As I sit here, after a long and satisfying Thanksgiving Day with my family, I am able to reflect on many things. This time of year always seems to do that right?
Well, as this year nears its end I am particularly drawn to the different path my life has taken.
If you had asked me 6 months ago whether I thought I would be writing (and getting paid to do so!) on a regular basis, I would have scoffed at you. That kind of ambitious dream takes lots of time, sacrifice, and learning to turn into anything substantial. And with my full time job, a kindergartner also in soccer, and a marriage to nurture, I would have thought it would take much, much longer to have any type of success.
But I kept at it.
My husband encouraged me.
Some people told me I was wasting my time and that “freelance writing” was a joke.
So I really kept at it.
And look at me now.
I can confidently say I have made major strides in my quest to free myself from the corporate world and make a better life for me and my family. And while I am not quite there yet, I know I am close.
With all that I have learned in this short period of time, I felt it necessary to sit back and list some of the biggest freelance lessons I am thankful for this year. Some of the things that have helped to shape me as a writer, a business woman, as an entrepreneur. And I thought it would also be nice to share with you…
01. I Am Thankful I Undervalued Myself
Ok, that’s not completely accurate. Nobody wants to admit they undervalued themselves, let alone give thanks for it. However, by doing so I was able to show myself my true value. I was happy getting paid lesser amounts than an average freelance writer might make. That showed me this entire process was really worth it to me. If you are willing to undervalue yourself in order to climb to the top, then you are willing to put the time and sacrifice into later getting what you are really worth. By the way, I am not undervaluing myself anymore!
02. I Am Thankful I Learned To Ask For Higher Rates
Let’s be honest. Asking for a raise can be daunting. You are not quite sure how much to increase your rates, you fear losing your clients (that was my biggest concern), and you begin to doubt that you are really worth what you are asking for. My best advice to anyone in the same position is to do what I did. Evaluate the promises you made to your client in the very beginning. Did you promise to make every deadline? Have you kept a friendly and regular line of communication open with your client? Has the work you have submitted held a high-quality standard that keeps the client asking for more?
These are the things that you need to think about, the things that create a value for you as a writer. If you can convincingly say to yourself and communicate to your client that you have brought your A-game this entire time, ask for higher rates. In fact, I asked in November and set up the rate increase to happen after the new year so my client had time to think about my request and budget for. And it worked! Now I know my value and am making more money. It’s a win-win situation.
03. I Am Thankful I Worked With Some Bad Clients
Poor communication, unclear scopes of work, expecting too much of me (especially as a novice). These things drive me nuts! And trust me, every freelance will experience this at one point or another. However, by working with people that took too long to pay me for work long done, that wanted me to design an entire website when I was completely incapable of doing so, or that wanted me to do work for way under what I was worth (even at an undervalued rate), I learned again how valuable my skills were, what I was not prepared for due to inexperience, and that if I kept looking I would find better clients along the way. Let the bad ones go, even if you lose money for awhile. New and better quality clients will surely come your way if you just keep at it.
04. I Am Thankful I Experienced Scope Creep
Along with working with bad clients, I also had my fair share of being taken advantage of by an otherwise good client. Having clear expectations from the start cannot be stressed enough. Know what work you will be responsible for, understand the payment terms, and get it all in writing even if just by email so you can refer to it later on if need be. Do not work for pennies, especially on work that was not agreed to. Freelancing is not free and even if you are new, you are worth more than that.
05. I Am Thankful For Too Much Work
While I can whole-heartedly agree there has to be a balance between your freelance life and normal life, I am thankful for having so much work to do. Though I have learned how to set realistic deadlines based on this overflow of assignments, and have made the payment terms worth the amount of work I have to do (remember I work full time throughout the week and have a family too), without this work I would not have been able to build my portfolio as quickly as I have. I am convinced my previous work has had a positive effect on the clients I picked up later into my freelancing journey.
06. I Am Thankful I Specialized
When I first starting writing I applied for any position I could find. If the topic was something I was somewhat interested in, I went for it. After all, creating a solid portfolio was the only way I was going to really start making money as a freelance writer. However, after really get into a groove, I am glad I found something I was passionate about (it’s WordPress by the way!).
Now I am able to really concentrate a lot of my efforts on writing higher quality articles around a topic I am increasingly becoming more of an expert about. I can focus on learning as much as I can about one topic rather than half-a$$ing a bunch of random topics. Which is not to say I do not write about other things. One of my very best and favorite clients has me write on a variety of topics. Since I also happen to love research this works for me. But honing in on one main niche has helped me shape where I want my freelance career to go.
07. I Am Thankful For Doing My Own Accounting
I am thankful I have had to do all the books myself. I have barely done my own taxes in the past let alone balance an entire accounting setup with invoices, fees, and purchase tracking. But now that I am considered self-employed as a freelance writer it is my responsibility to take care of these things on my own. The tax man does not care what experience I have with regards to collecting money for work done outside of a traditional place of employment. Now I can safely say I pretty much have a system in place and come tax time, I will be prepared with no surprises.
08. I Am Thankful For Networking
I am naturally a shy person until I get to know you. And even then it sometimes takes me some time to really open up and feel completely comfortable with you. Online, things are different. Rarely does a freelance writer speak face to face with a client which can be a blessing and a curse. On one hand it becomes much easier to communicate if you are someone comfortable with email messaging. On the other hand, it can create a certain distance between you and your client if you are not careful to nurture your working relationship.
Anyways the point is, many of the people I have worked with have helped me along the way by passing job opportunities my way or introducing me to others in my niche to pitch to. This sense of community, especially in the WordPress community, has been very helpful and I can only hope that someday I will be able to help someone new to the scene and pay it forward.
09. I Am Thankful I Learned Freelance Writer Contracts
Coming from a paralegal standpoint (you know, my day job), contracts are no stranger to me. However, the type of contracts I deal with on a daily basis are much different than the ones in the freelance world. Thanks to the many useful resources easily found online, and with the help of some of the most influential and long-standing freelance writers on the scene, I was able to figure out exactly what I needed to include in my freelance writing contracts or agreements to protect myself from some of the nasty things that freelancers can experience such as scope creep, non-payment, or just plain misunderstandings about deadlines, communication, commitment lengths, etc.
10. I Am Thankful I Learned Many Social Media Platforms
Before I started freelance writing I barely understood what Twitter was all about, had no idea Google+ existed, and LinkedIn, well I was not the type of person that needed to post on a professional website. But with freelance writing, becoming knowledgeable in all of the different types of social media platforms is essential to your success. They help you promote your own content to increase traffic to your own website, allow you to showcase work you have done on authoritative websites, and even help you make more friends. Plus, you can attract clients by utilizing all the platforms which is only a plus. I am now happy to say I can maneuver through Twitter, have my very own Google+ account, and even check in the LinkedIn every now and again, just to name a few social media platforms I am on.
So, there you have it. I have learned a lot in the short time I have been freelance writing, and I can be sure I have a lot more to learn as I continue this journey. In the end I am simply thankful for all of the opportunities that I have been given, the chances people have taken on me despite me being a new writer, and the positivity this entire experience has brought to my life.
So cheers to those that are new, to those that are struggling, and to those that have been told they just can’t do it. I am here to tell you that yes you can so long as you stick with it. I did and look where I am now. I may not be at the top, but I am definitely climbing.
I am thankful for freelance lessons I have learned and look forward to what the future will bring me!
Can you share any of the things you were thankful for learning when you first started out in the freelance writing world? Maybe you are new and have some questions and want some guidance? Feel free to comment below as I am always looking forward to hearing from you!
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