Today I want to share a personal story. If you’ve browsed around my site or know me, then you know in 2020 I made the decision to become a full-time freelance writer.
Some of you may think it’s pure genius, others of you may think I should have my head examined. Quite frankly, there are days I wonder the same thing.
This was one of the biggest decisions I’ve ever faced, and as I’m sure you can relate, was not an easy one with a family to think about.
So what led me to make such a big change in my career? More importantly, is there anything I’ve learned along the way that could help you in your own next career move?
Let’s find out.
I’ve shared with you before about my career path, how I spent years in sales in the corporate world. During the years, I longed for a creative outlet and something more exciting than selling my current products.
I couldn’t figure out how, but I wanted to be there with my family throughout the day and somehow make a full-time living. It was a great idea in theory, but I had no way of knowing how to execute it.
And don’t even get me started on how I felt about working for someone else. Sure, I had amazing benefits and unbelievable opportunities, but I could never buy into a particular company culture. I appreciated what I had, but I simply couldn’t place my loyalty with anyone else.
I’m sure almost all working parents feel the same way at some point. But I couldn’t let it go. I couldn’t stop wondering what if…
The Spark that Lit the Flame
Over the years I dabbled in blogging. It was the creative outlet I was looking for, and a way to document fun memories for me and my family. I enjoyed the writing aspect and sharing stories. But like so many of my ideas, such as my numerous attempts to lose weight, it fell by the wayside as life got busy.
But in the Summer of 2018, I was clicking around on LinkedIn and I saw an advertisement that caught my attention. It was a digital marketing company looking for writers to ghostwrite blogs for their client’s websites. They were particularly interested in writers with a business background.
It was a double-win because you didn’t need any specific training, all the training would be provided for the writers.
Hello? This was perfect for me. I had no idea you could get paid to blog. I also had a Journalism degree I had never used a day in my life. I didn’t care if my name was attached to the byline or not. It was a way to make a little extra money while doing something fun. I quickly jumped on it.
To my delight, I was offered a writing gig. The pay was peanuts, but I didn’t care. And let’s just say my writing skills were a little rusty at this point.
But the company didn’t seem to mind. The blog assignments started coming in on a regular basis, the pay increased, and soon I had more extra work than I could handle. Keep in mind at this point I’m still employed with someone else, so this all had to be completed at nights and on the weekends.
I sacrificed a lot of free time. No more binging my British Baking Show on Netflix until I could get my work done. And you know something? It felt amazing.
Learning to Grow
As I became more comfortable with the blogging and writing process, I decided I wanted to branch out and try working with new clients. I had no idea if anyone would want to work with me, but I had a background in sales and was used to convincing people.
I started looking at various job boards and other bloggers who needed help with their sites. After hearing lots of “no thank you,” I finally heard from someone who liked my writing style and needed to bring on a ghostwriter (someone who writes under someone else’s name). It was for a major personal finance website that was in the early growth stages.
This client became a fundamental part of my growth. I adapted to the client’s voice, I researched topics I knew nothing about, and I contributed valuable information to thousands of readers. To this day I still help with the content for this site and the client remains one of my favorites.
I would love to tell you more about the site because I’m very proud of their growth — but I’ve signed a non-disclosure agreement with them and it’s not worth a lawsuit. The point is, every client has brought something valuable to my journey.
The Moment of Truth
By early 2020, before all COVID-hell broke loose, I was still working full-time for another company and writing in my spare time. I had taken on a handful of clients but was limited in how much I could continue doing on the side.
Then everything changed.
What’s the expression about if you want to make God laugh, then tell Him your plans? He was about to get a big ole’ belly laugh from me.
In January of 2020, my company announced a significant amount of layoffs. There was no getting around it and I was caught up in it. I had a mix of emotions, but mostly I was unsure. I hadn’t quite planned to make a job change at this time, so I didn’t have all of “my” plans in place and ducks in a row.
If you’re like me, you thrive on plans. You need a Plan B, C, D, and an E in case the first four aren’t good enough. I needed a new one fast because C,D, and E weren’t cutting it.
Over the next few weeks I interviewed with several companies. These companies were all offering more than I was previously making, great benefits, and fun perks. It all sounded so promising, but nothing was coming to fruition.
I continued writing for my “side gig” clients while interviewing with other companies. I was exhausted and my heart wasn’t in it with any of these businesses I was interviewing with, although on paper they sounded ideal.
Then one day, after getting nowhere with my interviews, my husband asked me if I thought I could take on more writing clients and if there was a way to make a full-time living. Or, at the very least, could I take on enough to bridge the gap before I found something else?
Before he could finish his question, I blurted out “Yes! This is my dream, it’s all I want to do, I want to write full-time” Mind you, I had no formal business plan or enough clients. I hadn’t even created a real portfolio at this point. Oh yeah, and we had a stack of bills to pay.
But this was my chance to finally shut up the nagging voice in my head constantly asking me when I was going to do what I love. And what if, by some miracle, I could actually make this a full-time thing?
Officially Becoming a Full-time Freelance Writer
I’m going to fast forward a couple of months and let you know I didn’t need that miracle after all. I did however, need a solid game plan and a serious amount of work ethic. There was no more of this willy-nilly, we-will-figure-it-out. If I was going to do this, it had to be done right.
And then there was one other monkey-wrench to deal with. The pandemic was raging and my kids were at home with virtual learning. This was quickly becoming a challenge like one I had never seen before.
But there was no turning back.
Over the next several months, I networked like crazy. I sent pitches and ideas to anyone with an email address. I scoured the internet for freelance job leads and said yes to any writing gig I could get my hands on. I had to face the reality that no one was going to come to me first, and I needed to be the one to put myself out there.
I created an online digital portfolio and an earlier, elementary version of my website. And I started hearing the word yes more than no. Each client taught me something new and I started learning which topics I enjoyed the most and where the best opportunities were.
I also think it’s important to mention I’ve made mistakes too, such as working with some not-so-great clients after ignoring the red flags. But it’s all part of the learning process, and I wouldn’t trade it for anything.
The Hard Work Pays Off
I now have a steady roster of fantastic clients, mostly within the personal finance space. I have tons of articles published under my name, but I ghostwrite for websites too. I’m still constantly networking and I never stop pursuing the next opportunity. It’s part of life as a full-time freelancer.
My dream of owning a business has come true. And God gives me the privilege of doing this each day while being at home with my family, with my sweet dogs lying at my feet while I write.
And yes, I can confidently answer my husband’s question when he asks if I’m really able to make a full-time living with writing. But the payoff from this lifestyle is far richer than any steady paycheck could ever offer me.
I’ll be sharing more of this journey with you here at The Proper Pen about balancing my life as a Southern Mama and Working Writer. Or is it Working Mama and Southern Writer? It all depends on which day it is.
I am a strong believer of pursuing your passions, whether it’s as a hobby or a career. None of this is meant to make you feel like you have to work for yourself or take a giant leap of faith to be happy — each of us has our own unique story. But perhaps you see a bit of your story within mine.