Freelance Writing as a Career Move

What’s on the iPod: The Wild Hunt by The Tallest Man on Earth

How was your weekend? Mine wasn’t long enough, as evidenced by this post, appearing a day late. Yesterday was one of those hit-the-ground-running days. I have a large project and I wanted to make serious headway. I spent the entire day on it, but didn’t get far. No matter — the lack of respectable word count was offset by some serious, in-depth research. I should be able to dive in and get a ton done today.

I had the chance to get to some emails yesterday. One came in from a long-time chum in the insurance industry. He was asking me if I wanted to go full time at something, and the job he offered was pretty darned sweet. It’s one of those offers that makes you pause, really consider it, then list three reasons why you’re stupid to be turning it down. The fact that it’s in Manhattan wasn’t a huge deterrent (big, but not huge). But the other reasons — the biggest being that I would have to chuck this writing business — made the difference.

Not that it didn’t come with a ton of positives. It did. In the end, the conclusion kept coming back to the same thing — I love what I do right now, despite how much more money the job would provide. In essence, the change from writer to SVP of Marketing would kick the snot out of any life balance I have right now. Gone would be the sweet commute from the kitchen to the study, replaced with a two-hour, one-way train commute. I made the right decision based on that point alone.

But the offer illustrates how you can use your freelance writing career to springboard into bigger things, if you so desire. You can also use your past successes to build your business bigger than it is already. If you’re hoping to find ways to build a business that will help you bypass the usual corporate ladder constraints or you’re looking to find new challenges in your freelance life, you should be focusing on building your presence among those in any particular industry. Try these get-noticed things:

Specialize. We all specialize in something, even if it’s a small pocket of concentration. You get to know people in an industry or a field of study. Usually, it’s easier to build crucial relationships when you’re in a smaller group. Find an area you enjoy writing in and, well, write in it. Get to know your editors and client base.

Conferences and seminars. You who know me know my love of a good conference. One is all you need, but hey, if you want to attend more, go for it. Also, don’t limit yourself to just conferences. Plenty of associations and companies sponsor seminars and workshops, webinars and presentations, etc. Getting on the list and showing up either online or in person can get you name recognition with presenters and other attendees.

Make friends with PR and Marketing. I love getting to know PR people. They have the connections inside the companies that you need, plus they’re eager to get their people into print. When you’re sending out queries for articles and you get the responses, take a few minutes to write a note to the PR person. Make friends. That’s how this particular job offer came to be — by making friends with a PR person. Get on their mailing lists and comment/respond when you can.

Create a conversation. I wrote one article that initiated six separate conversations. Why? Because it was provocative and relevant (not self-serving and sensationalized — never do something so cheap to yourself or your readers). One company wanted me to host their webinar. Another company hired me because they needed similar articles written. The editors of the magazine where the article first appeared were happy to funnel even more work to me. Everyone who got in touch saw something that they could relate to. Find that one thing that will propel your name recognition and help your client in some way. And yes, it has to help your client. Otherwise, it’s self-serving and it will fall flat. No one likes to feel used or patronized.

How do you use your business successes to diversify your business or find another gig? 
Where have your successes or accomplishments taken you already? 
What currently stands in the way of any new goals?

About the author




  • Devon Ellington July 30, 2013 at 12:59 pm

    I'm cleaning up the mess from the debacle last week that cost me contracts and clients, due to another writer's vindictiveness.

    In the long run, it will probably be for the best — I'm getting rid of some clients that aren't worth the time or money.

    But, in the short term, it's a scary leap.

  • Lori July 30, 2013 at 1:17 pm

    Sometimes messes are a blessing in that way, aren't they?

    I'd be sure to confront the person who did it, and do so in person, if possible.

  • Anne Wayman July 30, 2013 at 7:22 pm

    selfishly glad you didn't go corporate!

    Devon… here's an extra virtual hug.

  • Paula July 30, 2013 at 7:26 pm

    A year or two, out of the blue, a publication in my field (one I'd never written for but had sent an LOI to) asked if I'd be interested in a full-time telecommuting position. He didn't elaborate, but I sent my resume. Never heard more than "Thanks."

    And I didn't follow up.

    Why? I started thinking about how that would impact the business I've worked so hard to build. Sure, I don't make nearly as much money as I'd like, but like you mentioned, there are some intangibles. Not being at someone else's beck and call is probably #1.

    And if I did work full time for someone else, I might not be sitting here waiting for a publicist to set up a call with Tom Stoppard for an article that's due Friday. The man wrote one of my favorite plays of all time: Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead. I'm more awestruck by the idea of speaking with him than with any celebrity I've ever interviewed.

    Some job perks simply can't be categorized or quantified.

  • Lori July 31, 2013 at 12:15 pm

    Anne, it was the one time in years that I've been tempted, but I love my career right now. I can't imagine another.

    Way to go, Paula! I hope you have/had a great interview. 🙂

  • Paula July 31, 2013 at 2:51 pm

    It's still in the "might" phase. So close, yet so far. And my well worn copy of R&G is on my desk…taunting me.

  • Gabriella F. July 31, 2013 at 4:50 pm

    Lori, I'm totally behind you on this one. It would be awfully hard for me to give up the freedom and flexibility we have as freelancers, especially since we're succeeding at what we do!

    If I were struggling, I'd have to consider it. Otherwise, it's not on the table.

    That said, isn't the offer flattering? How nice was it to be wanted? You're doing something right. Good for you. 🙂

  • Lori August 1, 2013 at 2:25 pm

    It is VERY nice to be wanted, especially at that kind of income level (one more zero than I'm used to)!

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