Yes, I did make the right choice.
As you know, if you read my last post, I left my part-time barista job at Starbucks in November. After the trail I realized I wanted more for myself and I needed more time to be able to do the things I want and love to do (podcasting, hiking, writing, teaching). I immediately scoured the internet the day I quit, trying to find a job that would allow me to be flexible, work on my passion projects, and still earn me as much as I was making at Starbucks. I also wanted to make sure that a majority of what I picked up for work could feasibly be done from my van so that I could make money anywhere.
I googled ‘how to become a freelancer’
‘Jobs you can do from the road,’ ‘jobs for writers,’ the list goes on… I read blogs, half of which were sponsored or SEO’d to the nines. I read reviews. I browsed Reddit forums, Facebook groups, LinkedIn blogs, and started testing freelance platforms. I began creating a portfolio for myself, which is honestly not that great right now. And you know why it’s not that great and I’m okay with admitting that it’s not that great? Because I literally don’t have time to work on it because I am working on so many projects (both passion and freelance). I could work on it but I haven’t even NEEDED to yet!
So how did I do it? It’s not that hard.
Honestly, the hardest part was convincing myself of my own self-worth and taking the leap to JUST DO IT. JUST DO IT. There is a reason this is a trademarked slogan for a billion dollar company. There’s a reason Shia Labeouf yelled it at you for a full 60 seconds four years ago. I’ve tried so many new things this year and I’ve finally come up with a method that works for me. A method for doing the things that scare you, doing the things you don’t want to do, and going for those things you could have just let be dreams for the rest of your life.
Stop thinking about it in your head. Put it down on paper. What’s your idea? What’s your dream? What is your ideal outcome?
Research it. The only thoughts you should have about your dreams is how can I make this happen? Start planning! Even if you can’t accomplish your dream for a couple of years, plan it!! Find out how other people are doing it. If no one else is doing it, make it happen your way.
JUST DO IT. Stop thinking and do it. If you did your research, even half-assed, you should know what you need to do by now. So go out and DO IT!!!!!!
Okay, now that you have the silly, most simple, most effective method for getting your dreams started here’s how I went about getting into freelancing:
I got a new computer. My computer was absolute crap. It was slow, the trackpad was broken so I was using a mouse I’d gotten out of an electronics recycling bin at my college library 4 years ago, the ‘S’ and ‘D’ keys no longer worked… It was a mess. My parents helped me buy a new laptop, an investment I plan on paying back to them. I am VERY privileged to have this (thanks Dad) and I know some people don’t have this. If you can’t afford a new computer try to get one used, get something cheaper to start (anything but a Chromebook), borrow one. Install Microsoft Office as soon as possible you will need it for any and all writing jobs. It’s $7 per month if you can’t afford to buy it outright and it is worth every penny because you can earn so much more if you have it.
I created profiles on Upwork and Fiverr. I knew that a lot of the blog posts touting Upwork were sponsored by Upwork, but after reading reviews and seeing the big, long term, jobs several bloggers had gotten I decided it was worth a try. In the beginning, anything is worth a try. You don’t know what works for you until you try it.
Upwork: After 1 week of applying to jobs on Upwork for about 2 hours per day I had landed two small ($10 per post) blog gigs which I churned out quickly. The next week I upped my application time to 4 hours per day. 3 days into my second week I was offered a huge project to create a database tool and spearhead a literature review for a large US-based Education Non-Profit. I still apply for small side gigs on Upwork but I’ve mostly focused on this big project because it is long-term.
Fiverr: I had a very hard time getting a profile on Fiverr. Once I did get let in, finally, after 2 days of ‘fixing’ my profile, I found that most jobs had lowball offers for writers. Like $3 for a 1000 word blog post which is way too low. Long term and bigger projects were few and far between. I really didn’t enjoy it. If I needed fast cash I’d consider doing some small side work on Fiverr but I wouldn’t recommend it as your main source of income.
I continued working on my portfolio. I continued applying when my long-term project was put on hold. I’ve been paid over $1,600 through Upwork so far. I also found side gigs in person: I dog sit, clean Air BnB apartments, and find odd jobs when I can. I work hard when I work but I work fewer hours for better pay than I ever did in retail or as a barista, even more than I made as a legal secretary at a corporate firm in a big city.
I’m sharing my success with you and the basics of getting started, but here are some nitty-gritty tips for you:
When you apply for something, don’t half-ass the pitch or the application. I was told directly by my supervisor that he hired me because I was thorough. I filled in every field on the application, I read his job description and incorporated it into my application, and I sold myself. He said confidence is key in written applications.
Put in the hours.
The beauty of freelancing is that you have flexible work hours. All you have to do is meet your deadline or be at your dog sitting gig for 3 hours on Friday, whatever. Don’t stress yourself out about making your schedule 9-5, do what works for you! I punished myself in my first two weeks for not putting in the hours of 9-5 perfectly and it only made my life harder. As long as your putting in the hours you set for yourself. My current goal is 4-5hrs of paid work per day. If I take a day off I spread out the hours I didn’t work across the week. Use google calendar, manage your time wisely and it will pay off. Do what works for you. (for you thru-hikers, essentially HYOH!!)
Make a good profile.
Stay tuned for a more thorough post about this, but it’s important. Write yourself a good bio. You can find blog posts from literally any freelancer. Your profile matters on LinkedIn, Upwork (or whatever platform you choose), and your portfolio. If you don’t already have a portfolio site, create one! You can get a free one from almost any web-hosting company (Wordpress, Squarespace, Wix, Weebly, etc.). I started on Wordpress but I now use Squarespace because it saves me time and is super user friendly.
JUST DO IT. Don’t make me say it again y’all! if you’re still reading this, go somewhere else! Go search ‘how to be a freelancer’ and get lost in a black hole of blogs that will help you actualize your dreams. Seriously!!
Other places to find freelance writing work that I check occasionally (in no particular order):
Your Local Newspaper