A FREELANCER’S STORY
My freelance career began with two things that I thought I would never do: I quit my full-time job without anything lined up, and I did so in the middle of a global pandemic amidst an economic turmoil.
It was an extremely overwhelming and scary feeling, but I knew in my heart that my 9 to 5 was no longer fulfilling me and hadn’t been for a while. I felt restricted by the traditional confines of an office job and found myself craving a different style of earning money.
However, my biggest hurdle when deciding to make the change was the department switch. I had worked for several years in the customer service industry. I knew I wanted to be a writer, but with no portfolio to show for it, I wasn’t getting hired on for any freelance jobs. So, I decided to create my own experience.
Building from the Ground Up
The first thing I did to kickstart my career was purchasing a website. Nowadays, website platforms like Wix and Squarespace make it incredibly easy to design and build your website without using any code. So, I put together my site that highlighted my services and used photos taken from my sister’s iPhone. And since I had little to no prior experience, I began writing my own blog, The Virtual Somm, to build my portfolio. My previous experience was in the wine industry, and it was a topic I have a vested interest in. So, I started blogging about wine and aimed to make my posts engaging, fun, and easily digestible. I wanted to ensure my readers that the wine world does not have to be intimidating, expensive, or out of reach. Plus, it was a great way to showcase my talents by writing in a style and voice that is all my own.
Simultaneously, I reached out to small business owners and freelancers that I knew, offering my services for free. This is not always recommended, but it felt like the best way to get my writing published on various websites across multiple industries. My customer service background helped me solidify my services because although I would later realize that I had a lot to learn about writing on the web, I was taught to always go above and beyond for each of my customers. This level of professionalism encouraged me to always ask for feedback because I wanted to ensure that I left none of my clients with a less-than-perfect experience.
After several months of trial and error, I began landing roles as a contract writer with various agencies. As a result, I’ve had the opportunity to practice multiple writing disciplines across several different platforms.
What I Wish I Knew
I’m coming up on just about a year of freelancing full-time, and in this short time, I’ve learned more about writing and marketing myself than ever before. And now that I’ve seen what the other side of working can look like, I do not think I’ll ever return to a traditional office job. However, I understand that the freelance lifestyle is not for everyone.
If I could go back in time and give myself advice when I was starting, I would tell myself this:
There are many peaks and valleys. Money-wise, you might not earn that much in your first year or two of freelancing. But unlike a 9 to 5, there is no cap to how much you can make as a freelancer, and if you keep putting yourself out there and sticking with it, it will be worth it in the long run.
There is so much to learn. As a freelancer and writer, I’m beginning to understand that there will always be something new to learn. It’s empowering to have physical proof of your progress and look back on pieces you wrote a year ago. Comparing it to your most recent articles, it becomes clear how much you’ve learned and how far you have come as an individual.
Do not ever give up. If this is in your heart of hearts to become a freelancer, do not ever give up. Do not ever stop learning, especially from those low moments in your career that will, inevitably, happen. Every day that you do not give up is a day that you become stronger at your job.
One of the most satisfying moments I experienced as a freelancer recently was Memorial Day. My friends and family had the day off, and they seemed so relieved to get some time away from their office. And I used to be in the same boat as them. But this year, it just felt like another day. Because when you freelance, you’re not always working eight hours a day, and you can often set your schedule to accommodate you and you only. It felt like I was taking control of my life for the first time, and it was an incredible feeling.
By: Erin Valusek
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