Freelance Content Writer: How I Got Started
Freelance Content Writer: How I Got Started

Freelance Content Writer: How I Got Started

I’m lucky enough to be able to honestly say that I love what I do. I wake up (without an alarm clock) excited to go to work each day as a freelance writer. Granted, going to work means walking across my home to my desk, but that’s not the point. As a freelance content writer, no two days are the same. I’m free to work when and where I want, and my success is only limited by how much content writing I’m willing to do. 

Getting to this place in my freelance writing career didn’t happen overnight. It took many years of hard work and sacrifice.

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The Marketing College Years 

I attended Stetson University for my Bachelor’s in Marketing degree. At that time, I knew that I loved marketing and everything that went into it. At that time, I thought I would join a marketing team and work my way up the corporate ladder. The curriculum was focused on the basics and old-school marketing tactics. Back then, marketing didn’t include tactics that are thought of as essential today, like content marketing, landing pages, search engine optimization (SEO), social media, digital marketing, and website content. However, it created a solid foundation for me to build upon in the future. 

Unfortunately, Stetson was behind the times when it came to career placement. I attended career fair after career fair for the marketing students, and they were all full of sales positions. I wanted to work in marketing, not be a salesman or a retail store manager. This led me to doubt myself and my passions, maybe I wasn’t meant to work in marketing? Maybe I had it all wrong and I couldn’t have a career in marketing. In reality, being a freelance content writer was still an obscure job description at that time, so looking back, I’m not surprised that the school staff didn’t understand what I wanted to do. 

At this point, I needed two more classes to remain full time through my target graduation date of spring 2008. Turned out, I only needed two more classes to obtain a Business Law minor. I signed myself up and that sent me off on a whole new journey, law school. 

I Don’t Want to be A Lawyer 

I graduated from Stetson University College of Law with my Juris Doctor. It turns out, I love the law, but I have no interest in being a lawyer. The culture at the school was incredibly toxic, and the lack of balance between school/work and home life was hard. I worked harder during those three years than I had at any other time in my life. While I loved studying the law and the cases, I didn’t enjoy the culture or atmosphere that the school created. I remember looking around one day on a holiday weekend, and every lawyer around me was on their phone working and not really present in the moment with friends and family. I realized then that I didn’t want to be a lawyer. However, I didn’t want to give up on the law. So I started thinking about alternative careers that would allow me to utilize my law degree but didn’t involve being a lawyer. 

Transferring Skills to Become a Freelance Writer

Law school gave me several skills that other content writers don’t have. My research skills are far better, allowing me to gain more in-depth information in a shorter amount of time. I also approach researching differently. I take more of an analytical view, approaching a topic from all angles. I also see the value in adding reference-able data to back up the information I’m writing about. This takes my writing from just a basic copywriting level to high quality content creation.

Getting My Feet Wet in Marketing 

Stetson pushed really hard for me to take the bar exam and go to law associate interviews. I wanted none of that noise. When I wouldn’t fit into their perfect box, it felt as though Stetson washed its hands of me. I wasn’t going to contribute to their bar exam numbers and the career development department didn’t know how to assist me outside of securing a position at a law firm. 

That was ok, though. I decided it was time to focus on my original dream again, working for myself in marketing. It had been three years since college, the marketing and advertising world had changed, and I had changed. I hoped on LinkedIn and quickly secured a position with a travel therapist staffing company in Orlando. I then moved on to an online-based third party logistics (3PL) company, and from there, a commercial real estate development company. Working for each of these companies allowed my to get real world marketing manager experience where I produced different types of content from technical writing to creative writing. There were white papers that were full of data analysis and SEO-friendly writing projects that were designed to increase conversions. This broad range of content formats allowed me to improve my writing skills.

I also stayed focused on my end-goal of starting my own small business. In my free time, I acted as though I had a part-time job where I focused learning as much as I could. I prepared writing samples, browsed job boards, signed up for job alerts for job postings, and learning as much as I can about becoming a successful content manager.

The Layoff that Changed My Life 

I will never forget the day my life changed. I was working for a commercial real estate company processing contracts. For some reason, a manager in the accounting department thought that she should be the one to oversee me. She had no experience with anything related to the law and loved to rule her department with a micromanaging iron fist. I was not happy. At all. She liked to try and assign me additional tasks outside of my skill set or employment description. One day, she came to me and said I was responsible for reconciling the company’s AT&T bill. I said no. She didn’t like that; no one dares to say no to her.

Three days later, and the night before my boss went on her yearly two-week European vacation, I was pulled into a meeting with her, her boss, and the HR representative. She had advocated for the elimination of my position because “it was no longer necessary,” and I “didn’t have enough to do”. It didn’t matter that I was busy and nonstop working from the time I arrived to the time I left. It didn’t matter that I worked hard and showed initiative. I found out later that my boss had a reputation for getting people fired who told her “no”. 

I drove home that day with a massive smile on my face, feeling more relaxed and happy than I had felt in months. She did me a favor, and it was the catalyst that changed my life for the better. 

Developing My Freelance Writer Career 

When the company let me go, they offered two months of severance pay. I accepted and decided that this was the time I had been waiting for. I had dreamed about working for myself for years, and it felt like this was my chance to become a freelance content writer. I had some money saved up, so I gave myself six months to see if I could strike out on my own. 

My first step was to find my first writing job. It ended up being easier than I thought it would be. I applied to a couple of content writer jobs with a few blog mills. These are low-paying, high-volume content production companies that are less concerned with producing engaging content and more concerned with making money. The pay wasn’t great, but I had my foot in the door, and I was gaining experience. I leveraged these opportunities to develop my writing, proofreading, and research skills. I also strategically chose my assignments so that I could build a portfolio of content in the subject matters that I enjoyed the most. I then used my best pieces to apply for writing gigs and establish my own writing service as a professional blogger. It was like being a content editor and strategist, managing my experiences to get myself closer to my career goals.

It took me about a year to develop my startup and find enough clients to feel comfortable moving on from the blog mills. While these services have their place, I wanted more from my career. Over the following years, I have developed a group of clients that I love working with. I am able to do everything from press releases to content strategy. This gives me an opportunity to challenge myself while doing what I love. I can proudly say that I’m a successful freelance content writer producing great content for my clients and WordPress website.  

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