I’ve just hit my one-year mark as a freelance writer. Prior to embarking on this new venture, I spent my weekdays at an insurance company, working in their Medical Affairs department as a Health Educator. My days consisted of telephonic health coaching where I encouraged people to quit smoking, eat right and make other healthy lifestyle changes. I also traveled to different locations where I did health screenings that involved checking people’s cholesterol, blood sugar, body fat percentage and blood pressure. After fellow blogger and Mumbling Mommy creator Katie and I discovered we were both expecting a baby within a few weeks of one another, our relationship was rekindled. We’d had a lot of fun in our college days, living together doing things we won’t mention in this piece. But after college life ended, we lost touch. Our newfound pregnancies brought us back into one another’s lives.
I wanted so badly to be home to raise my two children. She encouraged me, a woman with no background in writing, and became my mentor both guiding and encouraging me as I broke into my new career path. So to say I’ve learned a thing or two doesn’t begin to sum up what this year has taught me. While I still learn something new every day–and believe (and hope) I will continue to for many years– I’d like to share with you just a few lessons the last twelve months of freelancing has delivered:
Pick your clients.
Yes I am serious. You don’t have to say yes to every job offer that comes your way. While it’s smart to work for a few different employers (you never know when someone may no longer need your services, often times jobs are temporary), you don’t have to say yes to every single person. This holds especially true if they’re not willing to pay you what you’re worth. People do recognize that quality work means you must be willing to pay good money. So don’t accept a job just because it’s a job (unless you’re totally desperate!). Be patient and someone who recognizes your talent will come along before you know it. That someone will likely appreciate you — leaving you much happier as a result.
Provide value through your relationships, not only your performance.
How you do business is just as important as what you do in business. No, you can’t get away with never turning assignments in on time, and submit work with tons of errors and just say sorry and make things magically better. But yes, you can forge friendships and therefore create relationships with those who hire you. I don’t go out to eat or shop with the people I work for (we don’t live in the same state), but we are cordial. They know if they need me to help them and are in a pinch, I’ll be there to do as much work as I can. Skills are important, but replaceable. But being easy to work with, providing value, and making a client’s life easier are all traits that keep them engaged with you beyond the bare minimum you provide in work output.
Keep the reasons you freelance in the front of your mind.
For me, it’s so I can be home with my kids and have some freedom to control my schedule and the flexibility to work as needed. I work during most nap times, and some evenings. I work a few hours here and there on the weekends. I can make money without having to leave my home, and control how often I work and when I work. For me, freelancing is a work from home gig that’s my dream come true. Sometimes your hourly wage isn’t exactly what you’d hoped for, or the work may be a little tedious, but the perks that accompany this type of job (in my opinion) are irreplaceable.
People don’t always value freelancing as a career (because they don’t understand).
“That sounds really easy!” “You write—I could do that”, “Lucky!!!” These are just a few of the comments I hear on a regular basis from people who learn how I earn some income for our family. There are definitely some misconceptions about freelance writers, to say the least.
I’ve learned that people (not just kids) do say the darndest things. I don’t dispute that working from home holds a plethora of benefits, especially because I have two children ages one and two at home and I have a strong desire to be home with them. To the people who say they could write: yes, I am sure you may be able to write well. But it isn’t as simple as just sitting down at a computer and typing whatever you feel like. There’s research involved and there’s guidelines unique to each client to follow. You have constantly evolving jobs and directions to abide by and learn. While there are countless benefits, it still is a job. Please recognize that this is a career that requires talent, perseverance and isn’t a total cakewalk. I am more than happy to answer questions, but keep the rude comments to yourself. I don’t tell you I could easily manage a bank, deliver a baby or paint a mural.
This year as a freelance writer has taught me a lot. It’s given me confidence. It’s helped me learn new things and engages my brain in an entirely different way than ever before. For some people, it’s the perfect fit. I am one of those people. I’m very grateful I was able to get my foot into the door to this amazing freelancing world.
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