Lessons Learned About Freelance Writing in 2019

As 2019 comes to an end, I’ve spent some time reflecting about freelance writing, my career, and opportunities for improvement.

A few of my long-term clients were acquired by larger companies in 2019. Under new management, two companies decided to hire full-time writers instead. This left me in a unique place of finding new client work. (I also had one client think it was okay to selectively pay for assignments; so I stopped writing for them. Lesson: only work for clients who pay for their work).

To be honest, I haven’t needed to really find new clients in a very long time. Most of my client relationships follow the same cadence. A trial assignment. Lots of work over the long term. Eventually, something changes. Maybe we created a guide for every metro area in the U.S. and there’s nothing left to write a guide about. Maybe they used a client acquisition as an exit strategy. In the past, I still had so much client work that it didn’t really impact me.

I’ve been a freelance writer since 2010, though in 2012 I left my job at Nielsen to become a full-time freelance writer. I complete between 165 and 207 client projects a month that include social media posts, product descriptions, blog posts, newsletters, email content, whitepapers, and more. It keeps me working around 45 to 50 hours a week. In the nearly 10 years doing this, I’ve established best practices, effective project management systems, and processes to keep up with assignments and make clients happy.

During this recent period, I’ve noticed three real opportunities for improvement: keeping my own writing up to date, not accepting work below my target rate, and helping other writers.

Keeping My Own Writing Up to Date

I’m embarrassed that I haven’t written a blog post for my own website for nearly two years. The truth is that I’ve been exceptionally busy with client projects that I constantly prioritize client assignments over working on content for my own site.

Unfortunately, this is terrible. I have learned so many things working for marketing agencies, content marketing agencies, and corporations that I should really be applying what I’ve mastered in my business for clients to my own websites.

Not Accepting Work Below My Target Rate

I try to charge 10 cents a word for most projects. Some people think this is a lot. Some people think it’s too little. While some of my clients do pay higher rates than this (and they’re usually the most appreciative of my work), some really try to negotiate with me for a lower rate.

In the instances I’ve negotiated down to a lower rate, I’ve always ended up regretting it. The client usually doesn’t end up valuing my work or writing in general. I’m much more likely to have trouble getting payment from these clients than the others.

Helping Other Writers

Somehow when I wasn’t looking, I became the older, more experienced writer on most of the marketing teams I work with. Other writers now come to me with questions instead of back when I used to seek out the most experienced person on the team to ask questions to.

The thing is: I love it. I love helping other writers succeed, advocate for themselves, and learn to fall in love with writing. I would be a writer, even if I didn’t get paid for it. I love it that much. Having the opportunity to give back to newer/younger freelance writers feels amazing. So many very experienced writers helped me along the way so it feels AMAZING to be able to help other people, too.

Changes in 2020

This is all to say that you should expect some changes to this website in 2020. I plan to create more content that’s more personal and about my real life. I don’t see the advantage of writing more articles in the second person for my site. If you want to see my professional articles, a quick Google search or checking out my Contently Portfolio will reveal hundreds and hundreds of professional articles I’ve written. This space isn’t needed for that purpose any longer.

Instead, I want this space to be more conversational. I want to talk about the realities of freelance writing and help other freelance writers. Most of my clients know very little about my personal life because I keep it focused on the work at hand. I’m working to transform this blog into a space that’s just a little less about the work and more about connecting to fellow humans.