When I started freelance writing, I took whatever I could get. I began by freelancing part-time when we lived in Nashville, and most of my work came from friends who work in marketing with clients in every field imaginable. I was writing email content for healthcare, regulatory compliance, and event businesses and blog posts for electric vehicle, nutritional supplements, and home security companies. I copy-edited for a local magazine and wrote an assortment of stories for them in lifestyle, design, and local talent realms. Like I said… I did it ALL.
It was honestly thrilling at first to be able to research all of these random industries that I knew nothing — and I mean nothing — about and turn that information into content that informs, educates, and converts. I just felt lucky that people wanted to pay me to put some words together as best as I could, especially given I had no real marketing background or legitimate insight into the random businesses I wrote about, other than what research I could conduct online and questions I could ask the clients. I accepted every project I was offered, and that allowed me to begin building a solid copywriting portfolio.
I kept on keeping on
When I moved to Austin and threw myself into freelancing full-time, I figured I’d do the same old thing I’d been doing: everything. I started using UpWork, a platform for freelancers to find projects, to market myself to potential clients. My bio on there said something along the lines of having experience writing digital content for brands and businesses of all kinds, including technology, real estate, design, healthcare, beauty, lifestyle, wellness, events, marketing, blah, blah, blah. I went all in and included everything I’d ever written about since college.
Why not cast a wide net and see what you can get, right? I thought by showing my range and flexibility, people in all these various industries who needed content would be knocking down my door. After all, I had some vast experience to showcase, man. An interesting thing happened with that approach, though. I didn’t get a whole lot of leads. And the ones I did get were extremely hit or miss.
Work and I have a funny relationship
Luckily, the first two regular clients I snagged were ones that I LOVE and still work with to this day. One is a leadership consultant, and the other (Emily Perron — she’s incredible!) is a career and entrepreneurship coach and hiring specialist.
I began writing content for them, mostly blogs and some social media stuff, and felt that thing I’d often heard about but never really experienced for myself. The work they assigned to me didn’t actually feel like work. I was compelled by the subjects they wanted me to write about and would lose myself in the hours I’d spend curating content for each of them.
And y’all, I’ve NEVER been a person who gets lost in work. I was the person who would nap in the stairwell when I was a manager at my college’s recreation center. I’d take three-hour lunches at the magazine I worked at a few years ago to catch up on Real Housewives episodes and play with my dog. I’ve always counted down the hours until it’s time to go home at every desk job I’ve had. Only five hours and 47 minutes left until happy hour, woo-hoo! No wonder freelancing suits me so well. Happy hour all day! (TOTALLY kidding. I wish. Sorta.)
Something felt different about these projects
So, to get a couple clients that I immediately clicked into synch with and understood their visions so purely from the jump… It was a game changer and an absolute joy, to say the least. But still, two clients weren’t enough clients to fill up my workload and income goals, so I continued applying to all the remote writing jobs in all the industries.
I ended up getting a few more clients over the coming months. I worked with a healthy dog food company for a while, until my contact there left. I worked with a meat and cheese interlever company for a while… until my contact there left. (Interleving. You know those little papers that go in between sliced deli meats and cheeses? Yeah, that’s what that company did. There’s your fun fact of the day! I learned a lot about big machines and how fast it takes to prep hundreds of bags of meat with that one. It was… meaty.) I completely rewrote a wedding musician’s website, a Bible education website, and a plastic surgeon’s website.
And let me just say, there’s nothing wrong at all with any of those projects. I am so grateful they trusted me with their stories and words I got to share. I am honestly floored and humbled any time a new client chooses ME out of all of the many options and talent out there. But I started to realize that all of the projects I was doing didn’t give me that “I’m so into this that I forget I’m working” feeling.
I had to hone in on what the real problem was
In fact, many of the projects that weren’t necessarily in my wheelhouse of natural interests were the ones that I ended up procrastinating or pushing way down on my list of tasks. I am a huge deadline adherent, but it was all I could do to finish some of them without wanting to crawl into a hole.
Anytime I had tasks for those two clients whose missions I really believed in and whose messages were near to my own heart, I could crank those out in much less time and with much more enthusiasm. I had this realization a few months ago and decided maybe it would be smart to specialize myself and brand myself in a really specific way.
Instead of being a writer who could write anything for anyone, I changed my UpWork and LinkedIn profiles to say I specialize in writing content in the personal growth, health and wellness, career development, and mental health fields. Still broad enough to capture a lot of different types of companies’ interest, but more targeted in aligning my work with the things I care deeply about and enjoy learning and writing about.
It’s crazy what happened next
I wasn’t necessarily even seeking out new clients at the time that I changed my professional bios. I had a comfortable amount of work but was open to opportunities that did align with my newly realized vision. One night, I saw that Jenna Kutcher, a major marketing mogul and super-smart digital educator, posted that she was looking for a remote content creator. I applied via LinkedIn, and we chatted the entire next day before she offered me the job.
When we finally spoke on the phone, she said “some things” on my profile really stood out to her. The night she posted the job, she said she selected five of her favorites, and I was the only person she remembered the next morning. I have no doubt one thing that stood out was the simple and small, yet direct, pivot I made to my content focuses that caught her attention. I know she had several hundred applicants within a few hours of posting the job, and I still think it’s wild that she selected me.
I’ve also recently, unexpectedly begun working with some other soul-centered, empowering brands that I simply adore. This isn’t to toot my horn or say I know it all, but I do think there’s something powerful about boldly stating what you want, whether you’re a writer, like me, or a different kind of creative, or you’re in another field entirely.
When we intentionally specify what we’re seeking, it makes that thing a whole heckuva lot easier to find. I never wanted to be a writer for every industry, but I felt like I had to. And I probably did, at first. But once I had the experience I needed and the understanding of where I’d like to be and who I’d like to work with, getting specific with those goals has led to some incredible outcomes.