Things I Wish I Knew Before Becoming a Freelance Writer

If you’re a new freelance writer getting started in the field, learn from my experience. Here’s what I wish I knew before I began working with clients. 

Your greatest tool is patience

I personally wouldn’t (and didn’t) create a freelance profile and then sit around and wait for it to bring in work. You’ll need to exercise patience to get clients initially and then maintain composure when continuing to work with them. Your clients are your new bosses, and just like any job, you may not always mesh well with every boss you have. You’ll have hard clients, annoying clients, whiny clients, generous clients, laidback clients. It’s the luck of the draw. Be patient. Don’t get discouraged. Take it as it comes. 

Your first 50 orders matter the most

I tell this to new freelance writers constantly. Whenever someone messages me for advice, I remind them that they should work extra hard for those first 50 clients. Of course, you should work hard for every client you have, but I’m talking about the above-and-beyond type of excellence. This will not only instill loyalty in them, but it’ll also help you build up a strong collection of positive reviews. 

You have to combat procrastination every single day

Anyone in a freelance profession knows just how easy it is to let procrastination lead you astray. When you’re your own boss, it’s up to you to stay on top of your work. I’ve had weeks where I consistently churned out 10 orders per day. Other weeks? I’m lucky if I can do 2-3 per day. Staying motivated can be tricky when you’re the only thing standing between yourself and anything else you want to do that day (going to a great restaurant in a new country, laying out on the beach in Hawaii, meeting up with friends for a drink, etc.). But if you don’t prioritize those clients, then you won’t have your career to help you live that lifestyle! It’s all a balancing act. 

Read more about how I stay motivated while working from home: 7 Ways to Stay Motivated While Working Remotely.

You have to work at a work-life balance

I talk a lot about how freelancing freed me from the 9-5 life. However, there are just as many days that I have my nose in my laptop 12+ hours that there are days I worked 3-5 hours. Freelancing is having your own business. It’s determining how much you make based on the number of hours you work. And for that reason alone, it can turn into a 24/7 hustle. There have been nights that I was just about to close my laptop at 11 PM when someone messaged me and offered me $1,500 to complete an assignment by morning. Guess who isn’t going to bed now? 

Your day will revolve around customer service

One of my least favorite aspects of my job as a freelance writer is customer service, and it’s not because I don’t like talking to clients. The vast majority of my clients are incredibly pleasant and interesting people who want to cultivate long-term relationships. Unfortunately, the sheer number of messages I receive per day makes it feel all but impossible to do that successfully. I want to be able to send 5-7 messages back and forth to each client, but it sucks up so much time in the day. If I do that with every single person, when do I write?

Mark my words, the first position I’ll hire for is an assistant. I’d love help answering initial inquiry messages as well as those assisting clients who have reached out with order questions or issues. As a people pleaser, I tend to agonize over these messages, and it consumes my day. 

You must read the Terms of Service for any platform you work on

I started my freelance writing career on Fiverr, which has an extensive Terms of Service page. I found this page early on in my searches about Fiverr, and I’ve all but treated it as law. I know others in the Fiverr community treat it much more loosely, and they’ve been disgruntled by account demotions. 

Personally, as a rule follower, I don’t mind having a bit of a rulebook to follow. In fact, it sometimes makes it easier to say no to pushy buyers who want something I know isn’t a good idea or I’m not comfortable with. For example, I often get asked to write academic papers on behalf of college students. This isn’t something I would do regardless, but it’s against the Fiverr TOS. And thus, it’s an easy out to tell them “no” for that reason alone. 

You can’t be afraid to raise your rates 

When I first started on Fiverr, I started at the $5 mark at the site originally intended. In the next few weeks, I raised my rates again and again to counter demand. Since 2018, I reviewed my prices about once a year to see where they should be. Each time, I have a little bit of anxiety, wondering if I’m being fair to customers and combatting my imposter syndrome (see below). However, each time my gig rebounds and reminds me that clients are loyal and love sticking with who they know. You save them money because of convenience. You know their business, and they don’t have to re-brief someone every time they need new content. Because of this, the vast majority of your clients will stick with you through your rate change. 

You must actively combat imposter syndrome 

For much of my career, I’ve felt imposter syndrome, even while rising through the ranks on Fiverr. I may stand out among my peers as a freelancer, but I still wonder if I’m supposed to be here. Am I good enough?

It’s because I am self-taught. It’s because I didn’t intend to do this at all. It’s because I started as a student in a college class hoping to make a little extra beer money, and it exploded into a career. This path was a happy accident for me, and it turned out well, but it doesn’t stop me from wondering if I’m as competent as others perceive me to be (or fearing that I’m not). 

I know I’m not the only freelancer (or freelance writer) to feel this way. In fact, this article — How Freelancers Can Overcome Imposter Syndrome — addresses some of the best ways to combat it in this field (and you will need to actively combat it). 

Final Thoughts

Hopefully, these insights help you if you’re just starting your freelance journey. Send me a message if I can help and look out for my next article How to Get Your First Freelance Writing Client.