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Nicole Arzt

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5 Lessons I Learned My First Year of Freelancing


I always knew that I'd be a writer in some capacity. With that said, I also knew that I wanted to earn a steady income and acquire my own sense of financial security. Writing came secondary to my full-time job, but over the past year, I've been able to make a considerable side business in providing the written word to my clients and readers alike. Along the way, I've learned some critical lessons. Let's get into them!

1. Let Go of Perfection 

When I used to write articles, I spent a painstaking amount of time writing, editing, and editing some more. Every sentence needed to sound brilliant; every word needed to have its earned merit and honor. 

Today, it's not that I undervalue my work. It's not that I compromise on quality or allow myself to slack. Instead, I've changed my expectations from perfect to really, really good. 

All of us know that perfection does not exist, cannot exist, and will not exist, but yet, most of us still strive to achieve this absolutely unrealistic expectation. The quest for perfection is a quest towards burnout. Letting go of perfection? That's committing to self-love, self-respect, and self-awareness. If those aren't cornerstones of any successful writer, I don't know what is.

2. Take Advantage of Resources

When I first started out, I wanted to do everything on my own. Make it a one-woman job. Relying on anything/anyone else seemed lazy. 

Now, I use all the tools I can. I use Grammarly and Hemingway app. I check the Moz bar app and use marketing automation. I scrutinize keywords and SEO best practices. Yoast and I are in a complicated relationship, but I don't know what my life would look like without it. I even have two monitors and an adorable office set-up that keeps me inspired and motivated to churn out some quality material. 

A successful writer uses tools so she can focus on her craft- not all the nuances of the craft. It may have taken me a few months to realize that, but I'm so grateful I learned it relatively early.

3. You Can't Please Everyone

At first, this stung. Badly. We writers have sensitive souls, and when you put something vulnerable out in the written universe, you want it to be validated and adored. As we all know, this isn't entirely the case. 

I've been rejected, and I have not met anyone who hasn't been. It's part of the process, as natural as accidentally misspelling a word or misreading the contract. We all do it, and we don't talk about it enough.

Rejection gives you skin the game; it gives you grit and perspective, and it actually makes you a better writer. You learn how to craft better pitches and collaborate with editors and management teams. You stop taking things so personally and start treating them as business transactions. 

4. Know Your Worth

You know that line, Well, we can't pay you, but we'll give you a ton of exposure? No. Doctors don't turn down paychecks instead of exposure for their brilliant surgical work. Teachers don't just provide free lesson plans for gaining credibility. And, police officers don't just put their lives in danger for the hell of it.

Writers undersell themselves, and I'm not just talking about working for free. If you ever work for free, there should always be some kind of plan of attack- some kind of method for your own definition of exposure improving. There should be compensation, in whatever form you consider acceptable, in it for you. Otherwise, you're going to be treated with lower-class, lower-quality value.

Stick to your prices. Raise them if needed. Don't let people bully you- those aren't the kinds of clients you want to work for, anyway! 

5. You're Not Obligated to Having a Niche

Google how to be a successful freelancer, and you'll garner infinite results telling you to hone your niche. These advice-givers aren't all wrong. In fact, there's a lot of merit behind having a niche. It's easier to gain expertise and credibility in a particular industry. It's easier to network. You're more likely to have relevant samples on hand for potential clients.

With that said, it's not required. Do your thing. I may have a niche in mental health and addiction, but I also love writing about coffee, finances, and travel. Sometimes, I even like writing about my marriage or my favorite music.

Do you- and don't let anyone take that from you.

Final Thoughts from One Freelancer

These are just my thoughts, and I'm just one writer on the Internet. These are what work for me, but find what works for you! 

Here's to happy and prosperous writing!

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