November has extra significance for me this year.
It marks six months since I started freelance writing, and three months since I began doing it full-time.
Back in May I was feeling stuck. Much of my working time was spent deep inside myself, writing and reforming blog posts in my head until I had the freedom to take out my laptop and type them up. This left me feeling split in two and never fully present. I resented the confines of an outside schedule on my life and wanted instead to spend more time in the world of my thoughts, giving myself the space to methodically pull them out.
I had no idea that a few short months later I would be fully committed to this practice, or how incredibly fulfilling it would be..
It’s amazing what can happen when you choose to say yes to a terrifying unknown.
Making a living from writing was something only the most gifted of us can do, I’d been taught. Every writer I adore comes to me fully formed in their writing identity, but didn’t they also choose one day to relentlessly pursue this dream?
And if they could do it, why couldn’t I?
At the start, the idea that I could convince strangers to pay me to do what really comes down to writing blog posts seemed far-reaching, if not impossible. Yet, research proved to me that other people were making it work for them, so I decided to give the intriguing field of online freelance writing a good shot. In any case, I tend to be extremely stubborn when I want something, so I created a simple portfolio (filled with samples from this blog) and aggressively began to market myself on multiple online platforms.
My first job came a few days later. It took me about four hours and paid $15 ($12.50 after fees). But then I got another one. And another. The momentum continued to build until this week I had to turn down clients willing to pay me $45/hr because there was no way I could fit any more work in my overly full writing schedule.
Keep in mind I’m a recent college graduate that just came off a yearlong AmeriCorps stipend. I’ve never worked a job that paid me anything close to a livable salary, so my standards of doing well are fairly low. Yet even so, I’m making more from writing in a week than almost any other job I’ve had before paid me in month.
I haven’t officially “made it” by professional standards, but for me, this kind of progress is plenty good enough to start feeling proud.
I May Only Be Six Months in, But Freelancing Has Already Changed Everything.
Americans are flocking to the gig economy. An estimated 35% of people freelance or work for themselves, and that number is only predicted to increase.
The gig economy allows you to work from anywhere and puts no cap on your earning potential like a traditional job. And now that I’ve found a way to easily outstrip my previous salary, it might just change the entire trajectory of our lives.
No longer will we need to worry about living in a place where one (or both of us) can get high quality jobs. By working remotely, I can ensure that we can live wherever we want, even in the middle of the woods or on a small farm.
Ian has long told me that he would be thrilled to work part-time and be a stay at home dad if I found a job that could support us and left me fulfilled. With freelance writing, I think I’ve found a way.
Even more than aiding our future plans, freelance writing has allowed me to become more free now.
By most standards, I got married young. We were both fresh out of college and hadn’t ever held full-time jobs, much less lived by ourselves. I knew early on that Ian was absolutely the right man for me, but my individualist nature ached for the loss of freedom that marriage implied. Yes, I wanted to be married and move to a mountain homestead, but I also wanted to travel, spend summers in national parks and work the kinds of jobs only available to someone not tied down to anyone but themselves.
I knew that marriage was right for me, but it still came at a cost of losing a part of myself that I deeply loved.
I didn’t realize how badly that loss was wearing me down until I rediscovered my sense of freedom through freelance writing. Now I can change my day around at a moment’s notice, even book a flight across the world if I want to. And I want to. As I write this post, I am sitting in an office building in the Dominican Republic, spending a week in the life of a good friend. The fact that both of us have plenty of work to do is no concern- I can join her at her office and be just as productive as I would be from my desk at home.
In the next few weeks I also plan to spend extra time with my parents in Michigan at Thanksgiving, and even prolong my stay in Georgia with my in laws over Christmas.
This kind of flexibility was impossible a year ago, but now that my entire work life encompasses my laptop and my planner, I am limited only by my creativity and a decent WiFi connection.
Finding Confidence I Didn’t Know I had
A few months ago, the bulk of my writing work was “content mill” quality- meaning it was simply filler content that could have been written by anyone with an above average grasp of English.
But it didn’t take long to start attracting the kinds of clients I really wanted to work with.
Just a week ago I was on the phone with a client in San Francisco who wanted advice from me about how to move the blog for his medical tech company forward. I’ll be honest, during that conversation the stomach curdling feelings of the Impostor Syndrome were coursing through me. What input could I possibly give in that kind of conversation? My life is about as far from the silicone valley tech scene as physically possible. But slowly, as we chatted on I realized that he was genuinely listening to my answers. My experience may seem limited to me, but all that matters is that I had information that was new to him.
I’ve learned a crucial writing lesson that has stopped me from getting overwhelmed or intimidated by competitors that are miles ahead of where I’m at.
It’s not about being the highest qualified or even the best, it’s about making myself available to the clients I can benefit.
My confidence worked and I was hired. If my writing from the mountains of Central Appalachia can have an impact on the medical industry in San Francisco, I think I’m starting to belong in this field.
You can keep your predictable weekly paycheck with the taxes conveniently taken out.
Me, I’ll take the somewhat erratic deposits in my Paypal account and the occasional check in the mail. I want to keep my crazy hours, the intense bursts of creativity that wake me up in the middle of the night screaming to be tapped, the ache in my back for sitting in my writing chair too long, and even the obnoxious clients that have stiffed me of my earnings along the way.
I want to keep starting each work week without any sense of where I’ll be by the end of it, who I’ll have interacted with and what new opportunities I’ll forge for myself along the way.
I want to keep starting each day knowing that I am limited only by my drive to succeed and my willingness to dream bigger for myself.
It’s taken me six months to get comfortable with the term, but now I’m apologetically calling myself a writer. Not just someone that keeps a blog as a hobby, but a professional writer who can take words and use them to financially support myself.
Why do I write?
I write because through constant practice and plenty of determination, I have become a writer.
This isn’t what I expected when I casually started browsing job sites six months ago, but I absolutely wouldn’t have it any other way.
If you have any questions about what freelance writing really looks like or what it will take for you to start, please message me or ask in the comments. It’s my hope to answer your questions in a future post.