A Freelance Writer with Over 20 Years of Experience Tells the Most Important Thing She’s Learned about NOT Giving Up

I started freelancing in 1993 and it’s taught me so much about life that I could write a book (hey, and I just might!). But that’s a story for another day. Lately, I’ve been hearing from some freelance writers who’ve been struggling. Many are frustrated and discouraged.

Leaving Freelancing to Go Back to a 9-to-5

One freelance writer recently emailed me to tell me he was going back to full-time employment because he just wasn’t making enough to support himself. He wrote:

I’m just not making enough from freelance writing to justify doing it anymore, at least not fulltime. I come up short every month and after 2-years of it I’ve had enough of being broke and barely scraping by. I know I’m better than that and my writing is worth more but that’s not paying the bills here 🙁

Sorry I’m beat down here right now – this is a major step backwards for me and it’s killing me to have to do it [ie, go back to a job].

I’vehad this feeling too. I think every freelance writer has at some point.

The Revelation That Changed My Freelance Writing Career Forever

When I hear stories like this, it just kills my soul because I’ve been there. Yes, I’ve had to go out and get jobs because freelancing wasn’t paying the bills. But when I lost my last job in 2007, I made up my mind that I’d NEVER work for someone else again – EVER, if I could help it.

Are You Sabotaging Your Freelance Success by Doing This?

And you know what, making that mental shift changed things for me. I realized that I’d always kept the possibility of having to go out and get a job a viable option.

How did I do this? I:

  • Updated my resume regularly to keep it “current;”
  • Spent part of my days scouting for jobs online (instead of focusing on freelancing full-time);
  • Put the word out to friends and family of “If you hear of anything I might be qualified for;”
  • Researched new career possibilities “just in case;”
  • Etc.

When I was down-sized out of my last job, I did some of this for a few months and you know what? It was subconsciously sabotaging my potential for freelance success.

When I realized this, I got frustrated and angry – really angry – at myself. I said, “Yuwanda there are people out there making a full-time living as a freelance writer. And if they can do it, so can you!

I put my resume away – forever – and from that day on (sometime in late 2007). I put my belief in myself front and center, and put all of my energies towards making that belief a reality. And since then, I haven’t looked back.

It hasn’t always been easy, I’m not gonna lie. But every time I wanted to give up, I’d repeat to myself that if others were doing it, so could I — and I kept trudging forward; making mistakes, learning from them, and moving on. Perhaps not the smartest or easiest way, but I wouldn’t change it for anything because it’s gotten me where I am today.

Keys to Making It As a Freelancer & Never Having to Go Back to a 9-to-5

One of the main things I did was stop basing my decisions about freelancing on what other freelance writers were saying. For example, take the issue of freelance writing rates. They’re all over the place and nothing can get a group of freelancers griping at each other like how much you should charge.

I tuned all of this out. I stumbled upon SEO writing in the fall of 2007. I started writing for the pittance of $25 per article – I even wrote some blog posts for $15. Some freelancers thought it was great and wanted to know how they could do it too; others accused me of “bringing down the rate for all freelance writers.”

I didn’t care. All I knew at the time was that I had a mortgage to pay and that I was determined to never have to go out and work for someone else again.

Freelance Hell!

On the one hand, it was hell for about two years – I worked ALL the time – nights, evenings, weekends, holidays, early mornings (which are sheer torture for me) – and any free time I had. I gained some weight (because I wasn’t working out as regularly as I usually would); my relationship at the time — I was engaged — fizzled (a blessing in disguise); and my person, my house and my yard weren’t kempt as neatly or regularly as I liked.

Apparently, I’m not the only one who’s been “strategic” about things like showers. The Business Insider article, 18 People Whose Incredible Work Ethic Paid Off says the following about Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer:

[She] routinely pulled all nighters and 130-hour work weeks while at Google. [She] told [Dow Jones writer] Joseph Walker that she managed that schedule by sleeping under her desk and being “strategic” about her showers. Even people critical of her management style acknowledge that she “will literally work 24 hours a day, seven days a week.”

Like Ms. Mayer, I was determined.

Through it all, I kept getting lambasted by some for my rates – but you know what, I looked up one day and had a financial cushion in the bank, some ebooks under my belt that were providing me with some more steady income – and then to my pleasant surprise, I was becoming known as some type of SEO writing guru (words of others; not mine).

Then I put together a SEO writing ecourse and published books on the subject. This increased my online visibility, referrals and income even more.

Then I raised my freelance writing rates. While I lost some clients; my income remained steady and even increased because a lot of my work was coming by referrals — referrals from well-paying clients who were referring other well-paying clients.

I could go on and on, but you can learn all about my freelance journey in the free ebook, Writer, Earn, Travel, when you subscribe to the InkwellEditorial.com newsletter. You can do so from any page of this site (just look for the “get free info” button up top, or in the right sidebar).

The thing I want to leave you with is this . . .

About the Advice of Freelance Gurus & Other Successful Mentors

What changed my freelance writing career – forever – was figuring out what worked for me. In my case it was forgetting what others were saying about what I should be charging and focusing on the fact that my main goal at the time was keeping my head above water, ie, paying my bills every month without worrying about going back to a 9-to-5.

You see, sometimes, you can’t emulate the success of others. Sure, you can take advice from gurus, and mentors and those rock stars who are where you want to be, but you also have to know what to filter out and when so you can forge a freelance path that works for you. Once you make peace with this, you’ll find freelance business success on your own terms — and that should always be your goal.

Publisher Note: This post was originally published on e-Junkie.info in Oct 2013, a site I used to guest blog for regularly that has since been taken offline. Hence, I updated it and am republishing it here.

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    1. Great article. Thank you for so freely sharing your experience.

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