Last September I started seriously looking at freelance options for working from home. I had four good reasons for it:
- I am enjoying being home with my daughter. She’s just started homeschooling high school, and while most of her learning is self-directed, I just want to be there.
- Our congregation is quite the active bunch, and I don’t want to miss that, either.
- My chronic illness has made the aspect of being a reliable employee something of a difficulty.
- I work better project by project, not making a commitment to showing up that never seems to end.
Considering all of these things, I decided that a freelance career was a good route to investigate.
Starting the Freelance Adventure
If your Pinterest feed is like mine, then it has its fair share of pins about “Work from Home,” “Become a Freelance Writer,” “24 Ways to Make Money Blogging,” and “How toMake a Bird Cage with Popsicle Sticks and Sell it on Etsy.” (No, that one didn’t really exist. I saw it on The Parent Trap and added the “Sell it on Etsy.” If you make six figures doing it, I want my cut). In truth, they weren’t a bad place to start. I ruled out all the Etsy ones because the only thing I can do is knit, and I really don’t want to knit for other people. What I can do is write, blog, and live on social media. This also means I can type — 70+ words a minute, thank you very much. Call center jobs really aren’t my forte, either. Once I got past my teenage years and actually married the man who lived halfway across the country, I’d had enough telephoning for a lifetime.
Three things captured my imagination. Freelance blogging, freelance magazine writing, and the more practical (hopefully) career that kept cropping up: virtual assisting.
My first approach with virtual assisting was the employee route. I will write about that some other time. That definitely was a learning experience.
However, just to warn you, something happens when you start clicking on those links. You start to encounter other people who are trying to make money freelancing by telling you how to make money freelancing.
Down the Freelance Education Industry Rabbithole
It’s not so much that it is shady, as it is prolific. It’s everywhere.
When I was blogging a decade ago, it was relatively simple. I blogged, my friends blogged, we recommended each other and commented on each other’s posts. We made blogrolls of other blogs we liked. We wrote about what we were interested in, and we gained a small following doing just that.
With any good thing, some entrepreneurial type will start thinking “How can I make a living doing this?” And this person then talked some company into advertising on his blog and it worked . . . or he wrote a book, or started a newsletter . . . and found that it made even more people pay attention, and he actually made money, someone asked how he did it, therefore marketing principles came into the picture. Then Google caught a whiff and developed analytics for advertisers and people started developing methods so that Google would notice them. When Google noticed, even more people started following and more money was made, and METHODS were developed, and TERMS were defined, and SYSTEMS came into play. And then people realized that they could add another level by teaching you how to make the SYSTEM work for you. That’s where we are now.
Now It’s About You
I will say this right off the bat. If working freelance is what you want to do, be open-minded with your attitude. I’ve encountered dozens of mentors in this arena, and whether I gravitate toward them or not, they are good-hearted and mean well. They aren’t selling snake oil and they aren’t trying to take you. Some of the advice is really good. Often it is basic- but that’s the kind that it is good to hear over and over again.
Yes, it is marketing strategy, and for some of us, that feels sleazy or complicated by virtue of being marketing-related or having to do with money, but you are going to need to know this stuff, and these are people who are willing to teach you, and even when they charge, it is way cheaper than a college degree. But it is super-awkward when the product you are trying to sell is you.
These past few months, I’ve grown so much in areas I didn’t think I’d ever want to touch. It is important to learn the terms and strategies, if only to get a clear picture of what they entail. After that, you can decide if this is the path you will follow or maybe you can be the genius that figures out a different one. Seriously, you should know what branding is, what a platform is, and what kind of ways there are to make money, if you actually do want to make money. And I will touch on these in the near future, with definitions that make sense.
As I’ve said, I’ve learned a lot, and ironically (maybe?) with a strategy of spending as little money as possible. Most of the people who are offering to help are going to give you a certain amount of information to show you that they know what they are talking about so that you will want to hear more. The prevailing methods are through webinars, a series of emails, or an ebook.
By all means, if you like the blog post that led you to the pop-up email box, get on their email list or go to their webinar. You will get emails from them and notifications of when they are offering free courses and webinars, and when they will be offering big deal ones that cost money. And usually the big push comes at the end of the webinar or the email course and you only have so long to respond to get the “special price.” (hint: if you want a day or two to think about it, copy down the link and try going back. 80% chance it will still be there). This is the practice of just about every person out there who wants to teach you how to do what they did. And often, they really did accomplish it, so it might just be worth the money . . . if you have it.
There are SO many programs, mentors, and masterclasses out there. There’s no reason to jump on the first five you see. I promise. Even if you really liked that person, they will be offering another round later in the year — or a different program entirely. Being pretty solidly broke has taught me this lesson with a lot less temptation.
Also, if you start clicking on the Pinterest pins, programs from other writing programs will show up in your Facebook feeds, too. Don’t be annoyed, these can be great resources, too. In fact, probably the ones I’ve gotten most solid help from were advertised on Facebook rather than Pinterest.
Bringing the Freelancing about Freelancing Stuff Together
I’ve spent the last five months signing up for just about every email list and free download that seemed like it COULD be worthwhile. There definitely is a ton of traffic coming through my email account, but I’ve learned SO much. I am now at the point where I am unsubscribing from several lists and figuring out what voices I really like listening to.
I recommend that you not be stingy on this. If you don’t have time to read what comes in, either mark it as something to read later or know that tomorrow there will be more coming. You’re not obligated to read everything, and you will probably get a chance to see the information in another form sometime later.
Don’t worry about keeping track of who you’ve signed up with so you don’t repeat. That’s their email host’s job. Writers will often have multiple giveaways. If you want more than one of them, sign up again. Their email host will sort it all out automatically, and it isn’t costing them any more to send you a copy of everything.
So…addendum: Be open minded with your attitude, careful with your wallet.
My motto is always “Do the research, then share it.”
I take that back. My motto is “Don’t die. Everything else can be fixed.” but the other is really more my method. Don’t be afraid to jump in, swim about in it, and let your fingers get all pruney. Then get out and start writing, typing, affiliating, or whatever route you decide to go. I am just getting started, but it’s not too early to pass it on.
Next — A few recommendations on who to definitely give some of your attention to.