As a twenty-three-year-old freelancer, it is a bit strange to some that I have worked in the freelance writing industry for nearly a decade. I started at the age of sixteen, writing articles casually for local media sources and online sites and managing social media accounts. This was a sort of “toe in the water” situation where my work was nothing serious and I just created for some pocket money and because I have genuinely always loved creating pieces, be it an essay, poetry, or an article.
Once I began college, I stopped freelancing as much to focus on my studies and picked up a shift-based job for some added stability. During this time, I got engaged and soon found myself expecting a little boy. I left college but kept working in restaurants and offices, which certainly provided a much more reliable income but was, as many people will relate, rather unfulfilling.
When my son was born, I began a stay at home mother role, spending my time taking care of him. Like many new moms, I soon found myself entirely lost in the anxiety and whirlwind that is parenting. After a year, I felt I needed something to sort of be “mine”, entirely apart from tending my home. My husband and I agreed that picking up a few writing jobs could help stave off my anxiety (I have always been the kind of person to be nervous if I do not have something to do, oddly enough) and give me something to do while the little one napped.
I started writing for a YouTube channel that announced archaeological news and historical facts and soon picked up other jobs based on pet care. I fell into a groove and really adored the fact that I could schedule my meetings and jobs around my son’s naps and independent playtimes. Freelancing, even on this small level, gave me a sense of self again.
This channel soon took off and several of the videos now sit at 5 million views at this time. It was a massive surprise, as I felt pretty crummy about my standing in the professional world due to my lack of a degree and general low confidence in my ability to create content.
My son started daycare and I planned to go back to work in a traditional setting but, as life often does, my plans were tweaked. He was diagnosed with a speech delay and would need speech therapy once or twice a week and some behavioral therapy to help with speech-related frustrations. I wanted to be there for every moment of these therapies to learn how to help him at home, so I decided it was best to skip going back to work for a little while longer.
Since he was in daycare, I began taking on more jobs and soon found myself with a small collection of reviews and some experience. I loved being able to not miss an appointment and having the opportunity to spend so much time with him. I feel that it has truly contributed so much towards his progression and am proud to say that he will soon be graduating out of his speech program and is almost back on track from a developmental standpoint.
The blessing that freelancing has been in my life has continued for years since then, providing us with a small income cushion and me with the ability to further learn and develop my skillset. Though I do not have a college degree, I am able to be successful and feel like I am achieving something that I was meant to do. I have been added to the Upwork Top Rated Program and take a great amount of pride in my high ratings and reviews. I truly believe content creation is the calling I was meant to find.
Of course, there are always downsides to every endeavor. I learned a very hard lesson recently, actually, that would make for a good example for anyone looking to get into freelancing. When you begin on a hub like Upwork, clients typically pre-pay the agreed-upon amount into Escrow or another financial holding service to ensure that you will get paid and they will not get scammed. I am rather diligent about this following a recent incident in which I got caught in a rather nasty scamming moment.
A client approached me about reworking his resume and cover letter. I agreed and we settled on a rather fair price. He did not pay into Escrow but assured me that he would and I naively went ahead with the work. Upon submitting the piece through Upwork, he promptly stopped responding and refused to pay. Since the payment was not in Escrow, Upwork could do nothing to force his payment unless I decided to go ahead with their mediation litigation department, which is an expensive decision. Since the amount was not much, I chose to let it go and Upwork took action to prevent him from scamming another freelancer.
My best piece of advice to those who wish to freelance is to always quote fair prices and request payment into Escrow ahead of time not only for your own protection but also to protect your client. It is truly a great tool to have on hand that is certainly mutually beneficial. Also, do not let this little story discourage you! Most clients are fantastic. In the 100+ contracts I have worked on, I have had just this one negative experience. That’s just one, singular bad client in almost ten years of work. There are far more good experiences with freelancing than bad.
On the flip side of the coin, I have met some amazing people through my work that I deeply cherish. Freelancing gives you a chance to make connections all over the world and foster new understandings of different cultures in very special ways. I am so grateful that I have been able to work with so many fantastic individuals during my time as a content creator and meet such a wonderful, strange group of my peers.
Perhaps my favorite job I have worked on has to be a series of articles about ferret health. It was a random job I took on a whim but earned me a partnership with a wonderful coordinator and several other creators. I joke that I got paid to sit in front of a computer and read about ferret reproductive habits, which is not too far off the base of what I actually did. Strange jobs are, for the most part, my favorite.
I have also been lucky enough to explore writing music and lyrics with a few artists, which opened up a new avenue of interest. Many people who are friends of mine in my everyday life are musicians, branching through genres. My city is alive with a thriving music scene so it makes sense I would know so many fabulous artists, I suppose. I greatly enjoy getting to learn about the songwriting process and love that I can now carry over my writing to help my real-life friends create their art.
I have worked with several musicians and provided support with their writing process. I hope to pursue more of this facet of my career in the future since it is such a fulfilling avenue for writing. Plus, I have friends in many genre formats, including classical/opera, funk, soul, classic rock, and country. It might be fun to dabble in these venues and see where my writing style falls into place.
Similarly in a more creative avenue of writing, I took part in writing content for several board games and murder mystery party planning tools. These were super fun and gave me an opportunity to play with more abstract ideas. The company gave me full creative freedom and let me play around with different mechanisms to make the game work.
These games were really fun and actually lead to me creating one that was entirely my own work to play at an event I hosted. From there, I posted a few blurbs about it online and was asked to create specialty games for a few different users on Reddit and other sites, which was really fun and honestly interesting since they all had their own unique ideas and twists that I got to play around with.
One of my more recent endeavors has been helping small businesses get off the ground by helping them curate their website content and search engine optimize where I can. Your web presence is a massive part of your success story in this day and age so ensuring that they have a good baseline for their growth is a highly rewarding job. These clients are some of my favorite and I adore hearing about their dreams and goals for their company.
A big thing that I feel makes for a successful freelancer is the ability to adapt and learn. You may have twenty clients in a row who you have zero issues with and encounter someone new who wants you to flip your writing style on its head. This is both challenging and part of what makes the job so fun. Personally, the tougher jobs are what keep me from burning out. I love a good puzzle and having the pieces fall into place is one of the most satisfying things in the world.
Freelancing has been a massive part of my life now and has become an integral part of my identity. What started as a way to make pocket money has taken on a life of its own and given me so much confidence and the ability to assist in supporting my family. It is a beautiful thing to find exactly what you need in life because things begin looking up from there and, in a way, freelancing has been this for me.
In the future, I hope to begin writing my own line of children’s’ books. My son loves mashing up silly things so I have a general idea to create a nonsensical world that teaches real-life lessons in a fun way. Ideally, it will focus on assisting with speech issues since it is a topic I hold close to my heart. Perhaps, I will even work with a speech therapist directly to create the pieces. Only time will tell.
Freelancing has given me the chance to create networking bonds to make things like this happen. Since I have worked with other children’s books and have published via ghostwriting, I know some people in the industry and am comfortable reaching out when I am ready to begin the process. This time, though, I am excited to have my name attached to the book.
Primarily now, I work as a research writer, creating pieces that are meant to help people understand a larger concept or connect two ideas to create a plan of action. I do a lot of work with making pharmaceutical data more readable for the average consumer and in creating guides for activities and events. My work is steady and the topics are always interesting, even if they are not necessarily something I am personally interested in since they give me the chance to learn about new things. It’s a pretty great little gig.
The freelancing industry is really taking off. If you want to give it a shot, I cannot stress enough how important it is to take the time to learn about how the industry works and what steps you can take to help you enter the industry safely. The confidence boost you get from creating content is like no other and it feels fantastic to watch something you made flourish and be shared with millions of people.
Whether you are using freelancing as a stepping stone to a different career or as something to just be your own like me, it can be a massively important aspect of your life. So, if you were the weird kid who enjoyed writing essays in school or wrote stories in your free time, freelance writing might be a good fit for you. Good luck!