A year ago to this day, I quit my job to pursue my dream of being a freelance writer.
It wasn’t an easy decision, but I was lucky to be in a position where I could launch into it with a certain amount of work (and pay) guaranteed each month. I realize that this isn’t exactly common and I’m grateful I’ve been able to benefit from it. It certainly eased my passage into self-employment.
My work in the past year has included ghostwriting several romance novellas; writing countless product descriptions, sales letters and promotional emails; compiling more travel articles than I can count; translating texts that range from marketing documents to human rights articles; and even recording a joke for an app.
I know there’s a lot of room for improvement still. I need to work on my concentration and I need to look for new ways to push myself, new avenues to explore. I also need to work more on my own personal writing. After all, I want to see my own name on those books I write, someday.
Am I worried about the future? Sometimes. But then again, knowing that clients come and go and that your earnings fluctuate from one month to the next does push you to care about your work a lot more. Is full-time eployment more secure? I’m not so sure. You can get pretty comfortable there, thinking you’re safe, and suddenly find yourself out of a job with no warning and no back-up plan. Freelancing will certainly keep you on your toes, but in the process, it will teach you to bounce back a lot faster.
Do I regret it? Absolutely not. 🙂 If you’re in a position where you can afford to do it, then definitely give it a go. You will learn a lot about yourself and how the world works.
If you want to be a freelancer, here’s my advice so far:
- Do your research. Yes, even the boring and scary admin stuff. If you feel like you don’t understand how something works, ask questions. Get a second opinion. Chase people until they will give you a straight answer. I recently had an issue with charging VAT that I’ve only just got to grips with. A client had to point out to me what I was doing wrong, which is something you want to avoid at all costs. Even my accountant (who had access to my invoices and filled in my VAT declaration form for me) didn’t notice my mistake. I couldn’t find the relevant information on the usual Luxembourgish websites, so in the end I had to go to an EU business site where it was laid out clearly enough.
- Determine the value of your work. You may have to charge lower rates than you were expecting, especially in the beginning, but it’s important not to sell yourself short. Determine what your time and skill are worth. They are your livelihood. If you can respect yourself as a professional, your clients will too.
- Do a good job. This one seems obvious, but there will be times when you’ll slip. The work won’t be as interesting to you, or you’ll take on too much at once, or you’ll get distracted. You will make mistakes. Hopefully, these won’t be major ones, but if you make too many, you could lose clients. Take care in what you do and your clients will know they can rely on you.
- Be open to new stuff. You won’t always get work that fits your perfect vision of what you’d like to be doing all day. Sometimes I have to do technical translations, which frankly scare the sh*** out of me, or I have to write about topics I’m unfamiliar with. Research can be tedious and takes time, but once you’ve mastered it, things will get easier. You will be able to add another area of expertise to your growing portfolio. You might also get a nice surprise: as mentioned above, I recently had to record a joke using a strong Swiss accent. The whole process was both terrifying and hilarious. I don’t particularly like my voice and I can’t laugh well on command, no matter how much I practise, but it was different and I had a blast.
- Tell people about your business. Talk about what you do. Let people know about the services you offer, whatever field they might work in. They might not be interested in working with you themselves, but they might know someone who is.
- Update your social media. Several of my clients found me through LinkedIn, for example. You can’t rely on those websites to bring you all your work, but you never know when something might turn up.
- Similarly, sign up to freelance work platforms. I currently use Upwork for my ghostwriting and I’ve done a couple of other jobs through them. They take a cut of your earnings, but you can find some interesting projects on there. Just make sure to take jobs that pay a decent amount (no 50 000 word books for $50 please!!).
- Get out of the house. Yes, seriously. You may like working at home, but don’t shut yourself off from the rest of the world. Not only do you need to put yourself and your business out there, but you also need to remember how to function around other human beings.
- Pursue other passions too. If, like me, you’ve always wanted to write for a living, it can be easy to think that this is it. You’ve won. You made it… No! It’s a job. You still have to work at it every single day and will have to do so for the rest of your working life. You have to keep it alive, and to do so, you also have to do other things that interest you from time to time. It will help you stay sane and trust me, you’ll need it.
In the meantime, keep on writing. It’s the best you can do for yourself and your future. 🙂