The other day I stumbled upon a real gem of a post in a Facebook group, the Copywriter Café. Some of you may know this group as one of the most valuable FREE online resources for copywriters.
The entire WriteWorldwide team is – in fact – members of the Copywriter Cafe. If you want to join this group, follow the above link. We don’t run it so we can’t guarantee access, but if copywriting and writing is your thing, and you’re a genuine person who wants to help other writers and copywriters, the chances are good that the founder Steve Roller will let you in.
Okay, back to that post.
I came across a Facebook post from aspiring writer – Thalana Hunter (and yes she agreed to being mentioned here). She poured her heart and soul into a Facebook post, laying bare her dreams, fears, as well as obstacles holding her back from starting a freelance writing business.
While Thalana’s story is unique, I’m sure her story and struggles will resonate with many of you who are struggling to start your writing business.
Maybe you’re scared and have no clue what you’re doing? Perhaps you don’t know how to find clients? Or maybe, just maybe, all the conflicting advice online is causing overwhelm and making it increasingly hard to choose what course of action to take?
Regardless of your situation, it’s possible to dig yourself out of the hole you’re in.
And, that’s why in today’s post I want to share her exact words (yes, again, she agreed saying “If my situation can help others, then why not.”) and also my advice on what she can do to get her writing business going. Who knows, maybe this advice will help you?
Thalana’s Facebook Post Detailing Her Struggles with Starting a Freelance Writing Business
I apologise in advance for the long post.
I have a confession to make, one that’s hard to make on an online platform.
I’m working as a bilingual proofreader at an advertising agency. I love my job and the people I’m working with. However, this is not the kind of life I want for the next 40 years. There are late nights occasionally (which I don’t mind) but add traffic to your travels and you find yourself exhausted.
Cape Town is one of the most congested cities in South Africa. Some days it takes us two hours to get to work. Without traffic, you can complete this route in 40mins.
Our public transport is unreliable and my fiance has been robbed on the train. Twice. So public transport is not an option for us.
This is pushing my desire to start a freelancing business on the side, now more than ever. I really want to. I really need to. It’s my dream.
But I’m also scared. Some days I know I’m good enough, other days I feel like I have no idea what I’m doing.
I need to get a few clients before I can quit my full-time job at the agency. But I don’t know where to now.
I’ve got template documents for pitches, quotes and invoices. I’ve started collaborations on LinkedIn and Facebook. I even sent emails to people I used to work with/for. Some of them came back to me (even if it was a few weeks later) with potential projects. But nothing realises. I just can’t seem to get to the “what are your fees?” stage, even when I follow up politely.
This is very frustrating.
What makes it harder is the conflicting advice from social media and the rest of the internet.
Some say you absolutely need a website. Others say you don’t, just a portfolio/writing sample, which I have.
Then I have a person telling me: “How can you write your own portfolio?”
Clients/customers, unfortunately, are only interested in what others have said about your work.
Then some advise that you can find potential long-term clients on bidding websites like Upwork. Others say don’t do it, rather stick to cold mailing.
Do I suck it up and dive into content mills/bidding websites just to get some samples and client feedback?
Or do I send hundreds of cold emails and shout “fly my minions, fly”?
I guess I need a mentor, as Steve mentioned. But who?
I don’t want to spend more money on courses.
I feel like I’ve put so much fuel into this and yet I just can’t seem to get lift-off.
I need someone to nudge me in the right direction.
Thanks for reading guys.
There’s a lot going on here – and that’s part of the problem – but more on that later.
My Advice to Thalana on How to Start a Freelance Writing Business
You clearly know what you want and have the drive to get it. I can see that you’re willing to put in the work: You’re collaborating on LinkedIn and Facebook, contacting old work colleagues, and researching different ways to get started.
These are all positives that will give you an edge as you build your business. Keep that in mind because many people want things handed to them on a silver platter.
As for feeling scared – that’s perfectly normal when you’re starting out, especially when you’re venturing into the unknown. It’s also normal to feel like you have no idea what you’re doing when you’re starting. Many – I’d actually like to say most – writers feel like this when they’re starting.
Hell, I also felt like that when I started writing over 18 months ago. Everything was new.
I had no clue how to get clients.
I wasn’t sure how to go about building my business.
I even frequented the job boards on ProBlogger.
I was all over the place. Some days things would run like clockwork and I’d look back on my day and feel like I achieved a lot. Other days I felt lost and the thought of ‘What Next” lingered.
But this all changed when I stumbled across a strategy by professional blogger Bamidele Onibalusi who provided a step-by-step roadmap for building a writing business from scratch as a total beginner. I decided to COMMIT to that roadmap.
I followed the steps, took action, and within a few short months I had a business and was earning well. In fact, only five months after following the strategy I made $1840 in a single month.
You can see where I’m going with this…So my advice is the following:
1. STOP Reading The Advice Online
You’ve done enough reading. In fact, you’ve done so much reading that you’re totally overwhelmed by all the contradictory advice. This overwhelm is stopping you from making a choice because you fear you’ll make the wrong one.
The truth? You will always find different advice online.
Hell, loads of the content on WriteWorldwide contradicts other advice on the internet such as whether you should select a niche (I’m a firm believer that you don’t have to choose a niche when you start writing). In fact, for newbies it’s such a stumbling block that I tell those who are struggling to start by not selecting one).
And you know what, that’s okay! There are many different ways of skinning a cat – no one way is better than the other.
2. Choose ONE Overall Strategy
But at some point, you have to take a leap of faith and decide how YOU are going to get to where you want to be. No one can make that decision for you. While I’m certainly not going to force a strategy on you, I will suggest one that has worked for myself.
Bamidele recently interviewed me for his new book How They Started, which provides a breakdown of hour four writers went from 0 to four figures in monthly income.
If you do decide to use the strategy I’m going to share with you – grab that book as it compliments what I’m about to tell you.
Bamidele asked me what I would do if I were to start again. While I share the full details in my post How to Become a Well-Paid Freelance Writer, here’s a recap in four steps:
- Build Your Foundation: Decide on your positioning, choose a rate, build a writer’s website and update your social media channels.
- Build social proof: Select and pitch a few major publications to increase your perceived value in the eyes of potential prospects.
- Cold pitch those publications using a proven cold pitch and follow-up with the 3-7-7 formula.
3. Take Action
The final step once you’ve chosen your roadmap is to take action and put in the work. I’d love to tell you that things will be plain sailing from this point on, but that would be a lie.
You will continue to face struggles. There will continue to be difficult days.
Days when you feel you’re not achieving what you set out to achieve.
Days when you’ll feel like quitting.
Days when self-doubt will rear its little head.
But you know what? When you combine the desire to succeed (which you have), with a roadmap, and action, you will eventually succeed. It’s only a matter of time.
Over to You (Yes, You the Reader!):
What are you struggling with? Share in the comments below, and we’ll answer your questions or even write a post about it.
P.S. Thalana is currently busy creating her site, but feel free to visit her Facebook business page – Naturally Write – to get in contact.