects and come to the conclusion that writing was the thing that people needed from me most.
Most people who aren’t writers really hate writing. Once I realized how much most of my clients hated writing, I realized how much leverage I had among business owners who needed content, but didn’t want to do it themselves.
Setting very clear intentions
Once I knew I could make it work as a writer, I had to decide to fully commit to writing. This meant not getting distracted by other offers and opportunities. I had a tendency to go after every opportunity that matched my skill set. It wasn’t productive because I found myself wearing a million different hats and stretching myself in a million directions to learn new industries and optimize my skills in certain areas.
It was frustrating at first because I knew I could do so many different things. I was coming from a place of desperation, inserting myself into every opportunity that I felt I could contribute to. It resulted in half-assed work for my clients, and I never really got to become an expert in one thing.
It was a huge mindset shift, but once I got passed it and began identifying myself as a writer and content specialist, it became so much easier to land clients. I could actually introduce myself to people as a very specific type of service provider. This led to more opportunities because people could refer to other people looking for a writer. It was so much different than when I would vaguely introduce myself as a freelance marketer because making is such a broad topic.
How I Landed Freelance Jobs
Sent out cold emails regularly
Even though I’m pretty maxed out on the work I’m doing right now, I always anticipate something falling through. I’ve been there and going from a decent income to zero income overnight is not fun. Now I try to keep conversations going with a few people just in case something falls through or a client needs to end a contract for whatever reason.
A lot of times, people are only looking for one-time articles or projects and it’s an easy way to build a relationship that could turn into something long term and get you on their radar should you need more work in the future.
Subscribed to a handful of job boards
In addition to sending out pitches regularly, I like to keep an eye on writing job boards.
A few of my favorites are Problogger, BloggingPro, and Remote.co. Even if I’m not actively applying, it’s a good way to see what industries are actively looking for content. It’s also good to remember that a lot of times the hiring process on these job boards is very prolonged. So someone you reach out to today might not even have time to get back to you for a few weeks. I believe this is shitty hiring practice, but it’s important to keep in mind so that you can plan ahead.
Wrote free guest posts on relevant websites
I decided early on that I wanted to be published in publications. I’m not talking about Medium publications, but other websites where professionals in those industries could read my work and identify me as an expert in that field. Since I had a background in marketing, it was relatively easy for me to write content about different marketing practices and pitch them to business and marketing websites.
It worked well to establish me as an expert in content marketing, exposed my writing to people looking for marketing advice, and drove traffic to my website because I got to a link in my author’s bio.
It also came in handy when I started doing more projects that involved me pitching off-page content for my clients. I could point to articles that I had published in publications and show them that I know the process of how to write content that other websites want to publish. This skill has landed me a handful of long-term clients who I write content for, and then help them distribute that content to websites in their industry.
Chose a few niche’s but remained open-minded
I’ve always resisted the idea of niching down. I was afraid my work would get boring having to write about the same things over and over again. I still don’t have one particular niche I work with or write about, but there are a handful of topics that I know I can write on efficiently and knowledgeably. I’ve also learned that when I’m focused on one niche, and I don’t have to spread my brain too thin researching and reading on a bunch of different topics, I can be so much more efficient in my writing and nail down a process that works long term.
Plus, after working in a bunch of different industries, I’m able to see what I actually enjoy writing about and which types of businesses I enjoy working with.
Instead of picking a specific industry, I did pick a particular type of writing. I pretty much only write long-form content and copy and don’t entertain opportunities that don’t align with that. There are plenty of writers that focus on short-form so I leave those projects for them and optimize my clients for what I know I can do best.
I learned to embrace rejection
Remember that finding clients is a numbers game. I had to commit to sending out 50–100 pitches per month to potential clients before I found ones that actually stuck. These pitches were through a combination of cold email, job board applications, sites like UpWork and FreeeUp and through doing my own research on companies I wanted to work with.
I learned to get really comfortable with rejection because I was getting rejection notices every single day. I mean, I was sending out 10–20 pitches per week. It’s all just a numbers game. I never wanted 100 clients. I never even wanted 50 clients. I just wanted a handful of good, high-paying clients.
I showed up every single day, even when I didn’t want to
It was all about putting as much of myself out there as possible to generate as much opportunity for myself. There were a few days when I got one too many rejections and wanted to throw my computer out the window and start a new life as a farmer or something that involved never using a computer again. I would breathe through those moments, make a snack, maybe watch a few episodes of The Office and then sit back down and write more emails even though inside I was convinced I would always be a failure.
Eventually, things will fall into place.
if you put in the work, are good at what you do and genuinely care about helping the people you work with, it will work. And once you figure out your processes, it gets easier. I failed at freelancing for years. I started and stopped and got real jobs and quit those jobs and tried again and failed again, and eventually, it worked out. This isn’t a “success” story. But more a reflection of real-life and ebbs and flows that we all face to actually achieve the goals we want to achieve.