In September 2015 we left with our trailer and baby to live a digital nomad life in Spain and Portugal. Around this time, I also started my freelance writing career. To be honest: I cannot define it as a ‘career’ because this would imply some increase in the amount of work and income and there wasn’t any. We are now one year further along the road and when I take a look back, I know of 3 big mistakes I’ve made as a newbie freelance writer. I’ll spill them – oh the embarrassment – and tell you what I’m going to do about them, so you can learn from my mistakes.
1. I didn’t select a niche
I thought I would decrease my chances if I would stick to a certain topic, area or branch. Oh, I was so wrong! Calling yourself a ‘freelance writer’ isn’t going to convince potential clients that you are the best freelance writer for their particular job. Being a ‘freelance writer with lots of experience and expertise in topic X’ will increase your changes tremendously. I should have thought about that earlier (or should have listened better to experienced freelance writers like Gina Horkey, Carol Tice, and Jorden Roper) because without a niche I was lost in the big world of freelance writing gigs.
Read more about these experienced freelance writers in my blog post ‘How to become a freelance writer‘.
On Upwork, I couldn’t decide what to look for, and when thinking about pitching a potential client, I just couldn’t figure out how to get started. Now I know better. Once you decide on a niche, your search for potential clients will be more focused and narrowed, which will give you plenty of guidance when you start pitching for jobs.
Diversity is not an advantage
There is another disadvantage about not picking a niche. I received several different assignments from the one client I did found (see more about this below). All these assignments were about different topics, such as wholesale pizza crusts, financial software for salon owners and pension advice. I first thought I would be thrilled because of the diversity and the variety, but no, I found it sooooo boring.
I was embarrassed by this realisation. Who am I to judge about my jobs? I should be happy and thankful I was giving a chance to write at all! It took me a year to realise I wasn’t spoiled or ungrateful so now I am going to choose a niche. Which one? I don’t know yet, but you are the first to know if I make a decision.
2. I thought the work would come to me
When I started as a freelance writer last year, I talked about this with a friend of mine. I told her I didn’t really know how to get started (see my point below) and asked for advice. She told me she knew a friend of a friend with a business in writing. I visited her website and send an email. It wasn’t really pitching. I just wrote that I wanted to work as a freelance writer, that I had several years experience as an editor and blogger and that I wondered if she had any jobs for me. She replied enthusiastically and give me my first assignment a week later.
It was just dumb luck. This wasn’t about hard working at all.
So after that, I just thought the work would come to me. I was wrong, of course. I’ve had a stroke of luck and although I didn’t really enjoy it (like I explained, the topics were boring), I didn’t take any action to find more interesting jobs and clients. But how will I find these?
3. I didn’t stick to a strategy
I really wanted more interesting clients but didn’t know how I could find them. And when I thought oh let’s try this, I wasn’t really into it. I was firing blanks.
In retrospective, I didn’t have a strategy at all. I started with freelance writing by telling other people I wanted to work as a freelance writer, which is not much of a strategy. Although telling others about your freelance writing ambitions is one of the necessary steps (it is part of taking yourself and your freelance writing career seriously), it is obviously not enough.
I did found my first client by telling friends about my plan to freelance, but after landing that client, the mojo stopped.
If you want to make serious money with freelance writing, you need a strategy.
Strategy for a newbie freelance writer
As a newbie freelance writer, it can be overwhelming. Where to begin?! Read my step by step guide on how to become a freelance writer. This will get you going.