Looking back on my first year of freelance writing, I’m filled with both pride and humility. I’ve come a long way from the anxious writer I was when I started. I’m grateful for the challenges and successes of my first year because these helped me grow and develop my skills as a writer and run my freelance business.
From finding my writing niche and honing my craft to navigating the business side of freelancing and building a network of peers, I’ve gained a wealth of knowledge that I’m eager to continue to apply to my work. As I move forward into the new year, I’m excited to continue growing my freelance writing career and share what I learned with other freelancers starting their journey.
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What I Learned in My First Year of Freelance Writing
Finding My Writing Niche
Before I started my freelance writing journey, I was a corporate immigration paralegal working long hours in a law firm back in Texas. I loved my job and found it fulfilling and challenging, which helped me avoid boredom. However, I love traveling and exploring the world, and work didn’t leave me with much vacation time in a year to do it. That was until my husband received a job offer in Germany that we knew we couldn’t pass.
In our first few months in Germany, we went on weekend road trips to explore castles and some of the nearby big cities. I also knew I wanted to start a career that would allow me the freedom to continue to travel and spend time with my family. Then COVID happened. During that time, I completed my MBA degree while writing on the Medium platform to hone my craft, and I found myself writing about travel, food, fitness, and wellness and sharing my travel and nature photos.
I quickly realized that I didn’t find my niche, but my niche found me. I will admit that I struggled a bit both creatively and financially at the start. If you’re struggling to find your niche as a new freelance writer, here’s what I recommend. Ask yourself the old question, “If money wasn’t an issue, what would I write about?” To succeed as a freelance writer, it is important to write about a subject you’re passionate about and knowledgeable about. At the start, that could be a list of what feels like endless things, which is completely fine! From there, you can start to niche down to a specific industry or choose to stick with a few.
Honing My Craft
Once I had figured out my niche, I continued to hone my craft. No matter how passionate I was about it, I knew I wouldn’t be able to start earning any money until my writing was top-notch. I read tons of books and blogs from Zulie Rane and Elna Cain to learn everything I could about writing in my niche.
Some of the books I read included the following:
- On Writing Well by William Zinsser
- Everybody Writes by Ann Handley
- Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion by Robert B. Cialdini
- Atomic Habits by James Clear
Not only did this help me improve my craft, but it helped me discover the importance of being a lifelong learner. To succeed in any type of business, we need to stay up-to-date with the latest trends and advancements. But most importantly, we need to provide our readers with the best, most current information to help them solve their problems or meet their needs in a clear and concise way.
Navigating the Business Side of Freelancing
Freelancing is both an art and a business. Freelancers need a creative side that allows them to brainstorm ideas and write articles that resonate and help their audience and their client’s target audience. However, the business side of freelancing requires learning a few skills, including laying a foundation, building a portfolio, finding clients, and learning cold pitching techniques.
After reading Elna Cain’s blog posts on her site, I knew she would be a good source of information and knowledge, so I signed up for her Write Your Way to Your First 1K. In this course, Elna teaches you how to get started as a freelancer. She walks you through the steps from creating a business plan to building your writer’s website to ways to find your first clients.
Besides learning how to find clients and reach your first 1K, it’s also important to set up your freelance business. I wrote an article about it titled ‘How Do I Start a Freelance Business in the First Months?’ that walks you through creating a business plan, choosing a business entity, registering with the IRS, and keeping track of your budget.
If we neglect the business side of freelancing, we won’t be able to stay in business very long. Perfecting our writing craft isn’t enough to stay afloat. Some other skills new freelance writers need to learn to do include how to bill clients, process payments, keep track of income and expenses, and set quarterly goals. If I hadn’t spent time learning how to run my freelance business, I would have failed before I even got started.
Building a Network of Peers
No matter how skilled you are, you can’t (and shouldn’t) do everything on your own. You need a network of peers who can help you succeed. Peers can give you advice, bounce ideas off them, and learn from their experience.
I’ve been fortunate enough to meet many talented writers over the past year through Facebook Groups, such as Elna’s WriteTo1K Success, Female Freelance Writers, and Freelance Copywriters & Content Writers. Through these groups, I found guest posts and job opportunities that led to client work multiple times.
I’ve also been able to build relationships with my editors and clients. These relationships have helped me find additional opportunities that helped me succeed in my first year as a freelancer. They’ve also helped me feel less isolated as a freelancer. Having peers to turn to for advice and support helps to stay sane through the downsides of freelancing.
If I could go back in time and tell myself one thing, it would be to not get so caught up in the hustle. It’s easy to be so focused on earning money and gaining clients that you forget to take time to hone your craft, learn the business side of freelancing, develop your services, and build relationships with peers.
I’ve learned that these three things are essential to long-term success as a freelancer. We need to remember that freelancing is a long game, and the only way to win is to keep growing, improving, and investing in ourselves.