7 Things I've Learned in my First Month of Freelancing
I'm calling 2019 the Year of Getting Sh*t Done. The Year of Hopepunk. So many of my friends are taking meaningful steps in their careers and really diving deep into figuring out their goals. In the public sector too, we seem to be at a crossroads where people are beginning to take change into their own hands. In December of last year I decided, not entirely of my own choosing, to do the brave thing and start carving my way toward the life I wanted. I began freelance writing. And while this month has had a crazy amount of ups and downs, I have had more real stimulating thought and conversation than I had in the entirety of 2018. I still have a long way to go, but for posterity, here are seven things I learned about freelancing this month.
When I work from home, I like having a hot beverage with me at all times. This is mainly because Charlie-cat demands free access to the patio at all hours, so I leave the door cracked and grab a blanket and some tea. This creates a great environment for Deep Thoughts and is much less noisy than the alternative. On that note...
The cat and I get on each other's nerves if we're together all day. While I am so happy to have picked - or rather, been chosen by - a shelter cat who is basically me covered in gray fur, Charlie is currently about 14 maturity-wise and is always loudly pouting about how I'm a bad mom. We're better if I can spend a couple hours away from the apartment, which can ruin my headspace.
It's become very important for me to protect my creative time. I've gotten caught up in the black hole that is applying for work for hours and hours, and at that point, it's not productive. More important is building a portfolio that speaks for itself, and that comes from quiet, uninterrupted hours of typing. Sometimes the result is usable and sometimes it's not, but you just have to start writing, otherwise you'll never know. If I get really stuck, I find it helps to write with pen and paper. There's a little more of a barrier between me and my keyboard - the pen is more intimate.
The best tip I got from my years of college internships was to always follow up. That applies to pitching writing gigs as well. I have not yet gotten a response to a cold email. But if, a few days later, that same person gets a follow-up email with their name in the subject line, I almost always get a response. It may not be the answer I'm looking for, but it's something.
A large part of my job is keeping up with what's current and honing in on the Next Big Thing. Last week, I joined Twitter for the first time, since most writers use that platform to share their work. I subscribe to a variety of writers on Medium, and I read Man Repeller and Vogue religiously. My travel inspiration comes mainly via Instagram and two YouTube channels, Damon and Jo and Jay Swanson.
I've been told over and over not to under-value my work, but this is a lesson I have had to internalize on my own. Finding the balance between offering a reasonable price and making a living is something I'm still figuring out. At the same time, if your offer is sub-par, the understanding is that your work must be as well. Services like Upwork, while they do take a percentage of every sale, have been good for me as a beginner because they give you resources like rate tip, which suggests what you could reasonably charge for a specific gig based on your experience.
Something I am still working on, and probably will be forever, is crafting a perfect pitch. I've never been much of a seller, and I definitely don't like talking about myself. Blame my south-Georgia upbringing, but having to talk about my own work always feels distasteful to me. I get around that by reframing: I'm not selling myself so much as selling the project. "Listen to this great idea that would fit your website's/magazine's needs! Let me write it, please!" And then you have to trust that it's not just flung into the void of the internet, that you're not just shouting into the wind. And then you follow up.