Lessons I Learnt From My First Year as a Freelance Writer

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My first year as a freelance writer has been eventful. And right now, I’m celebrating my first year anniversary.

(Or thereabout, in the beginning, I’d just quit my job and was fumbling around, unsure of what to do. Imagine a drowning victim; panicking, arms waving around everywhere, head bobbing under. Desperately trying to stay afloat. That was me, and who says writers are overdramatic?)

I was still in London at the time but knew that I’d be leaving in September. So, I wasn’t too sure about getting another in-house copywriting role.

I was leaving the bustling capital city to spend more time at home and to help my parents out. Naturally, the flexible working that being a freelancer provides appealed to me.

But my god, nothing could have prepared me for the next year. If there are any budding freelance-enthusiasts who want to go it alone, then this blog is made with you in mind and crafted from my own dumb-ass mistakes, which are now tailored into lessons that I’ve learnt.

Failures and Lessons Learnt From a Freelance Copywriter

I guess nobody is perfect right? Sometimes we must make our own mistakes (several times) until we learn from them. But if I can in any way help you on your freelance journey, then do make sure you note some of these down.

Don’t Get Stuck Working for Content Mills

Don’t do it. It’s that simple. At least that’s what I’ve learnt from my first year as a freelance writer (and I’m still paying the costs it that lesson now).

At the time, I thought they were a good way in (despite reading everywhere to avoid them). I thought that I’d be able to build up some clients while getting some experience and some money.

But the people you work with don’t understand the value of content or the concept of great copy. So, what you’re left with is you churning out hundreds of thousands of words, that you don’t care about, to make ends meet. I can confirm the ends don’t meet. You feel miserable. That imposter syndrome creeps right upon you and almost smothers you.

Avoid content mills. I’m currently transitioning away from them. I am spending more time looking for creative agencies or fascinating clients that are looking for a freelance content writer.

Have a Plan

I didn’t enter the freelance world all guns blazing. But at the same time, I didn’t implement a plan or allow myself time for working on my business. Drifting through is the best way to describe my first year as a freelance writer. Barely drifting through.

I’m a big lover of to-do lists, so I had plenty of those. However, they were always for the day ahead or the week ahead. There was no significant plan or expectations of what I wanted to achieve as a writer or how I was going to do it.

This year all of this will change. I will formulate a plan, work more on the business side of things, and be more mindful of how I spend my time. Having a clear-cut vision of your business and plan is essential for success.

Don’t Underestimate How Difficult Going It on Your Own Is

This is my most favourite and least favourite lesson that I’ve learnt. I’ve always been very independent and happy to do things by myself. I knew starting my own business, having to answer and rely on myself, and chasing the dream of writing alone wasn’t going to be easy. I’m not that dumb.

However, even now I find myself thinking maybe I should pack this in. I find myself looking on Indeed for writing or marketing jobs in the local area (which is very limited anyway). And some days I convince myself that this is not going to work out.

Completing client briefs, writing articles, crafting social media posts, and finding the right words for a client’s website are no problem. After all, I am an experienced and skilled writer. However, feeling alone in this venture, having to put yourself out there and find new clients, being broke, and having to explain to your parents that you do actually have a job but you don’t have a specific office, can all be hard.

Reach out to Others

That loneliness I mentioned can be fixed. All you have to do is reach out to others. Due to being run-down with work, I didn’t make the most of the online communities. But they do exist, and they are filled with lovely people, who are just like you and me!

Social media is a key place to start, if you want to become a freelance writer then you might want to join in on ContentClubUK on Twitter, which happens every Tuesday at 11 am. Here you can answer questions and get inspiration and tips from other freelancers. There are also groups on Facebook such as Being Freelance that you can join.

I feel like I’m still in the process of learning this lesson. But the point is that you aren’t alone. Even switching up your working environment might help. In the beginning, I thought working from home will be great (and it is) but sometimes it can get lonely. This is where local libraries, coffee shops, or co-working spaces come in handy.

Actively Look for Clients

So far, during my freelance writing journey, I haven’t sought out that much work. But as a business, the only way to get your name out there is to tell/show people what you do. It might be scary contacting people and it might feel like you’re bothering them, but this is one of those things you must just throw yourself into.

I’ve applied for freelance writing jobs, had a few clients come to me, worked with an agency, but never cold emailed a potential client. In 2020, I intend this to change and you should too.

Actively looking for clients is key to keeping your business alive. Writers aren’t the most confident type of creatures, but we sure are determined. Write down all the clients you want to work with and start practicing your pitching skills.

Take Heed From This Weathered (But Knowledgeable) Freelance Writer

There you have it, plenty to learn from my first year as a freelance writer. One of the magical things about life is you keep learning. Another great thing is that you’re more resilient than you think.

Remember, if you’re thinking about becoming a freelance writer go into it with a plan, don’t work for content mills, and make sure you find clients you want to work with. Happy 2020 all, I hope you achieve your goals this year.

Please feel free to get in touch with me if you have any questions about freelance life or if you’re a business looking for a knowledgeable freelance writer.

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One Reply to “Lessons I Learnt From My First Year as a Freelance Writer”

  1. I wrote a similar post and have always found it interesting the similarities many writers realize. Nice post and I hope other writers can learn from your first year😊

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