Day 45: Freelance Life

I was out on the stoop writing for a while, trying to square away two of the jobs I’ve been enjoying the least — hold on. I shouldn’t say that, actually.

I love writing of all kinds, and I’ve written everything. Seriously, name it and I’ve written it for clients.

  • Marketing copy
  • Newsletters
  • Product descriptions
  • Band reviews
  • Artist bios
  • Book synopses
  • Restaurant blurbs
  • Radio on-air copy
  • Short scripts
  • Novels
  • Short stories
  • Essays
  • Memos
  • Job recommendations
  • Performance reviews
  • DIY guides
  • Recipes
  • Travel pieces

…I can’t think of anything else at the moment, but, if you can, I’ve probably worked on something at least similar.

The problem is that a lot of my work has been and still is ghostwriting jobs. Which means I can’t reveal that I wrote that piece on [fill in the blank].

When my freelance work was just stuff I did on the side to keep my writing skills keen and pick up some extra cash every once in a while, I didn’t care about those NDAs. Now that I’m trying to build a portfolio, they’re pesky. So I’m not enjoying a couple of the jobs I have currently because they are, once again, ghostwriting positions.

Frankly, I shouldn’t complain. Money is money is money. And for these two pieces I’m researching and learning about new things, which is something I always like to do. I should be able to lean in and enjoy them, but I’m just not in a headspace to do that at the moment.

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Regardless, I spent most of the afternoon sitting in the little front area of Molly/Sean/Shannon’s apartment building, writing away with Tako free to roam the tiny (but enclosed!) area.

I didn’t realize it, but Tako has been homesick for our lifestyle in SF. In San Francisco, we had the garden apartment that opened onto a laundry room and the backyard. That backyard has recently been renovated and relandscaped, and it’s absolutely gorgeous and lovely to hang out in. So that’s what Tako and I did every afternoon since I quit my job in April, hung out in the sunshine in the backyard.

The apartment building here in Brooklyn does have a yard, but it’s only accessible from the bottom floor flat. (That flat must go for an insane amount of money because the tiny bit of yard I can see from Molly/Sean/Shannon’s windows is lovely.) So the only outdoor space is the front stoop area.

Luckily for me, Tako loves hanging out in that little fenced space, and he was ecstatic to get so much outdoor time.

I find that people in New York are friendly. I know this isn’t the consensus, and I honestly don’t understand. At first, I thought people were just nicer to me because I had a tiny, adorable puppy-looking dog with me everywhere I went.

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He is pretty cute.

But then we settled in, and I started going out without Tako attached to me, and my experience was mostly the same. I guess I’ll talk about this another time because I’m really still getting a feel for the vibe in Brooklyn.

Sitting out on the stoop meant that everyone who passed said hello, or at least smiled, and I was pulled into multiple conversations. Which is how I…

…wound up with a invitation to dinner

…realized Tako is obsessed with a mini-Aussie/pom mix in the neighborhood

…had a job recommended

…was asked how freelancing works.

I turned down the date, and the job didn’t sound great, and the dog ran away in fear. So the only thing I’m going to talk about is how freelancing works.

 

Freelance Success

Success is based entirely on landing the first job and getting a good review from them. That’s it.

Once you land one happy client, you have a partial portfolio and positive feedback to share with potential clients, and other people will start taking a chance on you. From there, it just builds.

 

Step 1: Determine your hourly rate

Figure out how long it takes you to write 500 words (the length of one single-spaced page in 12-point font). Then decide how low you’re willing to go for that amount of effort.

I have to tell you, I see people on my freelance site who’ll work for $5/hour. My rate isn’t that low, and I do get work, but I get outbid a lot.

So you have a choice to make: Would you prefer to get one quality job for more per hour, or would you prefer to get a lot of jobs for way less per hour?

There’s no judgement on my part for however you answer. If you work super quickly, the latter might be the better option for you. If you want long-term projects that require deep-dives into a topic and a lot of research, the higher rate might be your best bet.

 

Step 2: Compile a few writing samples

I like to have a few samples of different styles to provide a potential client when bidding for a job. These aren’t necessarily samples you would find in a portfolio because I aim for short pieces the client can skim quickly. But some portfolios (marketing copy for example) will be based entirely around short copy, so there could be overlap. That’s just not in my wheelhouse for freelance.

Since most of my jobs are ghostwriting, I pull excerpts (around 300 words) from much longer pieces. I also only use samples from things that were either rejected by a client or remove any identifying wording.

Clients will run your samples through Google. I guarantee it. So if, like me, you’re going for a ghostwriting job, do everything in your power to ensure that they cannot find the original piece. Because then you’re not a ghostwriter anymore; you’ve become the jerk who just revealed a client put their name on something they didn’t write.

First rule of ghostwriting: don’t do that.

That’s why a lot of my samples come from my personal blogs or sites that have since been shut down.

Nothing is gone from the internet forever; if you search hard enough, you’ll find whatever they tried to hide. But if the site has been pulled, you’re not going to find excerpts in a standard Google search, and that’s about as far as most clients go in their background digging.

 

Step 3: Join a freelance site

I already had a couple of clients whom I’d worked with in the past who were happy to hire me again when I started freelancing. But the majority of my clients are now from freelance sites.

I’m not going to make a recommendation because it really depends on what kind of freelance work you’re looking for, so here’s a link to an article about the various options.

15 Best per Entrepreneur

 

Step 4: Have patience

Seriously, stockpile as much patience as you can because it could take weeks to get that first client. If you drink whiskey or wine, stockpile those, too (cheaply since you don’t have a job yet).

Just keep reminding yourself that it will happen. I swear you’ll get that first client. You just need to keep bidding, keep your samples up-to-date, and make sure your pitches are as on topic as possible.

 

Step 5: Follow up

Once you’ve work with that first client, and you’ve done your best work for them, send them a follow up note. I’m talking after job completion, after you’ve turned the finished project in, after they’ve paid, after you and they have both done everything you were supposed to do. That’s when you send them a note.

Tell them how much you enjoyed working with them, how you’d love to work with them again, and ask them to keep you in mind for any future work. Then wish them the best and see if they respond.

I mean, unless that isn’t true. Because I can almost guarantee if they liked your work, they’ll contact you first the next time they need something done.

 

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And that’s it! Good luck to you all & let me know how it goes.

If any freelancers out there have other recommendations or advice, or you think I got something wrong, please feel free to comment here or send me a message!


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