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I Didn’t Always Want to Be a Freelance Writer | Freelance Sprout | Find, Start, and Grow Your Dream Freelance Business
Read the six part series on creating a freelance business plan
 

I Didn’t Always Want to Be a Freelance Writer

Date January 20, 2009


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I’ve been writing professionally for over 6 years now, but I didn’t always want to be a freelance writer.  I sort of came into the career by accident, but like many good things in life – sometimes the best things are unexpected.

I went to college intending to become a computer programmer or web developer.  I got a bachelor degree in Computer Information Systems from a four year private college (which I’m still paying for and probably will be for the rest of my life), and did really well in all of my classes.  When I graduated, I didn’t feel like I knew anything that would translate into an actual computer programming job, though!  We covered the basics of multiple programming languages, and while I could successfully complete all of my assigned projects and write programs for homework – it certainly didn’t meet the job description requirements of any of the computer programming jobs listed in the local newspaper or online job search.  In fact, I was told I would probably have to intern (unpaid) for 3-4 years before I had a chance at securing a position.  What?!  Work for 4 years without pay?  Who can afford to do that?  I was already working full time for the local government just to pay for books and living expenses while in school, I couldn’t just quit and work for free (with all those school loans headed for repayment, too).

I decided to start my family instead.  I knew I would need to add to the family income, but neither my husband or I wanted to put our baby in daycare if we could help it.  So I began looking for ways to earn money from home, thinking my degree and technical experience should really help me.  I did a few basic web sites (for friends and co-workers, and I didn’t charge nearly enough…) but soon realized the “stuff” I learned about web development and design in school over the last 4 years had pretty much been replaced by new and better already – things I knew nothing about!

I tried a few home-based business opportunities.  Network marketing or MLM companies, as they’re usually called.  My first one was a scrapbooking company, since I had recently discovered scrapbooking and thought it would be really fun to have scrapbook parties and people would just naturally want to buy the stuff they were using at the party, right?  Hmmm… my poor family and friends suffered through a number of scrapbook parties, did a few scrapbook pages, but no one had much interest in doing it outside the “party”.  The few people I did run into who were into it bought from the local craft store because it was so much cheaper than the items in my catalog.  Plus… I was so into scrapbooking that every new item that came out I would have to purchase and try it out- so the few dollars profit I made I put right back into the business.

I tried a medical benefits company.  I sold a few dental plans to people who didn’t have adequate health insurance, made a few dollars but the operating costs ate any profit I might have made.  I had to pay to have a website through the company, I had to pay to get leads.  Plus… I hated being on the phone and asking people to buy something!

I tried a gourmet food company – this time I made quite a bit of money having taste-testing parties in other people’s homes.  I got repeat business when people would eat their stuff and need to order more.  But the problem was finding babysitters to watch my son (and then later, both my children), and I would keep hitting dry spells- when no one wanted to host a party, so the income was unreliable.

The only thing that seemed to work consistently was writing articles and other content online.  I never had any trouble finding work, thanks to the growing number of freelance bidding sites and job listing boards; and before I realized what was happening I had referrals coming in from previous clients.  Many of my clients turned into repeat clients – meaning they needed articles or writing work each week or each month.  When I started getting repeat clients, I realized I could very easily find enough “repeat business” to earn my minimum monthly income – and then take on additional projects whenever I needed more money!

It was a bit of a journey for me – deciding that freelance writing was going to be my career and not just a hobby.  I certainly didn’t expect to be raising my children from the money I made writing when I was in college or even after I graduated – but I couldn’t be happier with my work.

Debbie Dragon teaches people how to Make Money Writing through her online mentoring program, and writes for a number of blogs and websites - including FreelanceSprout.com.

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