Posted in Freelancing

Why I Started Freelancing

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After over a decade in the legal field, I realized I was stuck, both professionally and personally.

I was essentially a passenger in my own life.

I started researching ways to earn income from home and quickly discovered the limitless potential of the freelance marketplace. I loved the thought of earning money on my own time, on my own terms. What really hooked me, though, was the idea that my earnings potential was only limited by how much time and effort I was willing to invest–there was no pre-fixed salary that would cap how much I could bring in.

After looking at some options, I jumped in and quickly learned…

Freelancing is hard.

My first freelance jobs were in transcription. I had years of experience doing dictation and thought this would be a natural foray into the freelance world. I started bidding on transcription jobs on content mills and soon spent hours transcribing audio files.

At first, I loved it. I’ve always loved learning new things, and transcription gave me inside access to a whole host of fascinating topics like tech, digital marketing, growing web-based businesses, the military, patent law, start-ups and entrepreneurship, and on and on. The transcription process itself was tedious, but I was getting to learn things well beyond my normal realm.

It was amazing.

The down side? I was literally spending hours and hours hunched over a computer desk with my headset and foot pedal struggling to complete assignments that, in the end, only brought in piddly money.

I looked for ways to make the transcription biz more profitable. I watched video after video to learn inside tips for becoming a faster transcriber. After awhile, I noticed something interesting. Many videos were set to run with closed captioning. I didn’t give this much thought until the day I came across closed captioning that was so chock-full of errors it was like witnessing a bad-lip reading parody. It was so distracting I spent more time reading the closed captions than listening to the tutorial.

After that, I couldn’t help but check the closed captioning on videos. After seeing an amazing amount of error-filled transcripts, I decided to review political campaign videos to see what ‘correct’ closed captioning should look like. Surely campaign videos would have accurate closed captions for their older and hard of hearing constituents who use closed captioning on a regular basis. I was shocked to find video after video of downright embarrassing automatic translation errors, many of which ran completely counter to the candidate’s platform (imagine the words ‘racism’ and ‘Nazi’ popping up in a candidate’s closed caption transcript without their knowledge).

Seeing the potential market for correcting error-filled YouTube transcripts, I learned the process of correcting (in some cases, creating) closed captions, and added video closed captioning to my list of services.

Soon I started getting requests to caption SEO/data analytics tutorials, podcasts, webinars, etc.

Freelancing was empowering.

I had pinpointed a need, researched the market, learned the skills and software necessary to produce clean, uploadable transcripts, and figured out how to pitch and market my services.

Clients were soon seeking me out.

Unfortunately, while video captioning was better money, it took twice as long to complete. Not only was I transcribing word-for-word, I then had to go back and time-sync the transcript to match the audio. I soon learned one of the most important business lessons of all time:

Services must be scalable for a business to grow and become profitable. 

Competition in the transcription and video captioning field is pretty fierce.  Individual transcriptionists and captioners are not only competing against their global counterparts, but big-volume businesses. After six months of working endless hours for minimal profit, I returned to the bricks-and-mortar workforce.

Although the return to a regular paycheck was wonderful (getting paid every week was like Christmas), I never let go of the dream of working from home.

One day it dawned on me that I had been marketing myself all wrong.

A paralegal’s bread and butter is researching complex issues and using that knowledge to write compelling arguments on behalf of clients.

I had been so focused on looking for freelance opportunities with my minimal skillset (typing, proofing, editing) that I failed to see that all along I should have been marketing my high value skillset: research and persuasive writing (read: copywriting).

I updated my online profiles to include freelance copywriting and other writing services, and haven’t looked back since.

What’s next?

I have big plans for freelancing, but this time I plan to pursue my goals responsibly.

At some point I would love to freelance full time, but this will be years down the line after the kids are done with college. I tried the staying at home thing before. I didn’t have a fiscally responsible plan. It was nearly disastrous.

If I could give three words of advice for those wanting to stay at home now, it would be to BUDGET, PAY DOWN DEBT, and SAVE before making the leap.

Otherwise, your moments of euphoric freedom will quickly turn to panic and financial despair. I’m all for gritting things out, eating Ramen, and grinding away. That’s great when you’re single with no kids. But when you have a family depending on your income for basic necessities, things get real super quick.

So this time around, I plan to grow and excel in my new paralegal job and be the absolute best paralegal I can be for my firm. And with no financial pressure, I can focus all my efforts on helping others create quality content and organically building my online portfolio.

Let’s talk about financial goals.

They say those who write down their goals and share them publicly are much more likely to achieve them then those who don’t. So, here goes:

I want to build a nest egg of $10,000 in savings, pay down debt, save for home repairs and renovation, and really start socking away for my kids’ future college tuition.

My short-term goal (by Christmas) is to bring in $1,000/month extra income from part-time freelance work while maintaining my full-time job.

My long-term goal (within two years) is to generate $4,000/month from part-time freelance work. To achieve this goal, I will need to find ways to generate passive income that makes sense for my brand, and through means that aren’t already oversaturated.

This will take focused, dedicated effort. I’m stoked.

And that’s how Eleanor and Jane came to be. Named for two strong, independent women, Eleanor Roosevelt and Jane Austen, I created this blog to hold myself accountable to my lofty goals and to share my ups and downs as I move forward.

Because the focus of this blog is building a successful and sustainable freelance career, I plan to include posts on self care and personal development as well.

Finally, starting in September, I will share a monthly income report with profits/losses to show how well I’m progressing. The figures may be slow going at first, but I know this is a long-haul journey. I am looking forward to Christmas when I can look back and see how far I’ve come in just four months!

If you’re working toward a dream of your own, or maybe have a question or comment, I’d love to hear from you!

Thanks so much for stopping by!

Kari 

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Posted in Content Writing, Freelancing, Getting Hired, Pitching

Five Reasons A Newbie Could Be Your Next Rockstar Content Writer

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Full disclosure: This post is a self-promoting testimonial.


Newbies are motivated to get started.

Newbies know that nothing will kickstart their freelance career more quickly than a portfolio of solid writing clips. But how do newbies start building their portfolio, if most places won’t hire without one?

Motivated newbies don’t let others dictate their future. They know they’ve got writing chops. Rather than wait to be hired, they find creative ways to get their work in front of prospective clients. (Ahem. Insert self-promoting cough.)

Newbies are eager to build their reputation.

Newbies didn’t just wake up one day and decide they want to be a freelance writer. Chances are, that’s a dream they’ve been nurturing for years. So when they finally do take the plunge, newbies are all in and eager to get their foot in the virtual door.

To showcase their talents, they will cover all sorts of topics, such as: ‘Why Your Teen is Obsessed with Snapchat and Tumblr’, ‘Why Completely Random Stock Photos Are Still Good for Your Traffic’, ‘What Fido is Trying to Tell You With His Tail’, ‘The Importance of Breastfeeding and Why It’s Still a Touchy Subject for New Moms’, ‘Raising Kids In a Politically Divided House: How to Engage in Appropriate and Respectful Debate When Your Spouse Insists on Supporting the Wrong Candidate’.

Newbies know that reputation is gold in the freelance world. You can bet they will hustle to establish themselves as valuable contributors by producing awesome, buzzworthy content.

Newbies are research hounds.

Newbies are not afraid of what they don’t know. The digital era has leveled the playing field, and they use it to their advantage. Blog posts, articles, web content, newsletters, books, podcasts, videos. The sheer vastness of the resources available can be overwhelming, but newbies are research ninjas. They are deft at cutting through the noise and finding just what they need to craft compelling, thoughtful content for your website or business.

Newbies are sometimes sea glass disguised as newbies.

I know, say what? Bear with me.

Newbies routinely sell themselves short, often without realizing it. Consider this pitch:

Hi, I’m Newbie. Although I’ve never written anything yet in the B2B field, I have years of experience working with lawyers and doctors in the medico-legal field. I’m confident I can pick up the lingo and write your B2B sales copy in a way that will help you get the results you’re looking for.

 Newbies are surprised when this pitching style does not ‘make it rain’ for them.

Let’s read between the lines:

The newbie** in the above example may not have actual B2B sales copy experience, but she did spend over a decade as a medical malpractice paralegal helping defend doctors and hospitals against all sorts of allegations: delays in diagnosis of cancer, loss of limb(s) due to compartment syndrome or diabetes, complications from necrotizing fasciitis, negligent spinal fusions, cerebral palsy and/or shoulder dystocia due to birth-related trauma.

** Based on author’s true story.

Was this newbie a doctor or nurse? No.

This newbie started in the mailroom of her law firm, worked her way up to legal secretary, and, within a year, was promoted to medical malpractice paralegal.

Did she have any special medical training? Surely she must’ve known about CPAP machines, tumor markers, fetal monitor strips, subdural hematomas, and lumbar laminectomies before diving into this position. Again, no.

 In fact, she had to look up the Merriam-Webster audio pronunciations of countless medical terms just so she could say them correctly in client meetings.

What made this newbie think that with absolutely no medical training or experience she could serve as the right arm to defense counsel defending complex, often life and death, medical issues? The better question might be, what made the attorney she worked for so confident she would succeed?

Determination and dogged research skills. What this newbie lacked in experience, she more than made up for with her exhaustive research skills. She pored through industry journals, online resources and, yes, even Google, to bring herself quickly up to speed so she could write compelling (sales) arguments (copy) on behalf of her medical (B2B) clients.

In essence, this self-proclaimed newbie spent years writing copy in the medico-legal niche. And if she can excel in this complex field, she can use the same skills to excel in other niches.

Of course, in a textbook example of how we often subconsciously undermine our own value, none of this comes through in the newbie’s pitch.

If she reframes her expertise, prospective clients will see that she’s not a newbie at all, but sea glass–a little rough around the edges but with great underlying value.

You were once a newbie, too.

The thing is, all experienced writers, marketers, entrepreneurs, etc., were once newbies. All anybodies were first newbies before hitting their stride: Steve Jobs, Warren Buffet, Shonda Rhimes, Richard Branson—even the President of the United States. To be clear, anyone making their first Presidential bid is asking voters to accept that their background and experience qualifies them to do something they’ve never done before.

While comparing freelance writing to running the largest democracy in the world may be a bit of a stretch, you get the idea.

Yes, I see that you do, because you were once a newbie, too.

Kari 

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