In the last post I wrote about my life as a start-up freelance writer/editor. I wanted to continue that theme in this post because I think it’s important for people to understand a bit more about how simple it is to start a freelance company and how hard it is to keep it going.
The “Easy” Part
Starting a freelance company is super easy. All you have to do is decide to start a freelance business. It was really easy for me because I’ve always wanted to work for myself. So, one day I said: “Self, we’re going into business.”
Done. Easy, right?
Ok, now onto…
The Hard Part
Everything else. That’s right. Every other part of running a freelance business is hard. Here are just a few things that you have to do (not in any particular order):
• Register your business with the government (depending on your area)
• Set up a finance plan/spreadsheet
• Monitor your competition
• Network your ass off
• Develop marketing materials
• Keep your IT systems up-to-date
• Always be ready to answer the phone
• Create and update your website
• Be organized
• Develop an elevator speech
• Understand your industry
• Stay current on latest trends
• Understand and use social media
• Master your craft
• Buy supplies
• Keep track of your time
• Keep track of your mileage (for tax purposes)
• Understand tax laws (local, state, and federal)
• Open a business bank account
Whew! By the way, this is BEFORE you have a client!
What Makes the Hard Part Easy?
Moving out to the Midwest (Indiana in particular) has been an eye-opening experience. The people here have made the transition from the northeast (New Jersey) almost as smooth as glass. I still miss a good slice of foldable New York-style pizza, Wawa, and the loving attitude of my fellow Garden State commuters, but Indiana has embraced us and given me a great opportunity to succeed as a freelance writer/editor.
They make marketing so much easier because they are open to meeting new people. They make learning so much easier due to the many networking and educational opportunities available. They make writing so much easier because of the unique need of governments, nonprofits, and political groups (my niche).
I’m really excited about the journey I’m on. I don’t know if I’ll ever officially call myself a “Hoosier” any time soon, but the freelance life in Indiana is pretty damn cool.
Thoughts? Let me know what you think about freelancing, the Midwest, or writing/editing in general.
The Freelance Life
I’ve always wanted to work for myself. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t have horror stories about working for a crazy, mean, or disrespectful boss. The vast majority of people I’ve worked for have been good managers. They’ve understood how my brain works and allowed me the freedom to accomplish my tasks without interference.
Working for myself has just been a dream of mine. I’m independent. I like to formulate ideas on my own. I like spending time working through a problem, coming up with a solution, and presenting it. Writing is great for that. Being assigned a task (an article, press release, or report), doing the research, thinking about how best to structure it (outlining), then creating something out of nothing really gets the juices flowing.
Well, working as a freelancer is hard. There are thousands of articles out there about the “freelance life” and what you can do to succeed. I’ve read plenty of them. Some have been helpful, others have been, well, blah. It’s always the same old stuff: “Make thousands as a freelancer with no experience!” “Quit your day job and be a freelancer!”
If you read between the lines - really “listen” to what they are saying - you’ll find that it’s not as simple as just telling your friends and colleagues you’re a freelancer and all of the work you can handle will fall into your lap.
Here’s my story.
My fiancée, Jennifer, and I moved out to Mishawaka, Indiana in December 2015. She’s a sales manager for a couple of senior care communities. This was my chance to fulfill my dream. Of course, I’ve applied for writing/editing jobs here locally, but my main goal was (and is) to be a freelance content writer and editor. When we arrived, I hit the ground running. I started researching local writing groups, marketing associations, advertising agencies, business assistance groups (like the small business development center), and anyone I thought could help me get started.
Things started going well. I was setting up meetings with local professionals. I was learning the lay of the land. I felt confident.
Then things started dragging out. Oh, I was still going to meetings. And more meetings. And still more meetings. No one was buying. I was looking online for freelance gigs. I talked to my SBDC business advisor. I worked on government certifications. I did just about everything short of getting on my knees and begging.
Happy ending? Not yet. I’m still working. I’m still talking to people and meeting people and trying to sell. It’s tough. The freelance life articles never mentioned that gut crunching stress of not working for weeks at a time. Don’t forget, most of the people writing those articles have successful established businesses set up. It’s easy to write about success when you have it. When you’re still working your tail off trying to get something going, it’s hard. Really hard.
So, I’ll keep you up to speed on how things are going. I’ll try to be as positive as possible, but again, it’s hard. I know, I know: keep at it. Good things come to those who wait. Never give up, never give in. I won’t. This is what I want to do for the rest of my life. I’ve found my calling. I’m a freelance content writer and editor. Nothing will stop me. If I have to get a job, I will. I owe it to Jennifer to do whatever I need to do to succeed. I owe it to myself. But, I will keep at it.
This is one of my more rambling articles, but I hope you get the point. Sometimes it’s good to just write and let people read it without the polish. Well, here it is.
Oh. Thanks to all of you who have read my writing and liked/commented on my Twitter and LinkedIn posts. It’s really great for a writer to know people like what’s written. Please keep reading and send me some leads!
Update: I landed a small gig with a local advertising agency as I was working on this post. Hopefully that’s the beginning of the flood gates opening! Wish me luck!
Chris Obudho has over 25 years of writing, marketing, and public communications experience he learned in the public and private sectors. As a technical & marketing writer/editor, he can help you tell the right technical story through actionable content, precise editing, and passionate communications.