Writers Worth: An Interview with Elizabeth Xu

It’s amazing what kind of career you can build in just a few years of freelancing. Elizabeth Xu has spent the last three years finding areas of concentration and building her business and name recognition. It must be working — I remembered her from Twitter.
What struck me about Elizabeth is her ability to be there — I open Twitter and there she is in the feed. She’s not haunting the place, but she’s using the hash tags and being seen. That’s smart networking.
There are plenty of other smart things coming from this woman. 
Please meet Elizabeth Xu.
Q: How long have you been
Elizabeth: It’ll be three years in July.
Q: What’s your area of focus?
Elizabeth: I’ve written about a lot of
subjects, but travel, pets, and education are my main focus areas.
Q: How were those first few
years of freelancing?
Elizabeth: The first year was definitely difficult. Even though I was
lucky enough to leave my last employer on such good terms that they became my
first client, there were so many questions.
Questions everyone who doesn’t quite know what they’re getting into when they
start freelancing probably ask – So where
are these mythical “clients” anyway? Which publications will actually pay me to
write for them? Do other people actually make a living doing this?
I think
part of the issue was confidence –now almost three years in, everything seems a
lot easier.
Q: What’s been your toughest
challenge? Why?
Elizabeth: Finding clients was my toughest challenge, by far.
When you’re just starting out it’s tough to know where to look, how to approach
people, which jobs are scams—everything! Luckily it’s much easier now
(seriously, newbie freelancers, it gets better!).
Q: What was your a-ha moment
– the event or circumstance that shifted your perspective or had you changing
the way you do things?
Elizabeth: Finding a network of other writers and freelancers
absolutely changed my way of thinking. Ask for a higher rate than offered? I
can do that. Pitch to a publication I’d normally think is out of my reach?
Absolutely. It’s not easy to find, but a network of other freelancers is
essential, I think.
Q: If you could tell new
freelance writers one thing to help them build a better business, what
would that be?
Elizabeth: Always, always, always ask for
more money (unless you’re somehow originally offered an amazing rate). What’s
the worst they can do? Say no. A lot of freelancing is about rejection so
you’ll get used to that word pretty quickly anyway. But sometimes? Sometimes
it’ll be a yes.

Writers, how did you find the answers to the questions Elizabeth mentions?
How often do you push for more money?

About the author




  • Paula Hendrickson May 28, 2016 at 3:24 pm

    Ah, so now I know why you comment/like/reetweet so many of my dog and puppy tweets!

    It sounds as if you've been able to grow your client list very quickly in three years, Elizabeth. I used to think those of us who started before the internet exploded with opportunities had a harder time finding clients. But after reading your post, I realize that it was easier for us to cut through the clutter.

    Another advantange: we weren't establishing ourselves in era where self-professed experts offer pricey one-size-fits-none solutions, market listings, or webinars in an effort to separate us from our hard-earned dollars.

    We may have subscribed to newsletters with market listings, but those went out to small mailing list and weren't accessible to any freelancer who wanted to see them, so our queries had a better chance at standing out.

    Yeah, we spent a lot on postage, but today we pay for internet service. The irony is that snail mail LOIs stand out more today than ever before.

    We had fewer options, but and they were harder to find, but we weren't quite as overwhelmed with information then like we are now.

  • Elizabeth May 30, 2016 at 2:53 pm

    Yes Paula, I love your puppy Sadie tweets! My pup's about to turn 3, but I remember the puppy days well.

    I love your take on pre-Internet freelancing. It seems like such a different time. I'm often amazed when I read about the rates freelancers were getting in those days, but I can't imagine sending out a physical query letter and waiting weeks to hear back (OK, sometimes we still wait weeks to hear back).

  • Lori Widmer May 31, 2016 at 2:30 pm

    Thank you again, Elizabeth! So happy to have people here meet you. 🙂

    Paula, exactly that. It was easier then. Sure, we had to have envelopes and stamps and no fear of a phone, but the writers who were willing to put the effort into their careers were successful.

    Elizabeth, you've done a magnificent job in a short amount of time!