Every Monday at 9pm Atomic Reach hosts #AtomicChat where our special guests talk about their experiences in content marketing. They interact with our energetic and passionate community of freelancers, bloggers, content marketers, content creators and curators, business owners, and more! We get to learn from the best of the industry and be excited for Monday's again.
Last Monday (Nov. 23) we had Nolan Wilson of Nolan Wilson Freelance as our special guest! We decided that just an hour was not enough time to really get to know Nolan and pick his brain about the world of freelance.
Should you really become a freelancer?
Let's hand it over to Nolan to share with you some experiences he's had in the world of freelance.
I recently had the opportunity to take part in a Twitter chat with Atomic Reach where we talked about whether or not freelancing is the right career move. For some it is, for others it’s not.
Q1: How did you get started as a freelance writer?
For some people, freelancing is a choice. For me, it started out as a necessity. The start-up I was working for went under so I was suddenly left without a job overnight.
I initially turned to freelancing to make some extra money while I was hunting for a job. At the beginning, looking for a job and going on interviews was my prime focus, but as I started to have some success planning writing gigs, and I started to shift my focus. I immediately set up a blog to display my writing samples and started looking for ways to promote myself online and add to my credibility as a freelancer.
Working for a start-up really laid the ground work for me. I was already working remotely from home and operated as a sub-contractor. I worked as a research analyst, writing articles and fact sheets about sales best practices. Working for a start-up, especially from home, forced me into the freelance lifestyle even before I became a freelancer. I had to manage my time, projects, work with multiple people, and handle all my own administrative tasks, such as invoicing.
Many people are surprised to learn how I got my start, and developed a good client base using Craigslist and Kijiji. Sure, there is a fair share of misleading posts and low paying gigs, but there are also a lot of opportunities.
I chose to use these sites because they were free. I could post ads for free. The important thing to keep in mind is that you get out of the ads what you put in. I spent a considerable amount of time writing high quality and detailed ads. To gain the most exposure possible, I regularly wrote a new ad for each service I offered. I had an ad for blogging, one for website content, social media management, etc.
Q2: In what ways does becoming a freelancer change your lifestyle?
Time management is one of the most important skills a freelancer can have. While there are countless tools, apps, and resources out there, it really comes down to finding something that works best for you. To this day, I still use a planner. I take it with me everywhere I go.
To keep myself organized, I spend every Sunday planning the week ahead. I record the projects I need to work on, any important notes, and allot an estimated time to complete tasks.
One thing many freelancers overlook, especially when they first start out, is the non-money making tasks that they will need to perform. You need to allot time for
- writing your own blog posts
I easily spend more than 1 hour per day on things like email, client correspondence, invoicing, and social media.
I’ve had more than a few instances where I either underestimated or forgot to account for a task. What happened? I ended up working at night or on the weekend to make up for my mistake.
Q3: How do you determine your personal rate vs. how much publishers are willing to give?
Writer’s Market was one of the first books I picked up when I started freelancing. Easily more than 1000 pages, it provides you with great information about how much to charge, where, and how to sell what you write. It can help you whether you are a freelancer or trying to get a book published, and provides great writing tips and advice. The Professional Writers Association of Canada is another resource I used to find information about rates.
One of the most difficult questions I struggled with when I first started out was how much to charge. I was scared to quote too high and potentially lose the client, but I didn’t want to undersell my skills, making me look like an amateur. It’s a fine line.
When determining rates, it’s important to not only think about the client, but also how long it will take you to complete the task. Have a rate per hour in mind when quoting. For example, if you want to charge $50 per hour and a client offers you $25 per blog post, do you think you could feasibly write 2 blog posts in an hour? If you can, then you have met your hourly requirement. If not, you may want to counter offer.
I started to increase my rates when:
- I gained more confidence in myself as a writer and what I could offer
- I started to get referrals from my clients
- I built up a quality base of clients and samples
- Clients started to agree to my rates without countering
Q4: Why's it important that you can teach clients in effective writing, social media, and SEO?
An extension of being a freelancer is also acting as a consultant for your clients. They come to you because they need assistance with a specific service. They also expect you to be an expert and provide them with guidance.
You sort of become a consultant by default – answering questions, assisting clients with issues and working with them on strategic initiatives. I also made it a point to do some research and read articles about consulting to make sure I was taking the right approach.
Once you take on a consultant-type role with your clients, your role shifts from being a service provider to a collaborating and a strategic resource. I make it a point to let my clients know that I am always available to answer questions, and we frequently plan monthly or quarterly strategy sessions on site to collaborate and define how we want to approach the next few months.
Q5: How do you get around not having the same benefits as those who work the typical 9-5?
I am lucky to have benefits through my wife’s job. But I also make it a point to make living a healthy lifestyle a priority. I am naturally a gym rat, so I make sure to hit the gym 4-5 days a week. Exercising gives me the opportunity to decompress, eliminate stress, and take my mind completely off work.
Meditation has also become mainstay in my life. Every day after lunch, I take time to sit quietly and focus on my breathing and clear my mind. This is a great way to get rid of writer’s block, give your mind a break, and it also helps with being creative.
I have always found that when I achieve results (happy customers) they are more than willing to offer up a testimonial or referral. When you start generating new business through referrals, without having to actively seek out new business, you have more time to work on revenue generating tasks.
Don’t be shy to mention to your clients that you are always on the lookout for new projects. It never hurts to ask for a referral, but it can hurt if you lose out on an opportunity because you failed to ask.
To give you an example, without naming names, one of my first corporate clients was very happy with the work I did. This single project expanded into a regular role for me on their marketing team as a content writer, and I have received at least more than 5 additional clients/ projects as a result of doing a great job for a single client. 4 years later, I still get regular work from these clients.
Q6: What are some great communities for freelancers to network with each other?
Networking with other freelancers is an important part of your growth. They can be a resource, answer questions you have, and they could also be a source of income. Many successful freelancers look for other freelancers to help with overflow work.
On LinkedIn, some of the groups I am part of include:
Another great one is Canadian Freelancer Writing Jobs. The important thing to keep in mind is to join groups that are relevant to the services you offer and that offer you value.
Q7: What have been some unexpected opportunities you've experienced as a freelancer?
Getting published was a result of putting effort into growing my online presence through guest blogging. Going back to the discussion about referrals, I had the opportunity to get published in Huffington Post as a result of writing a regular guest post column. Referrals also played a role in getting published in PR News. One of my clients suggested I apply. I did, and my submission was accepted.
The key to writing a good pitch is not only about having some good samples to show your work, you also need to understand the publication, the audience they target, and come up with a concept that is directly relevant to their readers.
Author's Bio: Nolan Wilson is a freelance writer and founder of Nolan Wilson Freelance. He is a content development strategist that helps businesses plan, strategize and create content to support inbound marketing campaigns. Nolan graduated from Western University with a Masters of Library and Information Science. Connect with him on Twitter and LinkedIn.