I used to scan writers’ forums daily. Clinging to each post like a career lifeline, I hoped to find the best gigs. Each discussion touched on projects seeking writers, which clients paid the best and, ultimately, where people were making money. So, I kept a list.
I explored the possibilities each day. This cycle continued week after week, year after year. I was determined to find projects where I could use my journalism skills, discover new things and tuck money away. Little did I know that my side gigs would turn into what I consider entrepreneurial success: a full-time career focused on content marketing and journalism.
This summer, as I celebrate eight years as a full-time self-employed writer, it’s empowering to look back at the actual path I’ve traveled, which isn’t the one most people might imagine.
Persistence Wins the Race
When I tell budding writers that at one point I worked four jobs to get to where I am today, they seem shocked: “You did what?” I did what I had to do to make enough money to pay the bills, learn the skills I needed for the future and set the groundwork for a successful launch into entrepreneurship.
While I was doing interviews and writing copy for a local newspaper group during the day, I took photo appointments at my portrait studio between deadlines. During the evenings, I alternated working the cash register at a local pet store and a photo lab. It was a grueling schedule, but I always kept my eye on the prize. Someday, I told myself, I’d have a flexible schedule — not a uniform — and be financially secure. Honestly, I didn’t realize my career would take off as an entrepreneur.
But then, things started to take off. My byline was showing up in increasingly prestigious publications. Applications for writing jobs were getting approved more often. And pitching successful ideas to clients was getting easier.
During the summer of 2009, I took the leap and left my newspaper job to write as a freelancer full-time. At that point, I no longer offered portrait services and scaled back to one part-time cashier job in the evenings. I literally set the stack of monthly bills on my desk and stared at them as I’d power through assignment after assignment. If I didn’t make this writing thing work, I’d go back to working 12-hour days at a local publication.
Freelancing in the Fast Lane
After browsing job boards, chatting in forums and reaching out to other writers to see where to find more projects, I gradually noticed a subtle shift in my daily work flow.
I started receiving emails from readers, offering kudos or asking follow-up questions. My editors would ask if I was interested in working on additional projects. I was starting to build a reputation.
My social media followers increased. Comments on posts rolled in more often. And that’s when I noticed my monthly writing calendar was consistently booked. Finally, it dawned on me that I hadn’t filled out a writing job application in months, but rather, jobs were coming to me.
I’d receive tweets from agencies and editors eager to partner with me. I’d get emails with offers to write for specific marketing campaigns and publications. I had hit that magic entrepreneurial turning point: Clients were looking for me.
After years of pushing myself to improve my craft, learning how to build a website, maintaining social media accounts related to my work and putting in more hours at my desk than I care to admit, I had finally reached a level of stability that eased those self-employed jitters.
I’m sharing this story to show you that entrepreneurial success usually doesn’t happen overnight. It takes dedication and confidence to push forward every single day and make things happen. It takes sucking up your ego and working any job to pay the bills as you grow something in the background. It takes believing in yourself and your mission. It takes hours upon hours of hard work.
Once your business gains momentum through word-of-mouth referrals, stellar service and repeat customers, you’ll feel an instant sense of calm and stability in your business. Press on.