Like most who wish to become full-time writers, I boldly dove headfirst into uncharted waters with blind confidence. I was ready to quit my job, make a six-figure income from my very own home, take extravagant vacations, upgrade from Dunkin’ Donuts to Starbucks, and start getting my nails done every two weeks instead of every three months.
I wanted to live like the people I saw on Instagram. I wanted to be one of those women who could afford to buy Kylie Jenner lip kits and $40 sticks of eyeliner.
My expectations were both high and incredibly unrealistic for someone who was just entering the writing game. So, you can imagine my disappointment when the situation quickly began to deteriorate after quitting my day job.
Suddenly, I was in a serious financial bind, I hadn’t seen friends or family in months, and I felt like a complete failure.
Every writer goes through this awful period of wanting to give up, so why aren’t we talking about it?
Everyone likes to share their success stories in life. They want to convince you that freelancing is totally stress-free. They want you to know how convenient it is to work on your own terms, and how amazing it is to set your own rates.
No one wants to talk about the sleepless nights, the long hours, or the constant fear that yet another client is going to eventually ghost you.
No one wants to admit that they failed. No one wants to admit that they had to turn around and put that uniform back on to earn money.
Clients Don’t Just Fall Into Your Lap
You made an Upwork account, started a Medium blog, and decided to call yourself a writer, so where are all the clients? They should be lining up to hire you…shouldn’t they?
Unless you start taking action with these platforms, they’re useless. Successful writers don’t wait around for business to come knocking, they learn how to market.
So, pump the brakes on quitting that day job unless you’re equipped to handle months or even years of financial uncertainty. Right now, your focus should be building credibility by sharpening your portfolio. This means writing at least three to four top-notch pieces tailored to the niche that you specialize in.
Be thoughtful, take your time, and for the love of God, don’t use a listicle as the sample that you plan to show off. I’m not saying that clients won’t ask you to write them, I myself have probably written hundreds of them by now…but they’re definitely not my first pick when it comes to sharing my expertise and professional experience.
Once you’ve spruced up the portfolio, you still have to find clients. That means gathering and setting up an email list, making cold calls, and putting in project proposals.
I know, you thought that stellar Upwork profile was just going to bring in the bacon by itself…I did too. Sadly, it just doesn’t work that way.
The key is persistence. The majority of my income as a writer comes from a handful of clients. Instead of taking a bunch of random projects, I aim to retain at least 4 to 5 clients at $1,000 per month each.
I haven’t quite made it to my goal yet, but I can tell you that the long-term, reliable customers are the ones who are willing to pay more.
It Takes Time to Adjust
When you’re used to the traditional sense of the word “working,” sitting at home all day just feels wrong. Your body keeps telling you that you should be up, moving around, clocking into work, and answering to a boss. You’re still sort of doing that as a writer, but I think for most people the sense of structure that the typical workplace has basically disappeared.
Being at home all day, you notice that the dishes need to be done. The baseboards are looking a little dusty. The pantry is starting to look a little cluttered. There are distractions EVERYWHERE.
To deal with all these changes in my work environment, I had to create a routine. At a regular job, I wasn’t rolling out of bed and heading straight to the computer. I was getting up early, putting on a pot of coffee, playing with my dogs, going for a jog, and performing any other need for self-care.
Going forward, that was my mindset. Get up early and take care of the things that are going to nag at you throughout the day.
When chores are nagging at you, you can’t get work done.
Freelancing Put a Strain On My Relationships
Not only did I not expect it, but I was also completely blindsided by how this endeavor would alter the connections I had with the people I loved. Writing, or figuring out how I could find more people to write for, was my number one priority.
I was going all in, which means I had to turn down a lot of dinners, parties, birthdays, and outings with friends. When I did attend gatherings, I was anxious the entire time. No one actually thinks you’re working, in their minds you just have a ton of free time and you don’t want to share it with them.
I had deadlines to meet…I just wanted to go home and type.
The first few months of building momentum in your writing career are crucial, and I have no regrets about putting in as much time as I did. Still, freelancing can be incredibly isolating.
I’m an introvert, and even I was starting to miss human contact.
While I am fortunate enough to have a business-minded parent to guide me along, I wasn’t so lucky with others. I’d hoped for more support from certain people in my life, and all I received was doubt. I could probably count on one hand how many people actually believed in me.
Even if no one believes in you, believe in yourself. Gymnasts go through it while they’re training. Doctors experience while they’re studying for their degrees.
Nothing good comes easily, but things will get easier as long as you stay focused.
Shiny Object Syndrome Within Your Niche
I first learned about Shiny Object Syndrome through a recommendation to a Sam Ovens YouTube video. In a nutshell, he discusses how human beings are constantly trying to get to the “greener grass.” As writers, we’re always seeking out the greenest niche. If we fail to succeed, it’s not our fault, it’s the niches!
Look, you can branch out later on. Right now, pick a niche and put all of your efforts into it. For example, my main niche was in the pet industry. However, I wrote for a number of sub-niches, veterinarians, pet hotels, retail, and dozens of others.
Figuring out how to efficiently monetize your writing skills will take longer than a year.
Like anything else in life, it’s a constant learning process.