From the Field
- Take a creative writing workshop (or three). If I had a stronger technology or business education, I’m sure that would be valuable, but I cannot imagine a better preparation for my work than the many creative writing workshops I took in college and graduate school. Sitting in a room with my peers, I learned how to give and receive constructive feedback. To listen even when the critique I heard caused a spike in my blood pressure. To respond with thoughtful, creative rewrites that, as often as not, turned out better than the original. There’s more than one way of nailing it.
- Choose unpaid work wisely. If you’re starting with no portfolio or experience, it may make sense to write for people who expect you to work for next to nothing. But it may make even more sense to write on a topic of your own choosing and develop credibility and a following that way. Go ahead and build expertise in an area with high income potential—but make sure you also feed your personal passions. That well of sincere interest and curiosity is where the best insights and writing come from.
- You are your client’s voice. In high-demand fields, you can make upwards of $100 an hour as an established marketing writer, but never forget: Your client is in charge. Don’t like the feedback you’re getting? Take a deep breath and open your ears. Your work is not only about whether you can put together sentences that make people sit up and take notice. It’s most essentially about doing it in a way that accomplishes your client’s goals.
- Professional courtesy is crucial. In building client and team relationships, you’ll find a collaborative mindset and a positive, pragmatic attitude much more effective than quick criticism or competitive maneuvering.
- It’s okay to fire a client. There’s nothing worse than a client who doesn’t seem to respect your time and effort (unless it’s the client who flat-out refuses to pay at all). You will come across those people, unless you’re very lucky. Set your boundaries early, and keep a list of the qualities you expect from clients. Professional courtesy goes both ways.
- You are the boss of you. Don’t feel like working? Think you can fudge that deadline and go skiing with your friends? As an independent consultant, you have a lot of leeway around when and how much you work. But if you commit to a deadline and don’t make it, you risk losing a client, pure and simple.
- Print it out and proofread it before you hit send. Deliver a document full of typos and repetition, and your client will be predisposed to ripping it to shreds, metaphorically speaking. Read the print-out one last time before you send it. You’ll be amazed at what you didn’t catch onscreen. Aim for perfection, so your client can focus on the message rather than the misplaced apostrophe.
- Client relationships are your lifeblood. When you work remotely, it can be hard to connect with people and maintain relationships. But one great connection can truly make or break your career. In my industry, people move from company to company constantly, which means two things: 1) My contact at Client XYZ could jump ship at any time and I could lose the business, and 2) My contact at Client XYZ could bring me many additional clients during her career. To develop a stable freelance business, treat people with respect and loyalty always. If you sense any issue, head it off immediately by reaching out personally.
- Save your pennies. Every freelance business has its ups and downs—cycles of 80-hour weeks, mixed with ones where things seem eerily quiet. Make sure you build a good buffer to get you through the slow times. That way, you can relax and hit the beach, rather than checking your email every five minutes, praying for work.
Leave feedback on this sidebar.