5 Lessons I Learned From My First Year as a Freelance Writer

I know:

This post is late. It’s been a little over a year since I officially became a freelance writer in 2014. I’ve done a lot, made my fair share of mistakes and I know for a fact I absolutely still love freelance writing!

My passion and desire for blogging and creating content has not waned. If anything, I’m more excited at what the next year will take me now that I have my course Write Your Way to Your First 1k close to launching!

5 Lessons I Learned From My First Year as a Freelance Writer

So, I thought I’d share some important lessons I learned from my first year of getting paid to write.

1. There’s Never Enough Time

This must be the mantra for all work-at-home moms.

There’s always a to-do list to get done, appointments to schedule, cooking to do and on top of all that, a business to run.

For some reason, I thought I could totally write three blog posts a day while raising my twin toddlers. I also thought as my children grew up, they would be less of a handful – boy was I wrong.

Potty training, uncontrollable tantrums, fighting, messes, whining, the list goes on and on.

I wish every day that my twins sleep during nap time. They are 2.5 years old and it’s a toss-up if they sleep an hour during the afternoon.

It’s a challenge for sure and I’ve lost hope of finding extra time in my day. I just roll with the punches, get work done when I can and work hard to type hella fast!

2. Sometimes It’s Hard to Say No

One thing I tell my coaching students is to get out of the mindest of trying to land any gig. You’re practically desperate because it’s been a month and you haven’t landed any paid gigs.

The bulk of your freelance writing when you first start out is hustling every day. This might mean:

  • blogger outreach – go to popular blogs and leave a comment. Share their posts. Follow the blog owner on Twitter.
  • pitching – visit those job boards and pitch to anything and everything you are remotely qualified for.
  • guest posting – get your name out there for prospects to see.
  • blog – don’t ignore your blog. Prospective clients do look at your blog to see if you can write quality and engaging posts! I know they do because they’ve told me.
  • cold pitching – approach companies you want to write for and start a dialogue. You might land a gig out of it.

For me, when I first started, I did everything I could to market myself as a freelance writer for hire. There were times, though (reverse scope creep) I was desperate for work and had a hard time saying no. So, if a client negotiated a rate below mine, I still took it, because, hey, it was paid work.

I totally regret that now. Writing at a lower pay than what your minimum rate is, sucks. You end up hating the client, hating the content and doing a poor job on it.

And, the worst part is now that you’re spending time writing for this low-paying client, you have no time to even consider a higher-paying client.

Learn to say no!

3. Guest Post More

This is something I tell myself constantly, yet I don’t guest post often enough.

It’s not because I don’t want to; it’s because I really don’t have the time. But I know guest posting – especially on popular sites – will catapult my business.

The other day I learned Jon (influencer in the blogging sphere) started following me.

jon morrow twitter


Wha-what? Why me? Was that a mistake? I don’t comment on his site very often, but now that he’s on my radar, I need to nurture this potential.

And this all goes back to guest posting more and getting your name out there. When I have more time (wait, there’s never enough time…) I’ll guest post more.

4. Don’t Get too Comfortable

This has definitely happened to me. I’m writing away, getting paid, making enough money and then it happens.

One client decides to cut back on blogging. Or, a client decides they need to take a break with blog posts. This has happened to me a couple times and each time I’m scrambling to find more work.

So, I’ve learned not to get too comfortable with your current situation. This means always be pitching, promoting and producing!

5. Always Save Before You Write

When you write for your clients, what tool do you use? Google Docs? MS Word? WordPress?

For me, the bulk of my client work is written on MS Word. But, I often make the mistake of not saving my work right away.

See, this is what happens – I site down, open Word, type my headline and start writing away. I could be in the zone for a good hour before I realize I never even saved my document.

One time I did this and lost my introduction and first subheading topic. I was bummed. Lesson learned.

There’s Still A Lot to Learn

It’s only been a little over a year and every day I’m learning something new about copywriting, launching a course, webinars, content marketing, social media, and blogging.

There’s always room to learn new skills and grow your business. I’m grateful for the successful year I’ve had and know that my next year will be just as – or more – successful.

Over to you – what have you learned from your first year ( or month or 6 months) as a freelance writer? Tell me in the comments!

Hi I'm Elna and I'm a freelance writer and mom blogger. I help people just like you become a profitable freelance writer. Within 6 months of starting my freelance writing business from scratch I was able to earn a full-time living as a part-time freelance writer while taking care of my twin toddlers. Check out my free email course Get Paid to Write Online and learn the steps you need to take to be a freelance writer.

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This is so insightful as I’m transiting into the freelance space I’m learning alotReply to Sherean
Great post, Elna – inspiring again. Really helpful. I’m still in a full-time job, can’t quite take the leap into full-time freelance yet, but I will. (You’ve put site down instead of sit down)Reply to Matthew
Hey Matthew, Thanks so much for stopping by! Great and good luck!Reply to Elna
Big congrats on celebrating your first year Elna! And also, it sounds like your course is definitely going to be a big hit, because it’s so darn reality based!LOL! I love some of the daily challenges you’ve not only faced head on, but overcame! Bravo! That’s definitely inspiring to us all! And I really love your real world advice, about learning “how to” strategically use the word no to our advantage! Entrepreneurs have to learn this, especially early on!!Thanks for sharing such a pearl of real world wisdom!Reply to Mark
Hey Mark, Thanks for stopping by! Yes, my first year was an eye-opener to say the least. I learned a whole lot in very little time I think. I’m super excited for my course to launch next week! Fingers cross it’s a success!Reply to Elna
It certainly doesn’t sound like you’ll need any luck Elna!LOL! Because I’m quite certain your audience has been clamoring for a proven step by step tutorial, that’s dipped in reality!LOL! Besides, ultimately, it’s another real world learning experience, that you can point to, when you eventually put together your more advanced course “how to” create a freelance course! (“X Number Of Things And Subjects I Definitely Should Have Covered But I Didn’t!”) LOL! All the best!Reply to Mark
Hey Elna, Great post. Freelancing is something I’m honestly afraid of. Basically because I know I can’t write for someone else, or my style of writing won’t work for everyone. So I don’t even bother, but I respect the heck out of those that do. So kudos to you and having made it past the dreaded first year. I love the points you made here. And it’s very similar to just regular blogging. You have to make connections, guest post, etc. And it’s constant, day-in day-out work. Great share here. And congrats on your success. – Andrew P.S. Jon added me too and I nearly had a heart attack. So now I know I need to step it up.Reply to Andrew
Hey Andrew! Thanks a lot for your comment. It can be scary to put yourself out there and write for a client. You want to make sure you reflect their brand and are in tune with their message. Being a freelance writer is a lot of work and it’s similar to what bloggers do every day. Lots of promotion and getting your name out there!Reply to Elna
Good stuff overall. I’m not big on the guest posting routine, only doing it when I’m asked. I’m totally with you on the writing for low pay stuff though; I did that when I first started out without calculating the hourly rate, and the stuff I was asked to write for such low pay… ugh. You’re right, you just end up hating yourself for it.Reply to Mitch
Hey Mitch! I actually enjoy guest posting, but since my time is limited, I just don’t have time in my schedule. Yeah, writing for low pay sucks! But, it happens. Sometimes your lowest paying clients are actually your most loyal, so it can be a trade-off. But, I’ve dropped my lower-paying clients and it’s nice that I have time to seek out higher-paying clients!Reply to Elna
Hey Elna, Congratulations on your first year. I know through the experiences youve had it gave you a more realistic outlook on freelance writing. The way you talked about always putting yourself out there reminds me of my job hunting days. I was always applying to jobs that were in my field of study and it was pretty tough. The good thing about it was that I got a lot of great interviews which lead me to the job I realky wanted. But yes you can get too comfortable. You always want to keep putting yourself out there while you keep making yourself valuable to your niche. Then opportunities will come aknocking! Thanks for sharing Elna! Have a great weekend!Reply to Sherman
Hi Sherman, Yeah, freelance writing has it’s ups and downs for sure. Some months I have too much work and other months I’m scrambling to land a gig. But, I think right now, I’m at a fantastic place. I don’t have to hustle constantly or put myself out there anymore. Of course, if you’re new you have to, but now that I’m more established I have the luxury of prospects seeking me out! I still do pitch occasionally though, since you’re right about not being too complacent. But, I enjoy pitching and guest posting and all that marketing stuff! I just wish I had more time.Reply to Elna
Great post Elna! I never realized how much work would go into being a freelance writer. You’ve got some great advice and I appreciate you sharing. I can’t wait to get some amazing articles from you over on my blog. Your hard work is paying off. 🙂Reply to Matt
Hey Matt! Thanks for stopping by. Yes, being a part-time freelance writer and a mom to twin toddlers is one crazy job! And now that I’m branching into monetizing my blog in other ways – my upcoming course for bloggers and wannabe writers Write Your Way to Your First $1k and coaching aspiring writers – I’m pretty busy. But, I can’t wait to start producing epic and pillar style content for your blog! Super excited to learn more about your strategies to build an authority blog! Thanks for reaching out to me!Reply to Elna
Hey Elna, I can so appreciate what you’ve shared here although of course I’m not a freelancer. Still, what we’re doing online takes a lot of our attention and time so when you’re a stay at home mom like yourself, well my goodness. I don’t even know how you’re able to manage that all my dear. I so admire you that you have two young ones at home yet are still able to accomplish what you have. Thanks for sharing this though and I’ll be sure to share it as well. I know so many freelancers online now and not all of them are where you are at the moment. I’m sure any advice you share will be beneficial. ~AdrienneReply to Adrienne
Hi Adrienne! It’s always nice to see your comments! Yes, I’m uber busy with taking care of my twin toddlers and client work. This morning I took my twins to our weekly music class and it’s just wonderful to spend that 1:2 time with them and have fun and meet other moms. I try to do things like that frequently throughout the week and really enjoy my time with my twins. But, then I have client days where I have to stay in and work. It’s a tough balance, but I have a strong support network and family to help me care for my twins. Thanks for sharing this and was bubbling up inside when I saw my gal Lorraine guest post on your site!Reply to Elna
Hi Elna, Congrats for completing one year as a successful freelance writer. I like and love your writing. learning more skills as a freelance writer is must for getting high paying clients. In your one year freelancing and blogging, i think, you got more outreach, branding, and healthy relationship with your clients and other bloggers. Your online journey increases my confidence to succeed as a freelance writer. Recently, i featured your blog in my blog post(5 Successful Freelance Writing Business Sites for Inspiration). Thanks for giving me inspiration through your blog.Reply to venkatesh
Hi Venkatesh, Thanks again for including me in your post about successful freelance writers! Yes, I’ve done a lot in my first year of freelancing! I feel really accomplished and can super excited about the next year to come. Thanks for your compliments about my writing and am glad you are learning too! I learn from other writers and from reading blog posts. I try to do my duty by reading and commenting on other blogs and leaving comments! Thanks!Reply to Elna
Hi Elna, Congrats on your successful one year. Honestly its hard to believe that you are just one year old in this field. Your Journey is inspiring. Recently Jon followed me too an I ha the same expression you had 😛 You are right about low wage jobs. That is simply disrespecting one’s talent. Keep going on and inspiring others. 🙂Reply to Swadhin
Thanks Swadhin! Awesome that Jon Morrow is also following me! I was shocked and amazed that he did (or his assistant). Yes, I’m a year and a month old as a freelance writer and I’ve learned so much. It’s such a great field to get into! Love every minute of it.Reply to Elna
Congrats, Elna! I really admire all your hard work & dedication 🙂 I’m so paranoid about saving documents, I find myself unconsciously hitting Ctrl+S like every 5 seconds… even though Google Docs saves everything automatically. Growing up using Microsoft Word in the 90s I lost a lot of terrible fiction & poetry before this habit became ingrained, and now I can’t shake it loose 😀Reply to KeriLynn
Ha! I don’t know, I guess I’m lax or something. I think for me I have like NO time to write so when I sit down it’s like BOOM start writing lady! Don’t worry about formalities. So, I write and totally forget to freaking save my document! Grr…But, like I’ve told other commenters, I’m learning now. I can’t believe I lost that intro (it was for Adam too! grr..) I was literally in a funk for days (then I got sick). So going back and trying to re-write a wicked good intro was super duper tough for me since I knew I already wrote it, but never saved it!Reply to Elna
Haha Elna, I’m glad that my photo (wearing green) also appeared as one of the people who followed you. What I have learned as writer is to always try and establish a long-term working relationship with a client, rather than being satisfied writing a single piece for a client. Thanks for sharing what you’ve learned, Elna.Reply to Mercy
That’s a good point Mercy. It’s vital to establish those relationships right off the bat with your clients. They are your source for more work and new clients. And yes, thanks for following me! Surprised Jon followed me (maybe it was his assistant probably, but I like to think not).Reply to Elna
Congratulations on a huge accomplishment, Elna! It’s fun to look back at where you began and how far you’ve come along! Wishing you many more happy years of freelancing! BReply to Brenda
Hi Brenda! Thanks girl. Yes I’ve had a great year of freelancing! Growing a business is exciting and I love all the potential there is for monetization! Thanks for stopping by!Reply to Elna
Hey Elna, Congratulation on the completion of one year in the field of blogging and freelance writing. We all work hard and try to get more and more. I can understand the problem faced by parents. I mean it’s hard to balance the time. You have learned a lot and now people will come to know about some difficulties they would face in their starting days. Thanks for the post. It reminds me many things. Hope you are doing great. ~RaviReply to Ravi
Hi Ravi, Thanks for stopping by! I love hearing from new readers. Yes, the first year was a blast and I am looking forward to the next year. Freelance writing is an awesome field to get into since you can diversify your business and grow it quickly. Yes, having a family with twins is difficult at times! I have a strong support network and family to lean on which is great for me. I could never do this alone. My husband is also very supportive and since he runs his own business too, is home with me all day! I’ll be sure to take a look at your blog!Reply to Elna
Hi Elna, Happy 1 year! That is an amazing milestone, congrats. I remember when I hit one year of freelancing as web designer full time, what a rush! I think the tip that resonates with me the most is save more. I have had this happen on many occasions, I have my code editor open, write the most amazing code and then for some reason your internet goes out, or computer decides now is a great time for a nap. I have become and obsessive compulsive saver and now pretty much hit save at the end of every sentence. My computer gets a little annoyed, but it keeps me from ripping hair out! Here is to another awesome freelancing year for you! ChrisReply to Chris
Hey Chris! Yup, you’re either slacking on the save my document or compulsive! For me, it’s like “oh sh*t” I’m so glad I remembered RIGHT NOW to save it because I’m halfway done with the post! I’m getting better. Now I remember after writing the headline, the intro and one sub topic! Yay me! Thanks so much! I’ve had a blast over this last year and am pumped and excited for the next year. A new course, coaching, new clients, copywriting! yay!Reply to Elna