How to Become a Successful Freelancer When You’re “Different”

Currently, I am a teacher, but want to make the gradual transition from the classroom to the freelance commercial writing arena,” an aspiring freelancer recently emailed me.

“However, because I lack a marketing background, I am concerned that clients may be hesitant to hire me. How can I transition from academia to this type of writing career?”

That’s a valid concern—one that some of you may also have if you’re exploring the freelance path. And while neither an email response nor a blog post will do the topic justice, I can at least provide you with some general direction and advice.

Strategy #1: Leverage Your Background

Who says that “agency types” make the best copywriters? And who says you had to go to art school to be a great designer? Some of the best writers and designers I know do NOT have what you might call traditional creative backgrounds. Instead, they have leveraged their diverse experiences and specialized knowledge to bring a fresh perspective to a field crowded with “me too” service providers.

I told my friend that she, in fact, could have an advantage over other writers. Especially if she decided to target companies that sell educational products or services to teachers, educational institutions and parents of homeschooled children.

Her background gives her tremendous credibility. She has “been there, done that.” She understands the emotional hot buttons of her potential clients’ audience (educators). And if she’s strategic about how she positions herself — and delivers value and results for her clients — she can easily become a very successful “go to” writer in her industry.

Strategy #2: Take the Courses and Certifications

However, that brings up another point. Your background alone won’t save you. Neither will raw talent. You also need to learn your craft. And learn it well.

There’s no way around it, folks. You need formal training. Without it, you’ll have a very hard time getting invited to the dance. The market is already full of talented freelance professionals struggling to make ends meet. If talent alone were the secret, most would be extremely busy, earning a great living.

Don’t get me wrong. Talent is a big plus. But these days you need much more. So take the courses. Get the certifications. Read the books. Don’t skimp here.

And don’t think the learning is over once you’ve established yourself. Make it a point to keep up your knowledge base. I’ve never met a successful person who didn’t continually invest in themselves and their business.

Strategy #3: Market Yourself Aggressively

Finally, you need to continually promote your services. This effort must be steady and aggressive—probably much more aggressive and methodical than you think.

Contributors to Freelance Folder have talked about this many times before, but it bears repeating. A focused and continual marketing effort is one of the most important factors in ensuring a successful transition from your current job to a freelance career.

I know that the thought of marketing your services may not sound appealing. But, it doesn’t have to be a chore. Break it up into small chunks. Instead of trying to do monumental activities every three months, commit yourself to doing lighter activities every day or every week.

For instance, promise yourself that you’ll mail five letters a day. Or, that you’ll make ten cold calls a day. Or, that you’ll write and submit one article every other week to a targeted online publication. Or, attend a very focused networking event every month (one that’s rich with potential prospects).

No career transition is easy. You can dramatically increase your chances of success if you leverage your strengths and work hard on the factors that you can control.

Share Your Thoughts

How else would you advise my aspiring freelancer friend?

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