What I Learned in My First Month as a Freelancer

There’s a lot.

Guys, freelancing is no joke. I never assumed that it would be easy, but the amount of studying and researching that I’ve spent time on instead of actually writing has been a surprise to say the least. Building your brand and online presence is so much more than banging out a few samples, slapping them on your online portfolio and expecting dozens of clients to flood your inbox immediately.

The lessons I’ve learned in my (so far) short-lived freelance writing career are are probably obvious to seasoned freelancers, but here are some that stand out to me the most so far.

Your online presence is critical

One of the most important aspects of building a career in freelancing is getting yourself out there and doing it well. You cannot be a blank photo with zero personality, because who would want to hire a ghost hidden behind a screen to deliver valuable work? It is so important to make yourself known as a likable, dependable creator while also maintaining a professional demeanor. I updated my LinkedIn, created my own WordPress site, compiled my most respectable photographs, agonized over perfect bios and cover letters… and I’m still working on my brand every day.

Photo editing is a skill you never knew you needed

I’m a writer, not a graphic designer. Not in the slightest. When it comes to profile pictures, it’s very tempting (for me especially) to slap on your favorite college headshot and call it a day. But when it comes to some platforms like Fiverr, you’ll benefit from putting some more work into creating a professional thumbnail in order to draw in clients. This includes personal websites and blogs- using stock photos to decorate your pages shows lack of effort and doesn’t help you stand out from other freelancers. This is an area that I am still working to improve.

Setting prices is hard

In the beginning, how do you have any clue as to what your work and time is worth? My natural reaction was to undersell. Who was I to ask for more than $10 or $15 for a few thousand words of copy? I’m a new content writer and was worried that clients would notice my minimal experience and move right along, scoffing at the rates I had the audacity to set for my services. I learned that my time alone warranted more than mere pennies for an entire project, and did the obvious- I researched reasonable pricing guidelines for new freelancers and boosted my rates a little. This is not to say you should charge thousands of dollars for your very first project, but you should know your worth and remember that clients will have more respect for a writer who does.

Sometimes clients are not clear about their requirements, but it’s your job to clarify

It’s frustrating to accept an offer only to receive a line or two of extremely vague guidelines for the project. It’s INCREDIBLY frustrating to ask for more specific details- multiple times even- and still get no new information. Sometimes clients may not have concrete ideas in mind, only that they are in need of a copywriter. Or, they might want you as the professional to be able to move past any unclear specifications and use your expertise to fill in the blanks. The problem here is that you risk delivering content that does not match the client’s expectations. I try to combat this by restating my understanding of the project in my final message, and if I’m missing something the client will most likely correct me before I start work.

SEO is one of the most critical elements of copywriting- and I had NEVER heard of it

If you take anything away from this post, please get to know these three letters. SEO (search engine optimization) is essentially the bread and butter of any online publication. I highly recommend researching SEO because the only way online copy can be successful is if it is easily found online and made readily accessible. Exposure is a crucial yet usually unspecified goal that clients have for their projects when hiring a freelancer. Many descriptions on job boards actually list SEO expertise in their requirements, which used to be overwhelming for me. I strongly recommend getting to know the concept of SEO if you plan on becoming a freelancer.

I still have a LOT to learn in this business, but am grateful for the failures I’ve endured in order to learn these vital lessons.

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