7 lessons I learned in 6 months freelance writing 128,316 words

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I’ve spent nearly half of this year exploring the freelance writer space. I’m not clear that I’m a freelance writer, given that, as the co-founder of XPROMOS, copywriting is already part of my full-time job description. However, as we’ve covered in this blog several times before, we’ve survived for over 33 years by evolving and pivoting over time.

Why join the freelance writers?

Exploring new revenue streams and market trends is just built into our DNA. While working on rebuilding the pipeline post-pandemic, we thought it was worthwhile to explore the opportunities in the content marketing and freelance writing spaces. Could they fit into our services offered?

Where I started my freelance writer journey

We had a slow patch in November, so I started my search. Along the way, I checked out multiple freelance writer platforms and searched and applied for opportunities on a freelance job board or two. I close a couple of new gigs and uncovered a fantastic Twitter writing community.

Freelance writing platform eliminates most of the sales work

Ultimately, I found my spot on a SaaS platform masterfully created to serve clients and writers. This SaaS started as an agency, which gave them first-hand knowledge of how to build the platform. The founders clearly built the platform with the needs of the audience in mind. It’s a closed ecosystem where writers and clients communicate while their identities remain anonymous. The platform charges clients to use the service and takes a 30% cut from the agreed-upon price for the writing jobs.

What you get for 30%

Yes, the freelance writing rates are lower than what I typically get paid by working directly with clients. And I know everyone who sells on a platform like eBay, Amazon, or Etsy complains about how much the platform is “taking”. As a collector, I hear sellers routinely complaining about “feeBay”. Yet, unless you’ve run a business or created your own ad campaigns, you may not have an appreciation for the value of the audience. It’s not cheap to bring prospective buyers to the table, yet that’s what each platform does for its sellers. Hot Take: I believe platforms that deliver traffic for free in exchange for a piece of your sales are worth every penny.

Freelance writing gigs spoon-feed work like a baby bird

In the first couple of months on the freelance writer platform, I picked up every order I was qualified for, no matter how little it paid. I felt like I had been transformed back to life as an entry-level worker again, eager to learn new skills and take on new challenges. For me, it was the quickest way to get comfortable with the process and learn the platform’s nuances. I tried to estimate how much time each project took me (to calculate the rough payment per hour), but with my ADHD time blindness, I couldn’t track it very accurately. Nevertheless, during this time, I did manage to get positive reviews from most clients. I discovered what kind of writing I liked to do and what I didn’t enjoy as much.

Finding freelance writing balance

After about 90 days of going all in, I found my threshold. I overcommitted. I spent all of my “free” time writing. And while I completed all my projects with a 100% on-time rate, I suffered a bit of burnout. Writing thousands of words a day exacted a toll on my brain, and it took a few weeks to recover and get back on track mentally. Since then, I feel more confident about how much freelance writing I can handle, and I am better managing and balancing my project workload. I would still rather write than mindlessly consume media, but I better understand that too much prolonged concentration doesn’t yield beneficial results.

Random exploration delivers rewards

Novelty stimulates my brain. As a professional writer, freelance writing has proven to be an incredibly stimulating experience. I feel like a pro hockey player engaging in a pickup lacrosse league. Freelance writing improves my agency game while also benefitting those I am writing for along the way. Here are 7 ways the process has made me a better writer and creator for my clients.

1. Discovering and using new martech tools

Some clients have provided access to specific SEO tools that help improve the search quality of your content. I’ve discovered several valuable tools that I’m now using regularly, even for XPROMOS’ own website, newsletter, and blog content, including Content Harmony and nTopic (recently acquired by Relevancy Rank).

2. Keeping fresh with general trends

I’ve developed relationships with a couple of clients who regularly send me their monthly blogs and social posts for clients in diverse categories ranging from real estate to food service. Aside from the fact that I enjoy the remote freelance writing work, the monthly topics they provide always either teach me something new in the research, from the origins of Juneteenth to long-term mortgage rate trends.

3. Gaining insights into SaaS business models

I’ve completed about 30 jobs for one client based on his interviews with SaaS founders. I love writing these blogs because I get a peek into the world of SaaS, learning about their different business models, their metrics for success, the problems they’re solving, and what the future holds for them. The more online content I create, the more I feel like I’m adding mental data points that give me a clearer picture of what’s working now in the world and what businesses have the potential to disrupt or create new categories. Plus, it helps me understand how businesses I’m unfamiliar with work. This exercise has already paid dividends, as I’ve uncovered opportunities worth sharing with existing and potential clients, and it provides talking points for business development conversations.

4. Expanding areas of writing expertise

I’ve been writing copy all my adult life. I co-founded my agency at 23. Since then, I’ve only had to answer to my clients about the quality of my work. I’ve never been ranked, compared, or assessed until now. It was an honor (and a relief) to be assessed against other freelancers, be highly ranked on the platform, and have an opportunity to work outside my daily area of expertise. Blog post writing has taken a back seat to more typical campaign materials like email nurture streams, landing pages, and ads.

On the platform, however, the type of ongoing work I’ve written is predominantly blogs and social media posts with CTAs. Recently, I’ve begun writing more web content as well. These ghost-written blog posts, social media posts, web content, and press releases enable me to expand and update my portfolio. Now we can confidently promote writing services to new agency clients. This exercise also helps identify the type of writing assignments I’m not as fond of, like white papers. I can write a white paper and e-book, but it’s not my favorite choice as a content writer.

5. Adding experience in diverse categories

Those 125,000+ words I’ve written in the past six months represent nearly 200 completed assignments. These different clients cover the following content writing categories (and more):

  • B2B/B2C SaaS and Key SaaS business metrics
  • Data analytics, integration, address recognition
  • Cloud security and IT governance
  • IoT solutions, AI technology, and NFTs
  • HR and Essential business technologies
  • Real estate agents, mortgage, and BNPL lending
  • Commercial cleaning services
  • Home security systems
  • Veterinary services
  • Hydraulic cylinders, industrial rubber, chemical bottles
  • Aviation construction

To continue to freshly connect the dots creatively for my clients and prospective clients, I need fresh dots. Writing across multiple categories provides me just the type of random experiences that ensure I stay creatively fresh. Each different target audience helps stretch my skills as I consider the best way to represent individual clients and their specific needs through the type of content they’ve requested.

6. Supports my deadline-driven superpower

One of the best parts about the platform for me is that delivering your work on time is one of the most critical measures of success. You can be kicked out if you deliver late more than a couple of times. What’s so great about that? It feeds into my ADHD brain perfectly. The platform has an excellent system for sorting your projects by the due date, includes a countdown, and sends reminders as your time winds down. It absolutely keeps me on track and committed to delivery. Naturally, I finish very few projects early, but the deadline keeps me honest and focused.

7. Provides creative feedback

Creatives like me need feedback. We crave it. We need to know that you like our work, and then we need to see that it helped you exceed your goals. On the freelance platform, clients assess your work every time you complete an assignment. It helps to rate the writers overall. It makes my day when I get an alert that an assignment was accepted and “exceeded expectations” (which happens at twice the average rate, FWIW).

In short, I’m getting paid for getting better as a writer

In summary, much like the US Army recruitment messaging, freelance writing is helping me earn while I learn. Even my business partner (one of my biggest fans of my creative) recently said that she feels my agency writing has improved since I began my freelance journey.

Like all skills, you have to practice to improve. You need opportunities for exposure for discovery. Trying new tools is a richer experience than just reading about them. Freelance writing has been a fantastic complement to my existing workload. Writing every day with purpose brings me joy and personal fulfillment.

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