Last Updated on: June 20th, 2017
Here is another entry in the F.I.T.S. (Freelancer In The Spotlight) Series on Wording Well.
The “Freelancer In The Spotlight” today is Deevra Norling.
Deevra started off with a national diploma in public relations and what followed was a varied career path that included a short stint at Reader’s Digest as editor of the staff newsletter, followed by many years working as an executive assistant in the non-profit sector, before moving back into the corporate world as a marketing brand manager.
Now please welcome Deevra Norling to center stage.
Take it away, Deevra!
Why I Took the Leap into Freelancing
Misery. Well, that’s what drove me to quit my job and find another way to live. I hated working for a boss, the 9-5, the office politics, performance appraisals, driving to the same place and sitting at the same desk every day. I am a free spirit and that means I like doing my own thing. Freedom is important to me.
However, social conditioning has created the belief in most of us that we must get a job and spend the rest of our life working for someone else. For eighteen long – and very unhappy years – I did what society expected of me. In that time, my soul died. It was painful. Eventually, I could suffer the pain no longer, and was forced me to make one of the biggest decisions of my life – to quit my job and go right back to square one.
From the beginning, I knew what my passions were – and writing was one of them. In my early 20’s, I spent a few months freelancing as a journalist and I loved it! Then life took me down another path, one which I never wanted to travel. But such is life.
Maybe I hit a mid-life crisis, but I became highly perturbed about my life. Discontent was building to a breaking point. I did not want to spend another twenty years in jobs that I loathed. I knew I had to make a change. The decision was hard and very scary – giving up a secure, stable job for a life of uncertainty. After months of soul-searching – and close to age 40 – I finally found the courage to quit my job and give this freelance thing a bash!
My freelance journey began in April 2013.
My First Paycheque as a Writer
I am South African and was visiting the US for six months. While there, I applied to be a writer for a start-up news website. I had virtually no portfolio at that point, but they were willing to give me a chance, and so I grabbed the opportunity enthusiastically and wrote up a storm! The editor liked my articles and one day sent me a check for $200. I nearly did cartwheels! Wow – my first paycheque as a writer. Tangible proof that I could get paid to do this!
When I landed back in South Africa I set up a website, had business cards printed, and got busy with some marketing. I also started writing for a new small print magazine – for free (initially).
But the owner of this little magazine referred two clients to me and I was officially in business as a freelance writer.
I started off with low rates but gradually increased them. After joining a networking group in my area, I found two more clients. All of these were one-off clients so I was still battling, but I felt heartened by the fact that I had clients who had paid me to write!
A Guest Post Led to Being a Huffington Post Blogger
In between searching for clients, I landed a couple of guest posts on some personal development websites in which I told the story of How I Found the Courage to Quit My Job and Follow my Passion.
One day an email landed in my inbox. It was from one of the editors of the blog lifestyle section of the Huffington Post inviting me to be a blogger on the Third Metric section.
Here’s the kicker – one of my writing goals was to get an article published on Huffington Post, but I had not got around to sending off a pitch yet.
Initially, I thought it was a scam email, because, come on, you have to send them a blog pitch, right? Here they were contacting little ol’ me and asking me to become a blogger? But I checked out the email and editor, and sure enough, it was legit! I couldn’t believe it. This was a great opportunity for exposure, not to mention it would add some weight to my freelance profile.
I was tickled pink! It’s these little moments that give a person the momentum to continue!
I was curious as to where they got my name, and they said they read my story in that guest post and liked it and were looking for similar type of content on the Third Metric.
I still get goosebumps when I relate this story, because it shows that once you put yourself on a different path, opportunities start to come your way (which you would never have had if you chose to stay on the old road).
Apart from that, I often wonder if this was a case of positive thinking and the law of attraction; I thought it and it happened! Freaky.
Freelancing – A Double-edged Sword
Let’s call a spade a spade. Freelancing is not an easy path and not one to be embarked upon lightly. Sure, it can be great – location independent, working the hours you want, sleeping in when you feel like it, freedom to do what you want when you want, not having to call in sick, or grovel to a boss for time off!
All of this is part of the joy of working from home. If like me, you’re a free spirit, then the freedom freelancing brings you is the best part of it.
But there’s the other side – the hard part. Getting started, especially if you have no experience or portfolio is tough, building up a portfolio takes time, and getting your name out there and building a brand requires marketing. Clients will not fall into your lap. There’s the flat-out rejection, clients who disappear, editors who ignore your queries, networking attempts that lead nowhere, and the unstable income. After a while, this can chip away at your self-confidence.
Freelancing is not for the faint-hearted. It takes guts, and a certain amount of healthy madness to keep putting yourself out there because persistence and tenacity are the number one requirements to make a freelance business work.
Then there’s the money, or the lack of it, especially in the beginning. I moved back in with my parents to cut down on expenses, not an easy thing to do at age 40! Income as a freelancer is often erratic. And you do need some savings to live off in the beginning while you find your feet.
The Journey Continues
I have my moments where I think, “This is not working. I should just go out and get a job.” More often than I care to admit, actually, because money is scarce and this is a tough hustle, especially in South Africa. I am still not at the point where I can call myself a successful freelance writer.
I think there are a few of my friends who think I’m mad, but are just too polite to say so. One or two have gently tried to nudge me back into getting a full-time job. But I don’t. I can’t. I can’t go back to that life. And so I carry on. Because as much as there are the challenges and the failures, there have also been the successes. I may not be where I want to be yet, but every little achievement is a small step along the way.
“Have I gone mad?” asked The Mad Hatter.
“I’m afraid so. You’re entirely bonkers,” said Alice. “But I’ll tell you a secret –
all the best people are!”
~ source: Alice in Wonderland
That’s how I feel sometimes at having gone down the mad path of freelance writing! I must be mad – stir crazy! But … wait … all the best people are.
And so, I must continue on this crazy path!
My Freelance Tips
1) Get a side gig to supplement income.
Freelancing can mean an erratic income. Find a side job that isn’t too time-consuming or a way to create a source of passive income. For instance, many writers write and sell e-books to bring in passive income. I had a bright idea one day to advertise house and pet-sitting services. It’s easy money and I can take my laptop along with me and carry on working.
2) Don’t work for peanuts!
I am constantly amazed at how many people out there expect writers to work for free or for pitiful rates. Sure, in the beginning, you may start off working for free, on content mills (hopefully not!) or for low rates. Do this only to help build a portfolio.
Once you have a few clips, move on and start finding better-paying clients and set better rates, and stick to your guns! Your time and skills are valuable.
3) Marketing is key to finding clients.
Attend networking meetings, approach PR agencies and corporates, tell friends and family and ask them to help get the word out, source clients from online sources and social media, and consistently apply for freelance jobs.
Get out there and go find them – clients won’t come knocking on your door. Sometimes it may seem that your efforts are not paying dividends, but sometimes the seeds you planted only bear fruit months later!
I once left some business cards at a laundromat. I noticed there was a stand with advertising leaflets and business cards and I left some of my business cards there. I had long forgotten about it, when one day out of the blue (a year later), someone contacted me inquiring about website copy. Turns out he picked up my business card from the laundromat!
Have you ever thought you had gone mad as a result of making the decision to try freelance writing?
What have some of your experiences been like?
Did you quit a job you hated to do freelancing work? Do you miss that job? Why or why not?
Do you practice any of my freelancing tips?
Share in the comments, please. Let’s commiserate together!
Check out the other freelancers in this series:
If you want to raise your freelancing rates, read How to Ask for a Raise (and Get One!) from your #Freelancing Client.
If you want to know why you should be gathering testimonials you can use on your website, read about The Power of Client Testimonials.
Deevra Norling is a freelance writer living in Cape Town, South Africa. Her work for clients includes website content, blog articles, press releases, magazine articles, advertising, marketing and sales copy. With a love for travel and exploring new places, she enjoys some travel writing. She blogs for the Huffington Post and Dead Curious. Visit her website www.deevranorling.com or connect with her on Twitter @DeevraNorling.