This is a guest post from Kelly Vo, a writer, CEO of Kevo Writing and member of the nDash Content Community.
Starting a career as a freelance writer isn’t easy. That may be a bit of an understatment. It’d be more accurate to say that it’s like jumping out of a plane and then being told that you have to fashion your own parachute from the supplies thrown after you—all before you hit the ground. Yeah, it’s kind of like that.
Thankfully, I was luckier than most when I started my freelance writing career. I already had a friend in the industry and she was more than willing to give me advice on how to start. Her help was invaluable, but it still didn’t stop me from bumbling along at the beginning. I remember my very first job…
My First Freelance Writing Assignment
When I first started freelancing, I did what everyone else did. I turned to Elance, the global freelancing platform (now named Upwork). I was desperate for a client, any client, and that was the best place to start—at least that’s what I thought. So, I made my profile, paid the monthly fee, and started applying to everything in sight.
It took a few weeks, lots of applications, and a few disappointing losses until I finally landed my first client—a gentleman who needed 1,000-word articles for his technology app. Let me be blunt. I knew next to nothing about his product, which focused on words of affirmation and child psychology, but I was willing to learn. After a few articles with detailed feedback, written and via Skype, I finally found my groove and started writing articles that worked.
Mind you; I didn’t earn a lot of money. For the first and last time, I charged per word instead of per article. It was a pain, and I only eked out a few hundred dollars for a couple of months of work, but it was a start. It gave me the confidence to believe that I could actually support myself as a writer.
In the end, I only wrote around 20 articles for him before he disappeared into the ether, but during the time I wrote for him, I learned a lot.
Lessons Learned from My First Client
- Be Aggressive
Nothing you ever do as a freelance writer will be handed to you. You have to go out and fight for your right to write (try saying that five times fast). Clients won’t always be communicative, and they won’t always be easy. My first client had more drama going on than a Real Housewives show, and I had to learn to aggressively reach out and ask for assignments and payment and then fire him when it got to be too much.
- Don’t Underestimate Your Worth
When you’re first starting out, most freelance writers are so desperate that they’re willing to take any job, even if it’s not worth the time or money. And while that’s not a bad idea to help you get the necessary experience, if you don’t quickly start working for what you’re worth, you can get pigeonholed.
- You Can Learn Anything
Don’t only apply to writing jobs that fit within your current wheelhouse. If you’re willing to take the time to research and learn, you can write about anything under the sun. Apply to interesting jobs that are outside of your expertise. You’ll be glad you did.
- Things Rarely Go As Planned
My first client promised steady work that would keep me occupied for months. Unfortunately, it ended much more abruptly than expected. Don’t put all your hope in one client. Spread out your workload and salary over a variety of clients, so when things don’t go as planned, you’re not stuck without anywhere to turn.
- Work for Companies not Individuals
It’s more difficult, and there’s more competition for companies, but they make far better clients than individuals. Not only do companies tend to pay better, but they’re also more consistent in their work. It’s worth it to go the extra mile to work for a company.
What was your first freelance writing job like? Share it in the comments below!