In 2015, I bought my first domain. I remember distinctly sitting at one of the computers in my community college’s library, brainstorming the perfect dot com.
My intention? To start my freelance writing business–a dream I’ve had for as long as I can remember. At the time, I knew very little about freelancing. However, I thought that owning my name on the internet was the best place to start.
I remember the gravity of this decision felt so pressing. I was already thinking twenty years down the line. “Is this the name I want on my New York Times bestseller?”
I settled on the good ole’ first and middle name. My parents named me Hannah Susanna, and while for most of my life I was embarrassed by my name, it does have a nice ring to it. As time passed, I reverted back to my first and last name. Sorry, mom and dad.
In the beginning, I thought being a freelancer meant I had a website with my name, wrote to my heart’s content and then would magically be called upon to write someone's book. I know, I sound naive, but I was.
I’ve learned along the way that sometimes it is as easy as getting discovered, but most days aren’t like that.
Most days include writing pitches, searching for clients, editing, rewriting your pitches, researching topics, updating your website, explaining to your mom why getting another byline is a great thing, and taking courses to stay awesome in your craft, among a slew of other things.
However, I have a few things I wish I knew when I started that I would like to pass on to you.
So, to help you I would like to pass on five things I wish I knew when I started.
1. Give yourself permission
In the beginning, I was hesitant to call myself a freelance writer. I wondered when I would be worthy of the title “freelancer.” Looking back, I suppose I was waiting for permission. From whom, I don’t know. But the thing about freelancing is that you have to give yourself permission. A great freelancer, Ashley Gainer, taught me this.
Allow yourself to fully embody your dream. Start referring to yourself as a freelancer, an entrepreneur or whichever term fits you best.
In the corporate world, you often interview for a job and are given a title. In freelancing, you have to give it to yourself. It’s important to recognize yourself as an expert first. Then, others will follow suit.
In addition to giving yourself permission to be the expert you are, you also need to give yourself permission to mess up. Loving the process and loving yourself through the process is important.
Not every day will be pitches won and best-selling novels, but falling and trying again makes those days even sweeter.
2. Absorb, absorb, repeat
Read books. Read articles. Take classes. Ask for feedback. Listen to podcasts. The more you absorb, the more you’ll have to share.
3. Find clients in unexpected places
Carve out time to find clients. This may seem like a no-brainer, but when I started, I didn’t realize how much time I would spend finding people to write for. Especially in the beginning, you’ll have to devote a hefty chunk of time to find clients.
- Take your time to seek out opportunities that speak to you
- Follow relevant Instagram hashtags
- Join a Facebook group
- Check out blogs you love and see if there is an opportunity to guest post
- Google local businesses and see if they could use a content strategy
- Reach out to your family, friends, coworkers and network and see if there is a need you can fill
- Ask your friends to mention your name if writing comes up in their circles
Many of my first clients were people I had already known. They just didn’t know I was a writer, and I didn’t know they were looking for one! Once we had that conversation, it was a match made in heaven.
4. Make freelance friends
One of the things that have helped me tremendously is joining a community of freelancers. In freelance, there really aren’t coworkers you see every day. It can feel isolating. Finding a group of people who also freelance will help you grow professionally and personally.
Trying to explain to your parents why you’re so proud of your SEO strategy can feel overwhelming sometimes, so it’s nice to have a community of other freelancers who can celebrate your successes with you. And, having a community is also a great way to find clients.
There is a misconception that freelancing is “every woman for herself.” This couldn’t be further from the truth.
Cultivating friendships with others is important for long term success. In any life endeavor, it’s important to have people to lean on and learn from. Freelancing is no different! I recommend joining a Facebook group to get started. 1..2..Freelance by Kat Boogaard is a great one.
5. Stay open and curious
No matter your niche or industry, there is always more to learn in freelance. Whether you’ve just begun or you're a 20-year veteran, it pays to keep an open mind and stay curious. One of the best pieces of advice I can offer is to keep a positive mindset. Always ask questions, put yourself out there, and work hard for your dreams. They’re worth it.
If you feel naive like I did, don’t fret. There is something magical about remaining hopeful. I believe a hint of naivety is important for being a freelancer. Believing anything can happen is part of the excitement of chasing your dreams.