It’s now a little over a year that I took freelancing seriously. It started as something to earn a little bit of pocket-money but slowly transformed into a more permanent fixture of my daily routine.
The most common question I get asked about my travel and food blog is, does it pay? Or, how do I go about starting a blog and earning from it? The honest answer is that running a blog requires a lot of time and energy. It consists of dipping your fingers in many tasks that range from social media management and photography to content writing and website creation. Earnings come in various forms, from brand endorsements to sponsored posts, but it is all few and far between unless you’ve made it big. And even then, it’s not all that simple.
What I found helpful instead, monetarily, was freelance work. If your aim behind starting a blog is only to make money, then you are better off focusing most of that energy on freelancing. You’ll be amazed at the number of blogs that require content. Not only that, there is work available for voice-over artists, graphic designers, photographers, review writers, copywriting, editors; you name it, and there’s something.
When it comes to travel and food blogging, over the last year, I have worked with many clients covering various assignments. Since English is the primary language used for blogs, many non-speakers search for freelancers to proofread and edit their work. Then there are the super busy bloggers who don’t have time to write. All this is done anonymously or as a “ghost writer”.
If you want some credit for your work, a lot many digital as well as print magazines are on a lookout for good content. In such cases, you get a by-line and if you are fortunate, even a backlink from an authority site – or at least a link to your social media handle.
This last year has also taught me that there is no easy way to go about it than to just start with freelance work. I will say this, contrary to what many might think, even if you are new to freelancing, don’t work for free. The whole “you will get exposure” or “you will gain experience” spiel is just a façade to get free work. It’s not possible to earn what you want from day one, but it is possible to earn from day one.
Here are a few suggestions to remember when starting your freelance journey:
Work from Every Angle
If you want to survive in the freelance world, start by looking in every direction. There is no one place where you will get all your business. There are some freelance websites such as Upwork which are a great place to begin. Streamlined and easy to use, Upwork for me has led to some wonderful work opportunities. Moreover, because it has a rating system, once I achieved their “Top Rated” status, the job options increased considerably. Now, I can be a little picky about what I take.
But this doesn’t mean I keep my eyes off other options. A number of Facebook groups have freelance work listings daily. Twitter has people using hashtags like #BloggersWanted. And then there are your friends and family. Although, in all fairness, trying to explain what “freelance” is all about to my family was a task in its own.
Have a Blog
No matter your niche, I do recommend having a blog of some kind. For me, Ticker Eats The World works like a portfolio. Instead of sending separate samples of my work, I merely send new clients a link to the blog or specific posts on it. The blog allows me to showcase the different styles of work I can do – listicles, personal travelogues, photo-essays, or humor posts. Freelance clients prefer someone with experience. For food and travel, in place of me telling them about every country I have visited, they can visit my blog and judge my level of expertise for themselves. And hey, I get a few blog hits because of this too.
Don’t be Picky
As someone entering the “business” for the first time, don’t be too picky about the work. I started by commenting on blogs for someone. Since I had prior experience, thanks to all the commenting on travel blogs, this was an easy job. It got me started. I sometimes still do mundane data entry jobs when I have free time. It pays the bills, keeps me busy, but also helps build relationships – which I talk about more below.
Expect your first few months to be slow. Freelance work is such that often you will find yourself with absolutely nothing to do. That’s the nature of the work, and you have to deal with it. Use this time constructively. Work on your blog, go out and enjoy, think of new topics, travel, whatever, just don’t let the lull get the better of you.
Be Patient, Again!
It’s not always about the work you do, unfortunately. When it comes to payments, dealing with clients can be incredibly frustrating. Over the last year, I’ve come across all kinds of customers. There are those who pay in advance. Others will pay as soon as the job is submitted. Then there are those I had to contact through social media, but only in DMs and in a professional manner.
Although there have been times when I want to name and shame clients on social media, that is never a good move. Doing so might get you that pending payment, but it might scare off prospective customers who may or may not be privy to what you have endured before “going public”.
I do have one little “trick” that I use with unpleasant clients. I send them a short email stating that since they have not paid for the article, I am using it elsewhere. If it is travel related, I can always post it on my blog. So far, this has worked in getting those long due payments. The point being, stay calm, be tactful, and have a backup plan.
Interact with Your Clients
Many times a client is new to hiring a freelancer just like you are new to the job. Some customers know precisely what they want, while others are unsure or only have a general idea. Every client has a different requirement. Don’t be afraid to ask them questions. The more you know about the work, the style, word count, the better a job you’ll do.
It Doesn’t Always Work Out
Not all assignments will work out. Be prepared for setbacks. Sometimes clients go quiet. A project will stop abruptly. That’s why it is important to keep looking for new work, even if you have your hands full. The saddest part about being a freelancer is that you’re easily disposable. Unlike a real job, you don’t get called into an office for termination. No letter. Nothing.
Feedback is a Bag of Emotions
Feedback is good, but don’t take it to your heart. Negative feedback for a freelancer can undoubtedly be disheartening. It can make you self-doubt your work. But then, there is always something to learn in the end. You can’t please everyone. You won’t please everyone. Give it your best and move on.
Stick with good clients even if they pay you a little less than expected. I have a few clients that I wish would pay me more, but they pay on time, are good to me, understand if I have to take a day or two off for personal reasons, and in the end appreciate the work I do. So, I don’t mind working for them. Strong and long-term business relationships are worth the cut down on the money earned.
Know Your Worth
This is the most essential part of being a freelancer. Take your time, a few months or even a year, but come to terms with what you’re worth. Don’t be afraid to say “No” to low paying jobs. There are days when I have nothing, and I wonder if I should do a job for less. Then, there are days when I have to refuse work because I’ve got too much on my hands. It’s a balance you’ll have to master, but if you don’t get paid what you deserve, eventually it will reflect in your work.
If you can think of any other tips, have questions, or want to share personal freelance experiences, please comment below.