(This is Part II of a blog post in which I reflect on my decision to switch careers 4 months ago and become a freelance English copywriter. You can check out Part I—in case you missed it.)
- Working for money—not always the best use of your time. How low will you go?
- Landing a 15-hour a week gig isn’t a guarantee of 15 hours
- It’s gonna be a while until I match my previous monthly earnings
- Working as a freelancer is very different than teaching—not worse, just different
- I’ve learned a lot in the past 4 months—but I’ve got tons more to learn
- Pet peeve—when did “Imposter Syndrome” become such a big deal?
- Improving my site and growing my business—baby steps
- A peek inside—What’s a typical work week like for a freelance copywriter?
- So what’s the verdict? Did I bite off more than I can chew?
- The best part of freelancing? Probably not what you think
Working for money—not always the best use of your time. How low will you go?
Starting out, I assumed any freelance gig I could land would be a step in the right direction. I’d be getting paid, improving my skills, and growing my business. It’d be a win-win (win) situation. But I’ve learned that making money isn’t always the best use of my time.
I recently quit a 20 hour/week gig for two reasons. First, it only paid $10/hour. It took up a lot of my time. And I realized that was time that could be better spent growing my business.
Second, though advertised as an editing job, it wasn’t. It actually turned out to be a text importing/formatting job. I didn’t enjoy it. It didn’t help me improve any skills I wanted to develop as a copywriter/proofreader. After several weeks, I informed the client I would have to quit and they understood.
It was tough to say goodbye to $200 a week, but that freed up 20 hours a week that allowed me to improve my site. It gave me time to collect, sort, and categorize pics for my Instagram feed. It also allowed me time to learn more about my new career.
Landing a 15-hour a week gig isn’t a guarantee of 15 hours
Many posts promise steady work if the initial job goes well. But fifteen hours a week means ‘the possibility of 15 hours/week.’ It’s not a guarantee you’ll get 15 hours of work every week. Many gigs are one-off projects while others are plugged as ongoing tasks. But when the post states 15 hours/week, that’s a maximum possible number of hours, not a guaranteed minimum.
Clients/jobs vanish or end—with little or no warning. I was hired by a client to write a video script for their product. I had a Zoom meeting with 5 people at the company—including the founders. Everything seemed very professional and everyone was eager to move forward.
I did some basic tasks for them, but shortly afterwards, they informed me the project was on hold. That was it. Those weekly contracted hours evaporated. I hadn’t done anything wrong—and neither had they. It was just ‘one of those things.’
It’s gonna be a while until I match my previous monthly earnings
I’m nowhere near being able to match my previous monthly income. That was expected. I’m taking the time to grow my business to give it the best chance for long-term success. I’m currently teaching part-time (2 days a week), which gives me some steady income.
My wife is very busy ATM and is able to cover me while I build my business. I haven’t had to dip into my severance package yet, but I need to start making more on a more regular basis—and soon.
To date, I’ve made just north of $1,500 from copywriting, editing, and proofreading. I’ve learned a lot, I’ve gained experience, but most importantly—I’ve enjoyed it.
It’s been a lot of hard work—and that’s not gonna change any time soon. My wife has joked that I’ve done more work in the past 4 months than I did during 17 years teaching at university. A bit of an overstatement, but like any hungry small business owner, I don’t have regular work hours or days off. And I’m okay with that.
Working as a freelancer is very different than teaching—not worse, just different
As a teacher, I planned lessons weeks in advance and knew what I had to do each day. Each semester, I had a weekly routine. I had a schedule and I knew exactly what to expect. Trying to grow your own business means there is a never-ending list of things to do. That can seem overwhelming. But falling back on what I learned about planning as a teacher has been very helpful.
Daily to-do lists are essential. Prioritizing what needs to get done each day is a must. Having that list gives me focus. When I sit down to work, I don’t feel paralyzed by the immensity of it all. I look at my to-do list, pick something near the top, and start completing tasks. When there’s nothing pressing, I can start chipping away at long-term, bigger projects.
Completing daily tasks while working towards medium and long-term goals means I’m always moving forward. Making sure I’m productive every day helps keep me motivated. It also is crucial to keeping me productive.
I’ve learned a lot in the past 4 months—but I’ve got tons more to learn
I try to learn about my craft every day. I take online courses (some paid, some free) to learn as much as I can about copywriting. I’m learning about search engine optimization (SEO). I’m reading books about copywriting. I read blogs by other copywriters and freelancers. I get daily emails from a variety of established freelance copywriters with tips and links to articles.
I’m also learning by doing. Each project I’ve done is different. Though I’ve never done any of these types of projects before, each time I get a new task, I start with research. I learn what I need to do, draw on my knowledge and experience, and get the job done. And each project teaches me something new and ends up being a new skill I can add to my arsenal.
Pet peeve—when did “Imposter Syndrome” become such a big deal?
While learning about freelance copywriting, I keep encountering the term “imposter syndrome.” It is de rigueur for new freelance copywriters to bemoan suffering from imposter syndrome. They doubt their skills and abilities while lacking confidence.
I’m starting a new career that I have no direct experience in—but I don’t have imposter syndrome. I don’t know everything there is to know about copywriting. I don’t have supreme confidence that I’ll definitely succeed. But I’m not crippled by self-doubt either.
And guess what? Everyone has some form of imposter syndrome or another. No parent ever felt they were ‘ready’ to be a parent. When I came to Korea to teach English, the only training I received was, “Here’s the book. Go teach.” Even after getting my MA in TESOL, I would sometimes question my abilities as a teacher.
A little bit of self-doubt is normal—and healthy. If you have blind confidence, that’s as detrimental as being unsure of yourself.
It seems like it’s trendy to admit that you don’t feel qualified or competent. Perhaps it was there all along and I missed it. I’m just getting sick and tired of seeing the term “imposter syndrome” everywhere.
Rant over. Now back to our regularly scheduled program…
Improving my site and growing my business—baby steps
I strive to improve my site and grow my business each week. I write weekly blog posts—like this one. I add pages and services to my site. I revise pages I’ve already put up based on new things I’ve learned. I use tools to monitor my site SEO stats.
I’ve started posting to Instagram daily. That requires organizing photos, recording photo credits, and writing individual posts. But each of these things makes my site better and expands my business.
I’ve studied SEO, but my current hosting plan doesn’t allow me to add plug-ins. Thus, I’m limited in what I can do on my own page. Yet, I’ve been able to rank on page 1 of Google for a couple of my targeted keywords—so I guess I’m doing something right.
Each time I learn something, I go back and make the necessary changes to my site to improve it. I incorporate those new skills into each new project I tackle. Always learning, improving, and expanding.
A peek inside—What’s a typical work week like for a freelance copywriter?
Teaching on Mondays and Tuesdays, I get very little work done on my business. I do get some work done in the evenings, but with life getting in the way, Mondays and Tuesdays aren’t typically productive. There are lessons that need to be prepped. There are household chores that need to get done. If I can get the first draft of my weekly blog post done on Monday and Tuesday, I’m a happy camper.
On Wednesday mornings I tackle fresh client work. Almost every week, I’ve had some client work to do. Most of the jobs are small or only need a few hours of work. I enjoy this. Working with returning clients is helpful. I’ve learned what they need, I know their business better, and am more effective. New projects are opportunities to learn new skills and grow as a copywriter.
Once I take care of client work, it’s time to browse freelance sites for new gigs. I check LinkedIn, Craigslist, and Facebook—for both freelance and full-time opportunities. I’m open to a full-time job in my new field. But between being inexperienced and pushing 50, I haven’t had much luck in that area.
I did turn down one full-time editor position because I didn’t feel the company was a good fit for me. It also wouldn’t have allowed me much time to pursue my freelance goals.
I schedule posts for Instagram, Facebook, and LinkedIn when time permits. I use a great little program called Later (sign up with this link and we both get a lil somethin’ somethin’). Hammering out a week’s worth of posts is much better than the stress of remembering to post every day. I can schedule daily posts to Instagram, and weekly updates on Facebook and LinkedIn. Very handy indeed.
The weekend sees me put the finishing touches on my weekly blog post, which I publish on Sunday evening. I find pictures (my least favorite task), format my post in WordPress, and proofread it—ad nauseam.
So what’s the verdict? Did I bite off more than I can chew?
Though still learning, I’m confident. I haven’t attempted any jobs that are beyond my ability. I haven’t tried to take on tasks too great in scope. I know my abilities. I know when I can push the boundaries of my skills.
I’m very much a beginner, but I know that I’ve improved every project I’ve worked on. Looking back on these jobs in a few years, I may cringe at what I’ve written. But comparing what the client started with to what I provided them with, I know I’ve improved it.
To date, all my clients have been very satisfied with my work. They’ve written glowing reviews, been repeat customers, and recommended me to others. I must be doing something right.
So where does that leave me? Thus far, almost all my work has been international. I’ll continue to do some international work, but my ultimate goal is to crack the Korean market. I recently discovered a Korean freelance site, so I’m planning to start looking for work on that.
I completed my first job for a Korean client this week. It was a small task, but it was exactly what I envision myself doing. I cleaned up some online text for this client, making it flow and feel more natural. I used some of the copywriting skills I’ve learned to make the text more engaging to readers. The client was so happy with my work, he gave me a bonus. These are the kind of tasks I will begin focusing on.
I expect that word of mouth will be key for me. If you do a good job, people will recommend you to friends and family members. I’ve already experienced this with international jobs. One job from a freelance site saw a satisfied client recommend me to his sister and his cousin. If I can get that happening in Korea, I’ll be in good shape.
The best part of freelancing? Probably not what you think
People often turn to freelancing for the freedom it provides. That’s one thing my wife loves about her job. She doesn’t have to work 9–5. As long as she meets her deadlines, she can work whenever she wants. She can work extra hard one day to take another day off later in the week if she chooses.
When I’ve established myself, I’ll enjoy this aspect of freelancing. But for now, when I’m not teaching, I’m doing something business related. That’s par for the course for any small business owner that wants to succeed.
But that’s also the best part of freelancing—working for myself. Not being my own boss—each client is like a new boss. I mean that my success depends on me—my hustle and my drive. It has nothing to do with the market. If I fail to crack the market, it’s because I wasn’t clever enough or didn’t work hard enough. It’s because I didn’t put in the necessary effort. My success depends on me. Period.
There’s a need for my service in Korea. I see it every day. I have to put in the work to crack the market. And I will. I am.
Though concerns arose, I’ve never doubted my decision to follow this path. The further down this path I get, the more I’m certain I made the right choice at the right time. I may have stumbled onto copywriting, but with each task I complete, I’m more and more certain this is the way forward.
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