We Started Selling On eBay. Now We’re At a Standstill

For some unknown reason (read: sarcasm), side jobs and freelancing have grown in popularity in the past 2 years. They can be successfully grown into full-time income despite being paired with a 40 hour per week job, ultimately leading to a lifestyle that many people dream of.

It was my boyfriend’s idea to start selling on eBay as a side gig. I thought it was a good idea, and we began to hunt for bargains lost to the shelves of thrift stores and the Goodwill near our house. Our first score was a Guitar Hero bundle that was a total steal according to recent eBay sales, and it became our first sale.

Honestly, the profits weren’t even close to my expectations. We had conceivably hit the jackpot, having paid only half of our well-researched asking price. I was thrilled when I received the notification that our successful find had finally sold.

But after breaking even, paying eBay’s fees and splitting up the final dollar amount (my boyfriend had made the initial purchase), I wasn’t terribly happy with the final payout. And we hadn’t even paid the shipping costs.

Still, we were hopeful. The first sale had been motivating, and we continued to frequent Goodwill searching for items. We did make some good finds over time and put time and effort into listing them. We created a makeshift photography setup to take “professional” looking photos of the products, and I worked on writing the listings with as much detail as possible.

But after the big sale, nothing. We lowered our prices, set up bids instead of fixed terms and tried to only list items we could back up with desirable qualities. Yet still nothing. There was a bid that fell through after the buyer seemingly backed out which turned out to be the last “sale” we’d get.

We decided not to buy any more items to sell for the time being, not until we’ve at least made sale #2. It isn’t something that I’m ready to fully give up on yet.

Self Care & Burnout

Raise your hand if you’re tired.

I’m sitting in my car, faced with the age old dilemma. Like all writers, I have that nagging, unavoidable urge to write but have just one problem- I have no idea what to write about.

Lately I’ve been pushing myself to improve my brand with very few breaks. I’ve been mercilessly brainstorming and planning but haven’t truly sat down to just write. I have ideas and topics that I’m passionate about but am struggling to find the sentences and structure to put it all together.

This isn’t new to me by any means. And of course, it’s not new to anybody I imagine. It’s a pretty demoralizing feeling, being unable to push through the obstacles that prevent you from doing the thing that you love most.

Whether or not you’re a creator, this is an incredibly common experience. No matter what you’re passionate about, you’re bound to reach a point where you’re on the verge of throwing your laptop (or guitar or sketchbook) across the room and deciding that you’ll never pick it back up again. Say it with me guys- burnout.

I’m trying to force my way through burnout by regurgitating my thoughts on the subject publicly on the Internet. But please don’t assume that trudging your way through your work- most likely producing subpar results- is the way to combat burnout. It’s essential to take care of yourself along the way.

Sometimes, burnout is simply the result of lack of self care. Like I mentioned above, I hit the ground running when I started my freelance business and haven’t given myself much of a chance to rest. But think about it- how can you produce quality content when you’re so exhausted you’re rethinking your entire career choice?

Take some time to yourself that doesn’t involve your passion. Sounds ironic, but sometimes all you need is to take a step away from the thing that you love in order to grow that love. I do still journal often, but there’s no pressure. I also recommend meditation, but I’ve only just dipped my toe into it so I’m definitely not an expert and know that it’s not for everyone.

Don’t give up on your dreams, but you’re far more likely to if you don’t take care of yourself in the meantime. Take a walk, take a bath, take a breath, and then get back to work on that thing that gives your life meaning.

My first scam experience.

Some are more obvious than others.

As all new freelancers know, there is a LOT to learn about this line of work. I’ve found that I’ve spent more time in the beginning of my journey studying, researching and learning the ropes of the business as well as crafting and tweaking my presence online than actually writing.

One thing that I wasn’t anticipating was how high the potential of being scammed would be. Don’t get me wrong, I was definitely aware of the possibility and assumed I would get a few sketchy offers over the course of my freelance career, but I never knew how I would feel or react when it finally happened for the first time.

I won’t go into specifics about the circumstances around the scam, but I received a random DM on one of the freelancing platforms I use. I thought it was strange to be approached like this, but again I’m new to the game and was almost excited that someone would want to work with me without me pitching first so I was interested to hear them out.

This person didn’t give any details about their proposal in the messages, instead sending a link to a Google Doc. Red flag? Probably. I assumed that he wanted to keep all of the information in one place and didn’t want to have to explain everything through DMs, plus I assumed that a Google Doc was safe to open, so I did (This is not always true! I decided to check on this after the ordeal and learned that OF COURSE Google Doc links could be dangerous to open if you don’t know or trust the sender. DO NOT DO THIS).

Needless to say, it was an incredibly obvious scam. I won’t post the document, but to summarize, this “client” wasn’t even looking for a writer. They WERE the writer and needed a U.S. Upwork account and computer as they do not live in the United States. During this explanation, the sender urgently insisted that I not create the Upwork account yet (first red flag in the document) unless I already had one, in which case I would kindly allow them to use it for their own work.

The pitch continued with the request of using my computer or “any laptop or computer laying around” because they needed a U.S. VPN. I also needed to download TeamViewer so that they could REMOTELY ACCESS MY COMPUTER. At this point and basically from the moment I opened the doc, I knew it was a total scam but was too invested and entertained to stop reading. But of course, there was something in it for me.

The person promised $200-$300 per week simply for letting them use my account and computer. I could earn passive income- basically money for nothing- while continuing my own work. The sender then summarized the simple instructions in a bulleted list and concluded by saying “it’s that easy.”

So that was my first scam attempt as a freelancer. I do regret passing up such a great opportunity for consistent income, but as I told the sender in my response through the now deleted chat, I wouldn’t have been a good fit.

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.