Jim made an interesting request of me not to long ago: Write about how I got started with freelancing. As you may or may not know, I am a freelance writer and professional blogger. I provide content for a number of financial blogs, and I write a column for my local newspaper, as well as write for a physics web site. I’ve also had my writing published in magazines and other publications.
But, how did I get started? Here’s my early story:
One of the things that my husband and I decided was that I was going to work from home. When I had my son, I was the primary breadwinner (my husband the primary caregiver), working as a cashier (with my four-year degree) and then as a Classified rep at a local newspaper. While working at the newspaper, I realized that I enjoyed writing more than selling ads. My husband was finishing up his four-year degree, so we decided that we could both attend grad school at the same time. I was accepted to the S.I. Newhouse School at Syracuse, into the Magazine, Newspaper and Online Journalism program.
Do I think that everyone needs a M.A. to be a good writer? No. But it really helped me hone my writing skills, practice writing quickly to a deadline, and, because it is a good program, provided me with contacts that came in handy later. Some of my earliest gigs came as a result of contacts from my program. While you don’t need to get a degree in writing to succeed, it can be a good idea to take a few courses, and to practice.
Taking the Plunge
After I quit my Classified job and moved across the country to attend grad school, I knew I would never enter the “traditional” workforce again. It may not have been the most prudent course of action, but my husband and I lived on student loans, and my meager earnings, while we attended grad school. Once I graduated, my husband decided to transfer to a new school, so we moved to Utah for him to work on a Ph.D.
I flung myself into writing as a career. I never once considered the idea that it wouldn’t work. I was paid peanuts for keyword articles. I contributed dozens and dozens of posts to content farms like Associated Content. But I was consistent, spending two hours a day on job boards, and applying for jobs, as well as devoting another two hours a day to writing. We sent my son to the sitter for six hours a week in the beginning, just so that I would have dedicated writing time.
Finally, the consistency paid off. Someone noticed that my stuff was posted to Associated Content every day, without fail. This someone was at the vanguard of the “blogging as a marketing tool” movement, and offered me my first job as a corporate blogger. In the meantime, I was writing small pieces for various publications, and doing work for people in my Syracuse network.
Over time, blogging really began taking off, and my early experience as a corporate blogger helped out. Finances became huge, and I was offered a job, on retainer, writing about finances. I was an early participant in niche social media, like Tip’d, and that got me noticed by other financial bloggers. Soon, I was being offered jobs as a staff writer. And here I am. I feel blessed that I had the right tools, and was in the right place to take advantage of online opportunities.