Last Updated on: December 9th, 2016
It’s the first Monday of the month, and so today we are continuing with the F.I.T.S. (Freelancer In The Spotlight) Series on Wording Well, with Janine Ripper as the FITS. Make sure you read all the way to the end so you don’t miss out on her speciall offer, too! 😉
Now please welcome Janine to center stage. 😉
Take it away, Janine!
Why I Got Into Freelancing
You could say I’m fairly new to freelancing.
It was in April 2014 that I left my 12-year career in project management after being stressed out and unhappy for what felt like the longest of times.
Between the daily commute, working in an office, and office politics, I felt like I was going mad. And then there was the job itself. Struggling with chronic anxiety my physical health started to take a dive, and so I took matters into my own hands and plunged… right into unemployment.
No savings. Exhausted. Unhappy. To be honest with you, I didn’t have a plan. All I knew was this: it was the right thing to do, especially after having my third car accident in a year and a half (the third in my own driveway!). The universe had been sending me some pretty strong signals, and on that specific day it was telling me to stop!
Up until then I had been blogging for four years, which I loved, but I really never believed I could make money from writing. I’d always resisted the urge to monetize my blog, and in the back of my mind I guess I had convinced myself I wasn’t a good writer even though I had a steady follower base and writing was all I had ever wanted to do…
After turning down a project management job offer after a lot of soul searching, I decided to investigate starting my own business. Initially I branded myself as a Virtual Assistant but found myself leaning towards clients who wanted me to write blog posts for them and help them with their social media presence. So I ended up designing a service offering where I combined blogging with social media management, and it took off from there. Social media management and blogging brought in an immediate income allowing me to investigate what it was I really wanted to do. I ended up targeted writing jobs for topics I was passionate about (such as travel, and as I upped my social media presence and started to talk to people openly about what I was doing, like-minded people started to gravitating to me. I like to believe that the universe stepped in again!
The Highs and the Lows
Freelancing hasn’t been easy and it certainly hasn’t been financially lucrative. It’s actually been really stressful (although satisfying – now that’s a contradiction!).
Jumping into freelancing with no idea what I was doing resulted in a steep learning curve where most of the time I’ve felt like an out-of-control freight train. It also caused a lot of financial strain, but that goes hand in hand with the whole business start up thing. The lack of a pipeline, the uncertainty on where your next pay cheque will come from, and the clients who just don’t pay on time… oh, and then there was Christmas. With most businesses closing down for the period I certainly had to cut back on the presents! There’s also the expectation in some areas that freelancers will write for peanuts. It can be devaluing, but admittedly I took the hit to initially build up my portfolio.
In saying that, I’ve never been happier. I feel incredibly satisfied with my work. I’ve met the most amazing people. I’ve been presented with awesome opportunities. I’ve got some clients who are retaining my services, which provides me with a certain level of stability, and to a certain extent I am in the position to choose who I want to work with and write for.
Over the last six months I have learned so much about myself – what it is I really want in life and the kind of life I want, as well as gaining a whole lot of confidence in my ability and the belief that I can do anything! Watch out world!
I’ve also got a new direction for my blog thanks to all of my learnings, which is focused on life change and wellness – I’m really excited about it! Oh, and I’ve co-authored a book Heart to Heart: The Path to Wellness that is out this month! Heart to Heart: The Path to Wellness is a collection of true-life experiences written from the hearts and minds of more than 40 inspiring authors, including featured contributors Dr. John Demartini and Bob Doyle from ‘The Secret,’ and me! I still can’t quite believe it!
Janine’s 9 Freelancing tips
1. Peanuts it is
I’m going to go against the grain here and tell you to initially prepare yourself to work for minimal fees so you can build up your portfolio and get some testimonials. I started off at $30 USD and quickly went up from there. Just remember to set yourself an end date – set a date in cement for when you will start charging realistic rates.
2. Love projects
There are such projects you would sell your arm to write for. Whether its an organization, cause or topic you are passionate about, the words flow through your fingers like water, leaving you feeling elated and like you are walking on air. These are what I call ‘love projects’.
One of the things I always dreamed of doing was travel writing – and this is one of my current love projects. Potentially it will bring in more money for me in the future, but at the moment I just love it so much that I do it for free.
Talk to people, both online and offline. Join groups. Establish referral programs. Build your social media presence. Blog. Attend networking events. Guest write. You just never know where your next opportunity will come from. I scored one sitting in the dentist chair!
4. Do your industry research
Research the standard industry rates for the countries you are targeting for work. It’s different across the board. The rates in Australia are a lot higher than other countries, so going in a quoting Australian rates for a job with an American client I really wanted to work with would be quite silly!
5. Working from home is hard
Initially, I loved working at home, and still do to a degree, but it’s made me incredibly lazy. Some of my days consist of getting out of bed, walking to the desk, moving to the couch, and then heading to bed, all with laptop or phone in tow.
In throwing myself into my business and the online world I somehow forgot to get off my ass, to exercise, to eat well and to unplug. With my renewed focus on wellness, I’m now on a mission now it’s 2015 to start the year the right way!
Trust me, skipping meals and surviving on coffee is not sustainable for anyone, and your body isn’t meant to sit in one position for days at a time, let alone a few hours, so do yourself a favor and schedule in your breaks. Oh, and make sure you clock off at a respectable hour! You still have a life to live!
6. Get organized
For such an organized person, man can I procrastinate. With no one to tell me what to do it’s up to me to ensure that I get up at a respectable hour, get motivated, and get down to work. Easier said than done when thoughts and doubts keep swirling around your head.
There’s a lot of free software available online to help you get organized. There’s also the old school way – paper to do lists, which is what I use. My eyes especially thank me for those paper to do lists as they get a chance to look away from the computer screen.
Okay, so even though people thought I was very brave for quitting my job with no job to go to and no savings, in hindsight I would highly recommend putting away some savings before leaving any paid employment for a freelance career. Call it a security blanket. It certainly would have saved me a whole lot of stress and white hairs, which are now coming on with a vengeance.
8. Get a side job
After talking to a lot of people who also started their own small business, I realized that a lot of people starting out actually maintained a job on the side.
I had gone six months thinking ‘no, I can’t do it, I can’t sell out!’ BUT ‘ I need to pay the bills.’
Seriously, you still need to live! There is nothing wrong with taking a side job because it provides you with a certain level of stability whilst also providing you with the luxury of choosing the freelancing gigs you accept without compromising your standards.
So get a part time job, even if it’s stacking shelves in a supermarket. I have (well, I’m, writing project management documentation)! It’s only two days a week, but it’s what I know and it gets me out of the house to hang around people…because it turns out this introvert actually missed people!
9. Be authentic
Authenticity. It’s such a buzzword at the moment, but I tell you what, living authentically, and being authentic in your writing, is so worthwhile. Live according to your values. Show up as the real you. Write from the heart. Let your voice shine through. By living and writing authentically you will inspire others to do so also, and most importantly you will be so much happier for it.
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.