I’ve Been Freelancing For 6 Months. Here’s What I’ve Learned So Far
It’s kind of like sex. It’s not so much what you’re doing, but who you’re doing it with.
Life is but a dream for writers who are actually comfortable with calling themselves writers.
What do I mean?
When you google “writer,” images of 18th century men wearing wire-thin glasses angrily typing at a typewriter pop up — burgundy smoke pipe in mouth or on a wooden table much too small for anyone’s comfort.
This is not who the modern day writer is, and Google needs to catch on and catch up so I can build a better image library for my Medium articles. But more importantly, so the world knows who writers of today are, why they do what they do and how/where they find the inspiration to knock out a novel.
Who is The Modern Day Writer, Then?
The modern day writer is a highly creative individual who thrives on energetic atmosphere, overpriced cappuccinos, nootropics and titillating conversation from strangers and friends alike.
We need color, excitement and drama in our days to operate at peak performance. We gather our material from the experiences in which we embark on — the same way olden-time writers did — but we have replaced whiskey flasks with bulletproof coffee and superfood smoothies, and pen and paper with MacBooks.
Modern day writers are excellent representations of what fuels controversial topics at dinner parties. Writers of today — be it authors, freelancers, lyricists or magazine editors — they are stylish in appearance, refreshingly interesting to listen to and chock full of insider information only a journalist knows.
How I Convinced Myself I’m A Writer
A lot of writers (or “writers”) today don’t believe they are worthy of holding the actual writer title. And with consumers’ obsession with content, content, content, and more content, it’s easy to feel like an imposter because anyone can write something up and call themselves a writer. Anyone can create a website and say they have their own domain. Anyone can self-publish a book and call themselves an author.
It’s flattering, really. But in a way, it’s cheapening our profession, isn’t it? Perhaps there are two categories of writers, then — Writers & Professional Writers.
I feel like I have graduated from writer to professional writer.
When did this happen?
After freelancing for 1 year, being a content manager for a corporation for 1 year, and now having been successfully freelancing (again) for 6 months or better, I finally have the confidence to tell people I am a (professional!) writer.
I go to a co-working space to complete my freelancing tasks because they are like, so cool and all the rage right now. And largely because I get to sign in under “Ashley Alt Incorporated” when I arrive, which completely changes my mindset from “Neat, I’m writing some more articles today,” to “I am the Head Bitch In Charge of this co-working space lobby, and everyone who walks past me knows it by my oversized reading glasses and sleeveless blazer that kind of looks like a lab coat” — a substantial and necessary upgrade from buzzy coffee shops filled with university students wearing crop tops and conversing about how “Stacey is the worst.”
Working for yourself lends an empowering feeling of autonomy. It also fills your head with feelings of self-doubt, regret and confusion, which is inextricably linked to the whole writer/professional writer conundrum. This confusion often boils down to your (aspirational) journalistic career, filling your mind with distressing questions of:
What am I doing with my life? How do I get people to take what I do seriously? Why can no one relate to me? When are things going stop being hard and start being fun?
My advice for fellow freelance writers
If you are really trying to “make it” as a freelance writer, you have to be in it for the long haul. That means no taking gigs that will underpay you, undervalue you and leave you feeling like you aren’t worth what you are.
The only way I would take on an assignment that wasn’t paid (or was horribly paid), was if Vogue asked me to do it. But they better bet their bottom dollar I did not forget that Carrie was paid $4 per word for her work at Vogue, which was decades ago, so the going rate now is assumedly much higher.
If you haven’t already, you have to build up a writer portfolio. This is your new resume. Anytime a potential client asks to see my resume, I send them my portfolio instead, which almost always garners an offer.
The more naturally you can speak about what it is you do and what it is you write about, the more comfortable you will get with proclaiming to the world that you are, in fact, a professional writer. And the more real it becomes that freelancing is a real, money-making job that has serious advantages including 100% flexibility in how you conduct your days and live your life.
Seek out companies, brands and people that align with what you believe in. This is the best, lesson-learned advice I have to offer. If you know the niche you’re looking to make your own, you have crossed the biggest hurdle (in my opinion) in freelancing.
For me, it’s wellness brands, personal/professional development publications and the like. Anything tailored around being happy, healthy, career driven and strong is my happy place. I’m curious by nature, so interviewing people who have already gone through cold sober pitfalls (personal wise or career wise) and have found an inventive way to triumph from them is fun for me. It doesn’t feel like work. I’m having a conversation with these people, who are usually very successful, and writing that conversation down and calling it a story.
I have turned down really good money a number of times because I simply didn’t have a good feeling about the position, or about the client themselves. For example, I felt disrespected and belittled by an egotistical entrepreneur a few months back, which turned me off immediately from signing a contract with him. And, I knew I would grow bored of the subject matter because it wasn’t something I was passionate about.
That move empowered me. Me telling them it wasn’t a good fit — instead of the other way around — made it very real that I was the one in control of who I was or was not going to work with.
And that is what’s so fabulous about being a freelancer. WE ARE FREE to take on work at our pace and our price, and we have the final say in it all. We get to choose who we work with, which is a huge perk freelancers will always have over employees working in traditional jobs.
Finding the right clients (or the right editors, designers, other writers, etc.) is like finding your squad of people who truly and authentically get you. You have to be an undeniable pair to make the partnership fun, worthwhile and successful. This might take time, but the wait is worth it.
Takeaway: You have to be in it for the long haul if you want to make it as a freelancer. Finding the right freelancing crew will eminently enhance your life.
Thanks for reading!