About Me, Being Authentic, How to, Portfolio

When I started my freelance writing business in 2016, I took notes every step of the way. I knew at some point, I would want to retrace my steps and share them with other beginners.

This is not going to be a super long and detailed post. I have too many bullet points to do that.

This is literally every step I took from the very beginning when I was still working a 9-5 job.

The first thing I did was spend some time online perusing job boards like Flexjobs and Upwork. Everyone asks for your portfolio, sample works, URLs to published work. I had none!

So…

 

Step 1. I gathered all of my creative stories and poems that I had. I began fine-tuning them to share with prospective clients. If you’re curious, this honestly never helped me land a gig, but it did help me get in an organized and creative mindset.

Step 2. I combed the web for ideas on what I needed to learn before applying to freelance writing gig postings. I also looked around for where job postings for freelance writers could be found. (Craigslist, ProBlogger, BloggingPro, Contena for a fee)

 

Step 3. I discovered that I would need my own website. At this point, I spent days buying a domain, figuring out hosting options, and beginning to learn WordPress operations.

 

Step 4. I offered my services for free in exchange for testimonials. I told everyone I knew to spread the news. Within a few weeks, I had gigs doing resume writing, writing an article for a hospital newsletter, some website copy, and some proofreading. I even helped an acquaintance write copy for her wedding planning brochure.

 

I really sucked. I had no idea what I was doing. But I did get most of them to give me the testimonials I needed.

 

Step 5. At this point, I knew I would need some help setting up my website. I also wanted someone to teach me WordPress intricacies. I paid someone from Upwork to help me get the basics set up.

I am still learning new WordPress processes to this day. I think all writers should at least know how to upload their own work into WordPress because many clients require their writing staff to do that.

 

Step 6. Then I got on Upwork to find my first gigs. I was still working full-time in an office, and I spent six or seven hours every evening in front of my laptop looking for clients.

I submitted hundreds of proposals in the first month. My first paid job was for $4 to proofread a memo.
Tip: You do not need to pay for extra credits to submit proposals on Upwork. You can submit to plenty of jobs with a free account.

To my surprise, my second client ever on Upwork is still an anchor client three years later. His work allowed me to eventually quit my 9-5 office job.

 

Step 7. I bought a lot of books I didn’t need. The only book I bought that I still use almost every day is a thesaurus; The Synonym Finder by J.I. Rodale. I bought a used paperback copy on Amazon for like five bucks, and it has never left my desk.

 

Step 8. I used my downtime to create a ton of mock-ups. I created fake wedding brochures, newsletters, articles, things I could add to my Upwork profile.

Step 9. I started understanding the importance of networking with other artists. Everyone always knew someone who was looking to have something written or created. Networking is one of the most important things I did, and still do, every day.

I have gotten nearly all my clients because of networking and forming relationships with other writers.

 

Step 10. Back to my website. Yes, this lovely website you are on now. It took me over three weeks to get my website together exactly how I wanted it. I repeatedly visited other freelance writers’ sites to figure out what I liked and what I didn’t. At the time it felt like my entire freelance writing business hinged on the launch of my website.

It cost me $$$, and I went through five designers before I got the perfect logo. In hindsight, my logo is the least important part of my business.

I love it, it reflects who I am, but no one has ever hired me based on the cool font my name is written in.

 

Step 11. During all of this, I was still constantly networking. I created a Facebook business page. I totally revamped my LinkedIn page. I joined Twitter.

I spent time on LinkedIn connecting with people and groups. I asked for recommendations from former co-workers. I spent time learning, listening, and asking.

 

Step 12. I enrolled at the University of Chicago to receive an official editing certificate. I use that information on my resume and in cover letters, but beyond that, it has literally never gotten me a job.

If you’re wondering if you need a degree or certification to get freelance writing work, you don’t. Clients will hire you based on the work you can show them. This is not accounting for certificates that promote SEO skills and things like that, however.

 

Step 13. I had been working towards building a freelance clientele for about a month, and I was still working my 9-5. I installed a landline and had fun creating business cards. I also bought a super professional headset.

Looking back, it was more exciting to plan than to actually do. I bought fun things, created logos, and business cards. It gave me the illusion of working towards my goals, but the reality was that I should have used that time and money to actually search for work.

 

I never once used my landline or headset, and I think I handed out ONE business card ever.

 

Step 14(ish). I don’t want you to think I am discouraging you from reading helpful books or taking worthwhile I read everything I could find on building a good portfolio, cold calling, cold emailing, pitching, etc. But there was no need for me to spend thousands of dollars trying to prepare myself to become a freelance writer.

All the preparation you need is in practice. I always say that talent and passion cannot do what practice can do.

 

Step 15. I did sign up for a free trial of Profinder on LinkedIn. I found one small client on there for a one-off job. Then I forgot to cancel my membership before the trial was up and they ended up charging my card $99 for about six months before I caught it. They do not refund money.

I tried finding local businesses who might need copywriting services, but I live in a small town, in a rural area. I decided to turn my attention to the internet only. It was a good

 

Step 16. I used Medium to publish some sample work, and I even posted my samples on my LinkedIn profile. (In upcoming blog posts, I will share a list of places to publish your work.)

Step 17. I used a Contena coach to help me fine-tune my pitch and create appropriate samples for potential clients.

This was when everything finally started to click. I started getting responses from potential clients. At this point, I had no bylines and nothing I could show except for my Medium article/s and samples I created.

It was enough for most clients, and I finally got my first byline after about five months of starting the whole process.

I always say that talent and passion cannot do what practice can do.

 

Final thoughts/things I wish I knew then:

I wish I wouldn’t have spent so much time, energy, and money on things that don’t really matter. Those things were business cards, a landline, my logo, books about writing, and more.

Spend your time on networking and perfecting your pitch. If you really want to spend money on something, look into SEO classes, or learning about WordPress.

 

I hope my timeline helps you figure out what comes next for you. Are you stuck on something? Let me know in the comments.

 

Being Authentic

 

I am so tired of seeing self-described helpful websites and blog posts that put me inside a box. It makes me sad to see people trying to conform to the ideals of others because they think that is the only path to success. I see it all the time.

 

Don’t use the word sincerely.

Never say sorry.

Be bold or stay invisible.

Don’t send a thank you note until the third Monday of a waning moon.

 

Fuck ALL of that.

 

My authenticity is more important than anyone’s rules. (So is yours.)

I use the word sincerely because I am SINCERE. (And maybe you like ending every email with “Cheers.” Live your life.)

I say sorry when I am apologetic. (Just be a damn human.)

Being me is being bold. Being yourself is being bold.

I’ll send a thank you note anytime I damn well please, and I’ll send other notes just because. (I. LOVE. STATIONERY. And I love saying thank you. And please. I like using my manners!)

 

Be yourself, and you will attract the people you are supposed to attract.

 

Let’s be real. Do you WANT to work with someone who places the importance of rules over genuine human interactions? I don’t.

Don’t fall into a rabbit hole of how-to guides and start second-guessing everything you’ve done, and worrying about all the things you have to change.

Don’t change. Hone your talent, improve your skills, but don’t change the wonderful, incredible, awesome things that make you who you are.

You’ll never have to remember tips or tricks if you rely on the truest version of you.

 

Being Authentic, How to

 

Constructive criticism. Developmental feedback. Progressive advice. Whatever you call it, it’s necessary and sometimes shitty. It’s also a brick-by-brick construction of your writing foundation.

I’ve read a lot of blogs on writing tips. Inevitably the article will tell me that I need to have thick skin or learn to grow some. You know what I say to that?

NOPE.

No. No way. Not happening. I am a hyper-sensitive, thin-skinned, impassioned writer that needs a lot of emotional soothing when feedback is less than stellar. I like who I am, and I am not going to harden myself against critics or the world.

I am thin-skinned. I don’t know how to be thick-skinned because that’s not in my nature but I do have tools that soothe my bruised ego and help me move forward without fear.

Are you thin-skinned too? I hope these tips help.

Find your cheerleader.

Make sure you have a support system. Introverts tend to have a small social circle. Ensure that you have someone that can be a sounding board for your frustrations, fears, and hurt feelings.

My husband is my biggest cheerleader. I tell him when I get feedback that hurts my feelings. He has an uncanny ability to twist the criticism into positivity.

Is your art, your work, bigger than temporary hurt feelings? It is.

Change your perspective.

I like to visualize every piece of poor feedback as a big rock. I get the criticism, I step on that rock and it elevates me. You won’t be a great writer until you’re standing on a mountain of these big rocks.

Every criticism is a stepping stone towards being a better writer. These are opportunities, not setbacks. Use feedback as your fuel to get better, do better, be better.

Scream.

Let it out. Give yourself permission to sulk a little and cry it out. If you’re angry, scream and punch the couch (unless it’s a futon because that doesn’t seem safe). Allow yourself to feel whatever it is your feeling and remind yourself that the sting will pass. Poor feedback doesn’t turn you into a bad writer. It turns you into a stronger writer with more knowledge and experience than you had before.

“Ow, that hurt. That hurt a lot. But I’m still a writer.” Critics don’t even get to take that away from you.

There will always be a road to redemption for a writer because our only job is to write better.

Find better clients.

Sometimes constructive criticism is anything but helpful. Sometimes it’s just mean. If your client tells you that your stuff sucks but offers zero notes on how to make it better for them, THEY SUCK.

If that is a reoccurring issue with a client, maybe you aren’t suited to work together. There is no shame in realizing that a working relationship is no longer beneficial and then taking steps to rectify the situation. And by rectify, I mean walk away. I’d like to suggest playing Christina Aguilera’s “Beautiful” while you write the peace-out email.

It’s okay to be a thin-skinned writer. There are so many people out there shouting that it’s not, but it really is! Our sympathetic nature is our strength.

Thick skin is not necessary to be a writer. There are a lot of articles and blogs that perpetuate and normalize this idea that if you have thin skin, you’re not going to be as successful in your writing career. Fuuuuck that.

You can be sensitive, but you can also be brave. Being tender-hearted doesn’t mean your voice is weak.

 

 

Being Authentic, How to

 

I have been struggling with that question. I haven’t posted anything new here in over a week, and I was driving myself crazy trying to figure out what I should be doing RIGHT NOW.

Write something to pitch as a guest post.

Scribble down some ideas for my blog.

Watch how-to videos and tutorials on branding myself; obviously, I should rebrand myself.

Watch tutorials on infographics.

Do your actual writing work that gets you paid.

Fuck it all, burn the house down, and run away.

Or just make cookies.

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