I’ve been freelancing off and on for over 20 years as a writer, user experience (UX) designer, and project manager, dipping in and out of the full-time workforce as my family requires. When I found Sophie’s blog on becoming a freelance blogger, it totally inspired me to go for it.
Here’s how I got my freelance blogging business off the ground despite some pretty big personal challenges, and how things changed from my original plan.
The Countdown Begins
On March 1, 2013, I had exactly 90 days before a long-term consulting contract ended, or so I thought.
At the end of 2012 I had quit my full-time job at an ad agency so I could spend more time with my 9-year-old daughter. I figured the consulting assignment would be a great opportunity to learn some new skills, make a steady income, and eventually make the transition to part-time freelancing.
While my contract required me to work on site at the company’s offices 30 hours a week, I was free to pick up my daughter from school and finish the workday from home three days a week. Since my income was steady for several months, it would give me plenty of time to build a freelance blogging business during evenings and weekends.
March: Freelance Blogging Ramp-Up
March 1 was also the day I won an assignment to write six blog posts for a past client. I was totally stoked and determined to deliver the finished work by the end of the week. I wrote after hours and on the weekend so my side hustle wouldn’t negatively impact my consulting client.
My first week as a freelance blogger was pure magic.
My consulting work was great during the day, school pickups went as planned, and my new blog posts were delivered on time. I was also paid by my blogging client within 48 hours of submitting my invoice via Paypal. Things were looking good in freelance blogging land!
This positive start inspired me to send out lots of pitches. I subscribed to the RSS feed on the Freelance Switch job board and started responding to opportunities as soon as they came in. I also checked the ProBlogger job board on a regular basis.
Unfortunately, due to rushing, a few times I got sloppy and submitted some pitches with typos — not cool, and obviously I didn’t get those jobs. I vowed to be extra careful the next time and my diligence paid off. Before I knew it I had a brand new client who bought 5 articles from me for $50 each.
Then Sophie gave me the green light to write this guest post. She asked me to keep a diary through my 90 days of “ramp-up” time and then send her a post about how it went. But neither of us anticipated what happened next.
Everything was going according to plan — until my daughter got very, very sick. In mid-March, what we thought was a simple sinus infection became an ongoing battle with asthma and allergies that would linger for several more weeks.
As a result I had to work from home more than expected and take my daughter to lots of medical appointments. Then at the end of March my consulting assignment was cut short by a month. Ouch. Now I had until the end of April —only 30 days— to get my freelance business going.
Lesson learned: Pitch while business is good, since that’s when your confidence is highest, but don’t get sloppy from over-confidence.
April: Working Through The Challenges
April was cruel. My consulting job got busier and my daughter got sicker.
She couldn’t go to school so I had to hire extra childcare to keep things going at the office. The company was on an aggressive deadline that required me to stay into the evenings. As you can imagine, this created all sorts of havoc at home.
My husband was truly amazing throughout this ordeal. Luckily he had some flexibility at his job and was able to help me juggle everything. By the middle of the month my daughter was doing better and we were actually happy my full-time commitment would be over soon.
The stress was intense and I was exhausted. I continued to write my blog posts and pitch more opportunities on weekends. I also started reaching out to my wider network to let them know I would be available in May, but everything came to a head when I got terribly sick.
I was entertaining clients at an evening event when my back started aching. I figured a glass of wine would do the trick. It did for a while, but the pain in my back just got worse and I wound up in the emergency room shortly after midnight.
I was scheduled for emergency surgery the next day. So much for my consulting and blogging activities. It was as if God said “Stop. Now.”
Looking back, I’m actually grateful I was literally forced off the roller coaster I had created for myself.
Lesson learned: Your health is everything. Don’t let work or other responsibilities get in the way of proper self-care.
May: Moving On
My consulting client was incredibly understanding about my health emergency. We agreed that I would take a week off to fully recover and then wrap everything up by the first week of May.
I was so relieved that everything was done, but then I panicked. I didn’t have any work lined up! What would I do? How would I make money? I had a few blogging jobs, but not nearly enough to replace my consulting income.
Luckily I had enough savings that it didn’t matter. My husband and I had a long chat and decided it would be best for me to take some time off and be a full-time mom for a while. So that’s what I did.
Lesson Learned: Have an alternative source of financial support, whether it’s a working spouse, a part-time job or emergency savings, to get you through thin times.
August: Freelancing Again
Fast forward to August. After an amazing summer with my daughter, I’m happy to report she’s doing better than ever. I’ve also resumed freelancing on a part-time basis, with some blogging, but mostly user experience consulting clients right now. My goal is to tip the scales in favor of blogging clients by the end of the year.
Lesson learned: Schedule flexibility is the best part of freelancing for me. I love owning my schedule again and will never take that for granted.
John Lennon said it best: “Life is what happens to you while you’re busy making other plans.”
This is so true for me and I’m sure for many other working parents. This year I’ve learned that I need to be flexible with my goals and not be so hard on myself when things change.
I’m happy I kickstarted my freelance business again and I know it wouldn’t have happened without setting a firm goal on March 1.
While I’d love to say I have a full docket of fabulous blogging clients who give me wonderful assignments and pay me on time, the truth is I have a long way to go. But after a one-to-one mentoring session with Sophie, I have an action plan to market my blogging and consulting work in parallel by emphasizing my specialist knowledge.
I do have enough part-time income from my professional network at the moment, for which I’m incredibly grateful. It’s mostly UX consulting work with a little bit of blogging.
My daughter is thrilled to have me back home, and we’re looking forward to an exciting school year. I will keep working to get more paid blogging clients, but my top priority right now is staying healthy and strong for my family.
Life will continue to throw you and me occasional curveballs — that’s just how life is. But I am absolutely convinced that having a clear, passionate vision of what you want, taking timely action to support it, and adjusting as you go along is the key to building a successful career no matter what happens down the road.
Win Your Own Kickstart!
Today’s prize is a place on the self-guided Freelance Blogger’s Client Hunting Masterclass, an online training course that shows you how to find and win higher-paying gigs. We’ll choose the winner at midnight (Pacific time) on December 23rd, 2013.
For your chance to win, leave a comment and tell us: how will this prize help you to kickstart your freelance blogging career? Bonus points for using details from the course information page in your answer!