Advice from Successful Freelancers: How They Built Their Careers & How You Can Too!

Note: The following is an excerpt from this ebook, along with a complete Table of Contents.

Almost all of the freelancers who were initially interviewed for this ebook in 2004 were still in business when this book was updated 7 years later. Amazing when you consider most freelancers flame out within 1-2 years. So, they must be doing something right, no?!

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I noticed that almost all had different – slicker – websites. As a matter of fact, a few had given me website addresses and in the first release of this e-book, I wrote “coming soon” beside the website name. Progress — and success — is indeed sweet.

Inspiring Stories from Real Freelancers

If you want input from those who are actually doing it, this manual is perfect. It reveals the stories of real freelancers. They divulge how they got started; why they decided to go out on their own; how they acquire clients; under what circumstances they would/would not go back to working for someone else — and more.

The following stories are inspiring because they are from real people who, perhaps, had the same fears you do about going out on our own. A diverse bunch — from single moms who wanted more control over their lives to college grads who stumbled upon freelancing as a career — you are sure to gain pearls of wisdom from their success.

This e-book is a companion to How to Really Make a Living as an Editorial Freelancer, which outlines how to start and maintain a profitable freelance career — everything from why not to submit a resume, to effective marketing techniques, to invoicing and getting paid.

Feedback from Industry Professionals (ie, Those in a Position to Hire Freelancers)

It also includes feedback from industry professionals (human resources directors, editorial managers and editors) on how they like to be contacted, what they look for and industry rates. In short, everything you need to start and maintain a freelance career is included in this sister manual.

As always, continued success in your editorial endeavors.

Yuwanda Black

Getting Started: What It’s Really Like — One Freelancer Spills the Beans

Darla Bruno: Writer, Editor, Editorial Consultant

Author Note: I started with this account because it is candid and insightful. Also, she started from scratch with little more than a strong desire and perseverance — intangibles that cost nothing, which we all possess (or can cultivate). Her story is a fine example of how desire and perseverance can be turned into success. No, back to Darla.

When I first began freelancing, I didn’t have a lot of money backing me. I had one client and just a few contacts. That was in January of 2001.cover-med

I worked steadily for almost six months and was thrilled at my good fortune — until that summer, when everything came to a sudden halt.

I went three, almost four months without a single project. I lived on credit cards. I thought about finding work in-house, but I gave myself until the end of the year.

Slowly, I picked up new clients. I diversified my skill sets (developmental editing, Web QA, copyediting, proofreading). I called everyone I knew, including old employers.

By January of the following year, I had six clients. I was determined and focused. I sent out resumes every day. I learned everything I could. I took every project that came my way. This [2003] has been the busiest year so far. I have almost ten clients. I write, edit, consult and provide manuscript critiques. Diversifying really widened my net and brought in new projects. I kept the faith.

Make time for your business: I know a lot of people who freelance and keep their day jobs; I sympathize with them — it’s a lot of work. I chose to “wing-it” and I hit some serious rough spots financially, but eventually I pulled through.

Everyone has their own comfort level, but I think once you finally decide to do it you have to be willing to sacrifice — a lot! I gave up weekends for a very long time. I worked until the wee hours of the morning.

It’s tempting, when you work from home, to take the afternoon off and shop or meet a friend, but I kept at it — always available. My response time was fast, my turnaround time even faster, and I followed up with clients too.

I realize this may not be for everyone. Relationships can suffer when you’re at your computer 12 hours a day. You may not get dressed for days at a time. You may think you’re losing your social skills. But I don’t think I could have done it any other way.

Jennifer Lawler: Writer, Editor

Bio: Jennifer Lawler has written twenty published books (with several more forthcoming.) Her books include Dojo Wisdom: 100 Simple Ways to Become a Stronger, Calmer, More Courageous Person, Martial Arts for Dummies, Martial Arts for Women, and many more.

She earned a black belt in Tae Kwon Do in 1994. Now a second-dan, she has taught Tae Kwon Do and self-defense for many years. She has been a tournament competitor and judge.

Lawler holds a PhD in English (medieval literature) from the University of Kansas and taught college literature and writing courses for six years before turning to writing full-time.

She has written for publications such as Black Belt magazine, Weight Watchers magazine, Family Circle, American Fitness and American Writer. She has freelanced as a developmental editor for companies such as McGraw-Hill, Collectors Press and Lippincott, Williams and Wilkins.

1. Why did you start freelancing?

I had always wanted to be a writer, and had done projects of writing and editing on a moonlighting basis for many years, hoping that at some point I could make it my career. But graduate school, a teaching career and other pursuits interfered with that goal.

When my daughter came along, she had medical problems and I couldn’t continue teaching (which I had been doing), so I started writing and editing part-time. When I divorced her father, I was on my own with a disabled child to care for (she couldn’t be in daycare), so I had to make freelancing work. I couldn’t just go get a job and think everything would work out.

2. How long have you been a full-time freelancer?

Since 2000. I’ve been doing it as a moonlighter/part-timer since 1990.

3. How many years of experience do you have?

Counting moonlighting work, 13 years.

4. Do you specialize in a certain area, e.g., legal, medical, production? If so, what?

In my writing, yes, I specialize in a certain areas (self-help, reference). I’m more of a generalist with my editing, probably because it is something that I’ve always used to supplement my writing income, not as a business I place my sole focus on.

I have only edited for the book publishing industry. Some of the smaller publishers like working with me because it’s “one-stop” shopping — I can edit a manuscript, write cover copy, produce a pitch letter, etc — whatever they need. But I’m not convinced this is the best way to go.






Getting Started: What It’s Really Like — One Freelancer Spills the Beans

Mridu Khullar: Writer, Editor, Webmaster

Tanja Rostech: Technical Writer

Eileen Coale: Marketing & Corporate Communications Writer

Marcy L. Brown: Cataloging, Indexing & Information Management

Jennifer Meacham: Journalist, Writer, Editor, Speaker

Cathy Moore: Writer, Instructional & Marketing Copy

Jennifer Lawler: Writer, Editor

Richard Adin: Desktop Publishing & Copyediting Services

George Sheldon: Writer, Author, Speaker

Nan Yielding: Copywriter

Rachel Goldstein: Web Developer, Graphic Designer, Muralist

Katharine O’Moore-Klopf: Editor, Copy Editor, Factchecker

One Freelancer’s Pearls of Wisdom



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    1. […] spent all day yesterday updating the ebook, Advice from Successful Freelancers: How They Built Their Careers & How You Can Too! I wrote this ebook back in 2004 (it was the second ebook I ever wrote), profiling 14 freelancers […]