Following is part of her email to me. My advice follows.
… I know something is broken in me. I network and still attract broke people. Therefore I went and got a full time job for a wide variety of reasons … At first I felt like a failure for going back to get a JOB. But I keep telling myself its the bank for my biz and I can invest in better marketing to get high end clients.
I am crafting an exit strategy for my job but it serves its purpose for now. Even though sometimes I “cry” at night because the voice in my head says I am a failure because I got a real job. Any insight you would like to share?
Following is the response I sent to her.
One thing I’m learning as I get older in life is — nothing is sure in life but change. So, don’t feel like a failure. You’re doing what you have to do. I did it.
After owning my own biz in NYC for 10 yrs, I had to get a job when I moved to Atlanta after being there for a couple of years. Boy, that was hard, cuz I was used to being my own boss. I’m a true believer that everything happens for a GOOD reason. So look for the lessons in it, take it for what it’s worth and still work your life plan (you do have one, don’t you?).
I just wanted to expand upon this a bit, because it’s not as uncommon as you may think. Much like an addict trying to break a drug habit, many freelancers have given freelancing a shot a few times before they make a successful go of it. So, don’t feel bad if you have to go out and get a job again (in fact, count it as a blessing that you landed one in this economy; many aren’t so lucky).
FYI, I’ve been in that same boat.
My Trajectory to Freelance Success
As I told this freelancer, I had to get a job – and this was after 10 years of running my own business in New York.
It was my last option, but I had gotten to the point where I had to borrow money from an uncle to pay my mortgage, and borrow from one of my sisters to pay my daily living expenses. So I had no choice. Talk about feeling like a failure.
Freelance Success Comes in Stages
At least for me it did.
Stage 1: Decide
When I lost my last job – back in 2007 – I vowed never to work for someone else again. And luckily, I haven’t had to. BUT remember, I had years of experience under my belt as a freelancer – as an editorial freelancer no less.
For those who don’t know my story, I was a corporate recruiter and I was down-sized out of that job.
I knew I could make a go of doing my own thing, but I had to first decide with my whole being that there was no back-up plan, then put a plan into place to help make my decision stick.
Stage II: Assess Skills
One of the first things I had to do was take stock of my skill set.
Why I Didn’t Want to Look for Another Job
One of the reasons I didn’t want to look for another job is that I had a quirky skill set that either qualified me for jobs that were low in pay (eg, admin, editorial) and/or high in earning “potential” (which meant sales). Remember, this was before my SEO experience.
Also, I tended to be overqualified for a lot of jobs as I’d been a business owner. When you’ve owned your own business, especially for more than a few years, many are afraid to hire you because they figure that you’ll either take their job one day and/or quit to do your own thing again.
The jobs I seemed to be the most qualified for paid in the $18,000 to $30,000 range. And, many of them were in sales (so you get a base plus commission – which could have pushed the overall salary much higher). But I couldn’t wait for commissions to kick in. In sales, you’re basically building your own business — and that takes time. I needed to pay the mortgage on the first of every month, not six months down the line.
For all of these reasons, I knew I had to do my own thing again because another job just wasn’t going to cut it. So, I turned to what I knew how to do best – freelance writing. I knew that with my educational background and experience, I had a good shot at making a full-time go of it again.
Stage III: When Opportunity Knocks, Answer
As I cruised job boards every day, I kept running into ads for SEO writers, article writers, web content providers, SEO article writers, SEO bloggers, etc.
This was in 2007 and I had no idea how to write an SEO article or what an SEO content writer was. So I googled it, learned and started contacting companies.
Within a week, I’d landed my first SEO writing client – who went on to give me numerous jobs — the very first week. Within a couple of months, I was so busy I had to hire other freelance writers to help me out. In 2008, less than a year of even knowing what SEO writing was, I’d opened the doors of New Media Words, my SEO writing company.
None of this would have happened though had I not taken the initiative to find out what SEO writing was all about. Once I did, I KNEW it was going to be big going forward. So I dove in headfirst.
Stage IV: Plan for Success
When I first started writing SEO content in 2007, my goal was just to pay my bills without having to go out and get another job. And not for nothing, the foreclosure crisis was just starting then and the economy in Atlanta (where I’m based) sucked at the time. Still kinda does actually. It was one of the reasons I’d gotten downsized out of my job.
But, back to SEO writing … once I got over the worry of possibly having to go out and get a job again, I took the bull by the horns again and sat down and devised a plan for my freelance writing business. Opening New Media Words forced me to do this in earnest.
While I didn’t do a Harvard-esque business plan, I did chart out my marketing initiatives (by day, week and month), income goals (monthly and annual) and life goals (where I wanted to be in 1, 3 and 5 years).
Note: Prices on some of Inkwell Editorial’s ebooks will increase on June 1st.
Stage V: Work the Plan
With a plan in front of you, it’s easy to know where you’re going and how you’re going to get there. Now, it doesn’t mean that plans don’t change.
For example, when I worked some numbers at the end of 2010 and saw that half my annual income came from ebooks I wrote and self-published, my goals changed.
I decided to shift my energies into self-publishing and start working towards taking on just a more managerial role at New Media Words. To this end, in 2011, I spent the entire year writing and self-publishing 50 books.
While I’m still more involved with client projects than I’d like to be, I have gotten to a point where if I my SEO writing company never landed another client, I could earn a full-time living as a self-publisher.
Would things be tight? Yes.
Could I survive? Yes.
So I’ve turned another financial corner – from worrying about earning enough to pay my bills, to building a solid income stream as a writer that can support me full-time.
Stage VI: Change Is Constant
Now, I’m shifting gears again – from writing in the how-to, non-fiction genre to fiction (romance). I recently published my first contemporary romance novel and will be publishing many more in the coming years. Why? Because I’m a long-time reader of romance novels and not for nothing, fiction outsells non-fiction by a wide margin.
Also, fiction books don’t have to be updated. While I’ll always publish in the how-to, non-fiction genre, it won’t be my primary publishing niche moving forward.
What I wanted to get across by showing my trajectory to SEO writing success is that the only constant in life is change.
I had no idea my career would wind up here. What I DID know is what I wanted out of life – to be happy. And, what does that mean for me? Specifically, NOT to be tied to a job, and having financial independence and mobility (I like to travel). So, I devised a career to suit my life.
First, it was making sure I never had to look for another job again. Thankfully, because I hopped on the SEO writing bandwagon, I was able to build a solid freelance business that erased this worry.
Then, I wanted to diversify my income portfolio so I didn’t have to stress about the financial ups and downs of being a freelance writer. So I did by creating self-publishing income (and internet marketing income).
Now, I’m at a point where I want to build a business that is more “hands off.” Fiction writing will provide this. I’m giving myself two to three years – where I plan to publish 10 to 20 romance novels, to go along with my non-fiction works. Hopefully, this will provide more real passive income (again, no updating is needed on fiction works).
Freelance Writers: How to Turn Setbacks into Opportunities
While setbacks happen, they’ll be much less bothersome to you if you have a plan for your life. And this is the main message I want to leave you with. Keep your dreams front and center. Just because you can’t get there like you have it all laid out on paper, with your plan in hand, you’ll always know what your final destination is.
This is important because when opportunities come up, it’ll be easier to assess them to see if they’re getting you closer to your dreams – or further away from them. Conversely, when setbacks happen, you’ll be better equipped to deal with them because with your plan in hand, you can say:
I know what my ultimate goal is. This is just a setback. I will work this job for XX (length of time), save XX months of expenses, then strike out on my own again.
In the meantime, I will use this time to build my website and start creating my web footprint, my online community – eg, via social media, article marketing, ebook writing, etc.
In this light, a setback becomes another “opportunity,” not a crushing blow to your ego, dreams and future success.
I know this was a long post, but I hope you see that your life truly is in your control – and you have to do just that – take control of it. Knowledge is power, and I hope my story empowers you to take control of your dreams.
Share Your Struggles as a Freelancer
Have you given freelancing a go more than once? What setbacks have you faced? How did you overcome them? Please share in the comments section below.
On a Personal Note …
To my American friends, enjoy the upcoming Memorial Holiday. I’m doing a month-long, modified cleanse. So it means no caffeine, no red meat, no alcohol – in short, no fun stuff. This means no BBQ and no margaritas this weekend. You have NO idea how hard this is going to be for me.
I practically have to avoid my best friend cuz that’s what we do when we get together – stuff our faces and drink! So this holiday weekend, I’ll be looking for a park to get in some long runs and my favorite sushi restaurant (I love sushi, so it’s not all a lost cause).
P.S.: FYI, did you know that the average salary of SEO writers increased by $10,000 from Sept 2012? Proof?
Remember, learning SEO is about so much more than learning a new skill; it’s about giving yourself the tools you need to take control of your life.
P.P.S.: Avoid freelance writing dry spells by making extra money as an affiliate marketer: Learn how to earn $50-$150/day online pretty seamlessly in the best-selling ebook, How to Make Money Placing Ads on Free Classified Ad Sites.
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