I didn’t plan to become a full-time freelance writer. In the beginning it seemed like a great way to make money while I searched for a more ‘traditional’ job. Spoiler alert: that’s not what happened.
One year ago, I quit my job (on purpose) and became a freelance writer (on accident). I completed my first freelance writing project on 10/15/16, making yesterday my one year anniversary as a full-time freelance writer. Hooray!
Before I put in my two weeks’ notice, I applied and interviewed for several positions. After quitting, I interviewed for a few more positions before relocating and calling it quits on submitting applications. (Except that one position I applied to in May—more out of curiosity than true desire.)
My first few weeks as a freelance writer coincided with packing my apartment, reselling the furniture I had recently purchased, and preparing for the holidays. I thought if I could successfully write while doing all of that, I could feasibly write full-time (while not packing up my entire life). So here we are. One year later.
It. Went. By. So. Quickly.
During my first year as a full-time freelance writer, my goals were pretty simple: (1) Learn, and (2) Hit my monthly income goal. I read about choosing a freelance writing niche, but as I’ve written about in the past, I ignored the pressure to choose a niche. My approach was to work on a wide variety of projects: cover letters, resumes, LinkedIn profiles, pitch decks, podcast notes, online courses, web copy, articles, and emails.
A year in, I almost exclusively write articles and emails (because they’re my favorite). And most of my work fits within the umbrella topics of business, technology, health, and of course, all things career. (Surprise: a natural niche).
This first year was hard. Like really hard at times. The winter was especially difficult. Not because of my work but because of well, winter (Read: lack of Vitamin D), and relocating, and of course, factors I still don’t understand.
But this first year was also so good to me. I established myself as a reputable freelance writer. I learned to value myself and my work. I worked too much, I worked too little, and at magical times, I struck a beautiful balance.
I am better at tracking finances, managing contracts, and developing new professional relationships. I know how to advocate for myself, my clients, and my business partners. And I understand how to run a one-woman business. So that’s pretty sweet.
I recognize my strengths: strategizing, ideating, researching, crafting informative content, structuring documents, writing articles, channeling the voice of my clients, integrating subtle humor, and setting monthly goals. I am working on my weaknesses: business development, setting aside time to pitch articles, and publishing consistently (on my own blog).
But here’s the best lesson:
I know what makes me truly happy: freedom.
Freedom from a 9-to-5. Freedom from workplace drama. Freedom from a capped salary. Freedom from limited vacation. Freedom from a [forced] 40-hour work week*, bureaucracy, blatant workplace sexism, micro-managers, and ill-trained supervisors. (*FYI: I still work 40ish hours each week.)
When I graduated with an M.S. in Student Affairs in Higher Education in May 2016, I never envisioned this is where I’d be 17 months later. But I am so happy. This year has been full of embracing risk, living intentionally, developing relationships, growing, learning, iterating, and building.
Having full control over my time is rewarding yet challenging. This unconventional lifestyle has taught me so much about myself and how I can best contribute to this world. Writing full-time gives me so much creative fulfillment.
Cheers to year one. And here’s to year two.
I didn’t want to weigh this reflection down with advice, but here are a few recommendations. If you want a side gig—as a freelance writer or something else—in my experience, the getting-started fundamentals are business cards, a website, and a LinkedIn profile. Here’s why:
THE GETTING-STARTED FUNDAMENTALS:
(1) Business cards. (You don’t need business cards to get started but stick with me). Business cards proved to me that I was official—before I fully believed it. And I think that’s incredibly powerful. My sister sent me a digital gift card to MOO. MOO cards are more expensive than most options, but it’s evidenced by the quality. I also ordered a larger batch from Vistaprint. Also good. Affordable, well made, and they get the job done. My business cards are super basic: name, title, email, website, and LinkedIn URL.
(2) Website. Starting out, I used the digital portfolio I made during grad school. Since I graduated with an M.S. in Student Affairs in Higher Education, I had relevant writing samples, so it was a solid starting point. (Enough to show that I was a real person and I could write.) I later invested in a personalized site that I continually update. My website hosts an extensive portfolio, along with an About Me section and client testimonials.
(3) LinkedIn profile. Given my background in career services, I’ve been a LinkedIn advocate for a long time. But in the freelance world, LinkedIn is really a difference maker. It connects me to a network of other entrepreneurs, business owners, writers, and creative professionals that I otherwise would never get to correspond with. It’s also a great platform for daily musings and a solid place to publish my work. (Connect with me!)
Thanks for hanging out with me and sharing in my experience. I’m a writer whether or not you read this post but it’s so much more enjoyable knowing you do. (Or at the very least, skimmed and read the conclusion.)
Hey, I’m Laura. In October 2016, I quit my job (on purpose) and became a freelance writer (on accident). Now I share my experience as a freelance writer for 20-somethings. Because contrary to popular myth, you don’t have to wait until you’re 50 to become a successful freelance writer. I’m happy you’re here.