One of my favourite things about running Wanderful World is connecting with new freelancers. I love finding out their current struggles and helping them ease into their new roles.
Because, let’s face it, it’s pretty darn daunting going self-employed.
I know because I’ve been there – of course I have! We all have to start somewhere, and that somewhere feels like a place of no experience and no hope.
When I started freelancing back in September 2014 (wow, I’ve hit my 2-year anniversary – time to celebrate!), I hadn’t written a single paid piece for anyone. Nada.
Yet I thought (or, at least, I hoped), I could make my income for the next 10, 20, or even 50 years based solely off my love of writing and sheer determination.
So, what happened?
Well, to begin with it was pretty damn scary. I had one month to start getting clients before I moved abroad – not much time at all in the great scheme of things.
But you know what? I was determined. I was ready. And I was willing to do everything I could to kickstart my freelance career with an absolute bang.
Sidenote: Get prepared and go from rookie to client-ready freelancer in 5 days with this brand new challenge. Join the fun below!
The Planning Stages
There was a one-month crossover period where I was working my notice at my full-time job and hustling for clients on the side. It was hectic. Not only was I finishing up everything I needed to do at my full-time job, but I was spending my evenings pitching work, and planning all the logistics of moving to Spain.
I was basically running on autopilot, because if I stopped to think about it for too long I probably would have broken down in a mushy mess on the floor.
Those four weeks were so important in setting up my career for success. They helped me get everything in order so I could start landing clients immediately when I moved to Spain.
So what did I do in those four weeks?
I strategically planned. And I pitched like absolute crazy. I found job boards in the depths of the internet and scoured them for hours. I spent days crafting the perfect pitch. I leveraged my social media accounts and started telling people I was now a freelancer for hire.
Here’s the main steps that went down:
1. I Drew on My Experience
“Uh, but you said you had no experience?” I hear you shout. And you’re absolutely right. I had zilch freelancing experience; zilch experience writing for money.
BUT. I had worked in the marketing world for just over 2 years. I knew the ins and outs of SEO and I’d written copy for the travel company I worked for, as well as blog posts, articles, and press releases.
These all acted as collateral and “proof” that I knew what I was talking about.
Make it work for you:
Drawing on your experience doesn’t mean drawing on your freelancing experience because, before you do it, well, you don’t have any experience.
This is where you tap into skills you’ve picked up in previous positions, dive deep into the knowledge you’ve already gained, and consider what it is you really enjoy; what it is your family and friends come to you about.
For me, it was travel. I’d worked for a travel company, I’d done a fair amount of travelling, and I had a little travel blog that I was plugging away at (but it was by no means a success!).
Let’s take a corporate accountant as another example. She might not have any experience writing for clients, but she has in-depth knowledge of the finance industry – she knows the tools top companies use, she knows the lingo, and she knows the ins and outs of it.
This is MUCH more valuable to a client than someone with 5 years’ experience writing about unrelated topics.
So: Think about what knowledge you already have. I know it’s difficult coming from an insular perspective (we, as humans, tend to think our knowledge is nothing spectacular, but you’d be surprised at the amount you know on certain topics compared to others!), but draw on that experience from past work experience or even your hobbies – anyone like knitting, fishing, cooking, or sports?
How this helped me earn $2,000 in my first month:
I pitched a travel company who wanted people to write hotel descriptions for them. In the travel company I worked for, I’d written hundreds of hotel descriptions.
The company wanted “flowery” descriptions that oozed with storytelling, so I also drew on my experience of writing short stories to show that I could combine the factual element of writing descriptions with compelling prose.
2. I collaborated and connected
Let me tell you now, going freelance after working in a busy office or amongst other people can be a nasty shock to the system. It’s a lonely old business, and you’ll find yourself spending a lot of time browsing the internet and chatting to other freelancers who are dotted all over the world.
In my first month of freelancing, I made it my mission to connect with as many people as possible, whether they were freelancers or people I’d met at conferences. I made a conscious decision to get back in touch with people and let them know my new path in life.
The simple method of letting my personal social feeds know I was going freelance helped immensely. Someone I met at a conference a couple of years before hit me up with an offer of work which landed me about $300 of that $2,000.
Make it work for you:
Get connected to fellow freelancers in Facebook groups (my absolute favourite for interacting!) and make sure you share your new freelancer status on your personal social media channels. You never know who might be listening and what opportunities they might have up their sleeve.
3. I created a bespoke portfolio
Back when I went freelance, Wanderful World was a little travel blog, where I wrote about my escapades abroad and offered tips and tricks for fellow globe trotters.
This meant I had a backlog of pieces to share with potential clients. But I didn’t stop there. In that first month, I wrote guest posts on other sites to build up my portfolio, as I was acutely aware that all my clippings came from my own site.
I reached out to fellow travel bloggers and asked if they’d be interested in me writing a post for them, and the majority got back to me with a big fat “YES”.
How this helped me land $2,000 in my first month:
I was browsing a job board one day (I think it was ProBlogger), and I came across a posting that was looking for people to write about Bruges.
Lo-and-behold, I’d written a guest post about Bruges that month and could share that and another post I’d written on my own blog about the city. This showed them that I had “insider” knowledge, and allowed me to share a variety of super-relevant samples with them.
This led to a $200 job in my first month (we’re up to $500 now if you’re counting).
Make it work for you:
Guest post on sites in your chosen niches. If you see a job you think you’d be a particularly good fit for but you have no way of proving it, create a bespoke piece from scratch specifically for that position.
In the early stages of a freelancing career, you really have to make yourself stand out, and a bespoke portfolio is a great way to do just that.
4. I used my pitch
Remember that hotel company that wanted me to write descriptions for them?
I actually found them on Craigslist, would you believe it? This meant I knew there would be tonnes of competition, and I didn’t know if my past experience working in a travel company alone would make me stand out.
Because, dear friends, this was a very lucrative position. There was the opportunity to earn £500 a week (about $650) for an unlimited time. I wanted this job. I needed this job.
So I spent a heck of a long time working on the pitch for it.
I thought, if I couldn’t prove I was the perfect person for the job through my clippings, I’d prove it through my writing – in the pitch.
I made sure I answered all their questions and touched on every point they made in the original posting. And I even tried to add in a little creative prose and personality – which, they told me when they hired me afterwards, went a long way!
I’m sure there were plenty more experienced people who applied for this position than me. But I showed that I was committed, understood exactly wanted, and proved that I could marry two skills from previous work experience together to bring them what they wanted.
Make it work for you:
Let’s go back to our corporate accountant as an example. She has the knowledge, and now she has the clips thanks to her bespoke portfolio, so now she just needs to prove to clients she is the freelancer for them – and this lies in the pitch.
You want to use the pitch to showcase your expertise by dropping in some keywords, show that you understand EXACTLY what the client wants (even if you repeat them word for word), and why YOU are the freelancer who can help them (is it BECAUSE of your expertise, for example?).
This hotel description job netted me $1,500 in my first month, bringing the total earnt to $2,000 in my first 4 weeks as a freelancer.
You see – it wasn’t luck or some magical ingredient. Instead, I was strategic in what I did and made sure everything I did was working towards something.
This is something I did deeper into in Launch Your Life as a Freelance Writer, which is a 4-module course that dives deep into the steps and systems I put in place to go from $0-$5,000+ per month in my first 6 months as a freelancer.
It launches on September 19th and will show you how you, too, can earn $2,000 in your first month as a freelancer.
In the meantime, get yourself ready by signing up for the free 5-day challenge: 5 Days to Freelance Ready. I’ll cover how you can change your mindset from employee to freelancer, set up your resume for success, create a contract that has your back, and put a smooth on-boarding process in place. Sign up below – the challenge starts September 15th!