A Year On – Launching a Freelance Writing Business

After nearly 25 years of being a professional writer and marketing and public relations professional, I decided to hang out my online shingle and start a writing business.

Meryl Streep’s character in “The Devil Wears Prada” reminded me of a former boss I had while working in Manhattan.

But as they say, nothing worth having comes easy. It took a year to build up a clientele, plus build out two websites all while working two and three part-time jobs, but the tipping point finally came this year. The payoff for all my hard work is what energy I pour into my own business comes back to me. And working the occasional weekend isn’t all that bad when you know it’s for your own business as well as your client’s.

My idea of opening my own business began about three years ago, after taking a national consulting company through a three-year cobrand process when they were bought out by an international firm. Once the cobrand was over, there were 15 marketing directors from the acquired companies vying for the top marketing spot. I had no interest in climbing the corporate ladder once again because I had had my career success in Manhattan several years earlier. I knew how empty it could be at the top and making six figures didn’t bring happiness. I took a marketing writing position. However, I didn’t apparently share the new marketing director’s vision of how the marketing department should be run. So, I took a severance package and walked.

I truly believe in following your heart and your gut instinct. My intuition was screaming at me. Since I had left the journalism field, my career was not fulfilling me.  I had enjoyed being a reporter because I felt my stories, my writing was helping to inform and entertain the community in which I lived. I had not felt that way in a very long time in the corporate world.

After doing a year of researching business types that would fit me, my brother Bill and I decided to launch Nelson Business Experts. It went nowhere for a year, partly because my brother was still in a funk from his second divorce and didn’t want to do much of anything meaningful besides sleep and I didn’t want to go it alone. So, I let him heal and forgot about the business for a while. Meanwhile, we both worked customer service jobs to make ends meet.

I finally decided to pursue the business again at the beginning of the year, when a synchronistic event occurred. Out of the blue, I got an interview for a job in which I had not applied. I decided to attend the interview anyway. While interviewing for the creative director position, my intuition was calling out “no, this isn’t what you want.” So when the interviewer asked if I was interested I said: “may I spin this in a different direction?”

I told the interviewer, who was also the owner of the company that I didn’t see myself in this position he described but would like to write for his business as a freelancer. And he went for it!

I have since won several more clients, but winning additional work at first proved to be the biggest challenge for the business. However, there are now several online avenues in which to win work in freelancing. I highly recommend building out your profile on LinkedIn and getting recommendations from past employers and colleagues. You can also join LinkedIn ProFinder, which matches you with other professionals looking for your services. I have found work on ProFinder.

Thumbtack is another professional job matching system that works quite well. You must buy points to bid on jobs, but you get daily jobs you can bid on. But these jobs are mostly one-offs where you do a project rather than win a client long-term. Although, there are long-term offerings as well. Make sure you set your filters on the type of services you offer to receive the type of jobs you want. My brother and I have found clients from this site.

I am also a member of Flexjobs.com but with little results. Just my opinion but most of the jobs are low-paying gigs for writers who are looking to add to their portfolio or highly specialized types of writing that I don’t do.

I just joined Mediabistro, which I was a member of several years ago as a journalist in New York City. We shall see how that goes. I will give it some time before I critique it. But it seems to me with just being a member for a few days most of the jobs are working onsite and in the eastern US.

I am only looking for virtual work now. And it’s out there. I’ve talked to several clients who say they only work with virtual writers.

As a freelance writer, I am feeling fulfilled once again because I help business owners with their individual successes through my copywriting.  And the freedom to work where and when I want, priceless!