What I Wish I Knew About Freelance Writing a Year Ago

If you’ve been following my blog at all, you probably know by now that I’ve been on a purposeful “writing journey” for the last two years, with an end goal of writing full-time. I’ve recently met that goal and have been reflecting on what I can do to be a great freelancer. In the process, I’ve realized there are a lot of things I could have done this past year that would have made my introduction into a freelance career much easier.

One of the main purposes of Paper Crow Blog is to help other writers on their own journeys, and in today’s post, I share some of the things I wish I would have known before starting to freelance. These tips would have saved me time, money, and possibly a few grey hairs that have begun to sprout, as I’ve also begun my voyage into my 30s . . .

Your Organization Strategy May Look Different

It seems like for each writing project outside of freelancing, I have different ways of organizing my tasks. For my in-progress novel (sigh), I’ve mostly kept a separate notebook that I organize information about my characters, settings, scenes, etc. I also have notebooks where I store random ideas that occur to me, journals that I write scraps of essays in, and so on.

For my personal freelancing style, I’ve had to develop a different organization strategy. With multiple clients with varying deadlines and numbers of assignments, I’ve learned that color-coding is my new best friend. Which is convenient because I love office supplies like highlighters, sticky notes, calendars, etc. When I began taking on more and more clients, I realized quickly that it’s easy for assignments to get lost in an e-mail chain when going back and forth with revisions.

I randomly found a Post-It brand paper calendar in Walgreens (because I have a problem where I can’t walk into a place like a drugstore and still not look at the office supplies).

Here’s an example picture, in case you want to go out and get yourself one of these super cool sticky note calendars. I have each client color-coded to their assignments for the week (I didn’t include the names in the photo for confidentiality reasons).

Alex initially pointed out that the concept is a bit wasteful, as you stick Post-It notes on a paper calendar and are supposed to use a new one each week.

I have to agree, so I recycle all the sticky notes. I also reuse each large calendar sheet by using even smaller sticky notes for my clients’ names, so I don’t have to write directly on the calendar (reminiscent of Monica vacuuming the big vacuum with the small vacuum?). And a couple of my assignment tasks repeat, so I can reuse some of the sticky notes, too.

Dedicate Time to Learning New Platforms

This tip is another big one. Wow, there are a lot of communication platforms out there, in case you didn’t know. Between calendars, social media posting platforms, texts, e-mails, Zoom, etc., I wish I would have factored in time to familiarize myself with platforms before taking on more clients.

I’ve adjusted, but if you are beginning your own freelancing career, I would suggest taking it slow to save yourself some headaches! A few of the platforms I use among clients include:

I would also suggest knowing the basics of every social media platform (including Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter) as well, just in case. Even if you aren’t doing strict social media content, you may be asked to use the platform at any given time.

Ask Lots of Questions

When discussing a freelance job with a potential client, make sure you ask questions to cover all of the basics. Even when the questions seem silly, it is better to ask them than not. Some topics I would suggest covering include:

  • Turnaround time – Are they going to assign you a piece at any point and expect it done by midnight that same day? What about holidays?
  • Word counts – Do they have maximum or minimum requirements? Do they pay extra for going over?
  • Communication – What time zone are they in? Give them a clear idea of your communication availability. If your client is in a time zone several hours ahead, you won’t always be able to reply at a moment’s notice.
  • Amount of work – Is the work going to be consistent? Is it going to actually be consistent? One of the most frustrating things is to go through the process of getting into a freelancer-client relationship with the expectation of several hours a week and then be told the client is still “building” their business and will instead have periodic work.

Be Okay with Turning Down Assignments

After all those questions, if your gut feeling is telling you don’t sign on with the client, don’t do it. Getting trapped into a contract with an unreliable person is a recipe for stress, even if the pay rate is high. Consider whether their communication style is strong enough for you to know what they are expecting, and whether their personality is a good match. Remind yourself you are partnering with that client, not working *for* them.

I would also suggest not accepting assignments below your rate. I think we’ve probably all been guilty of this at some point or another, especially when first starting out, but you can find yourself in a rabbit hole that’s hard to get out of.

I’ve seen “legitimate” posts for clients paying $10 for 2000 word pieces (and worse). No way.

Recognize Your Successes, No Matter How Small

Lastly, I wish I would have begun recognizing my successes more throughout the past year. It’s easy to let yourself slip into the mindset of imposter syndrome and other manifestations of self-doubt.

Always keep in mind that, “Hey, someone’s paying me a reasonable amount for my writing.” While obviously money isn’t the ultimate goal, it’s still a pretty cool thing that someone is willing to invest (monetarily) in your services.

Keep reflecting on your growth, and remember how far you’ve come in your writing and your career. I can honestly say, throughout the past year, I have slashed through incredible amounts of anxiety in regards to my writing. When you’re on a deadline for someone else, you don’t have time to wonder if you can do it, or if you’re able to finish that assignment. You simply do it, and you see that the words just keep coming.

Are you a freelancer or writer that has learned a few things over the course of your writing history? Share your tips in the comments section!

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