17 Lessons I Learned In My First Year of Business As A Freelance Writer

These lessons are valuable. Don’t make the same mistakes that I did.

In 2016, I learned a lot about freelance writing. So I decided to give it a go in January. I started my freelance business Purpose Copy with the intention to provide blog posts to new digital brands in order to help them with their online visibility and presence. And boy have I learned quite a few things along the way. As a 20-something college student, there wasn’t much I knew about running a business or entrepreneurship, but I’m glad I’m able to share what experienced so far during my first year as a new online business owner in 2017.

1. If you talk that talk, prepare to know what you’re talking about.
In the beginning of my freelance career, I was a sleazy salesman. Yep, I was sending out cold emails, promising things I didn’t know how to do based off results, experience, or skills I didn’t even have at the time. I learned quickly when I was questioned about those “promises” I had made. I was tongue-tied and had to call myself out on it. Trust me, save yourself the embarrassment and stick to being a rookie. You don’t have to act like a 10+ year veteran to get the gig.

2. Every ritual, tip, and suggestion doesn’t apply to me or you.
ANOTHER rookie mistake I made was following every tip, trick, and suggestion from various blog posts, podcasts, and social media posts relevant to entrepreneurship and freelancing VERBATIM. Although they were helpful, they didn’t specifically apply to me, my business, or my unique circumstances. They’re advice was solely based on their expertise and what works for THEM.

Useful tip: DO NOT, BY ALL MEANS copy someone eles’s suggestions step-by-step. You may not have the resources, expertise, or knowledge that they do. Take the underlying principles and do what you can with the advice given. This prevents a lot of disappointment and doubt when you haven’t landed eight clients in four months.

3. The money is an add-on if you’re doing what you’re passionate about.
Luckily, I enjoyed writing, so for me it felt like I was getting paid for a hobby. The money was just money. But I also REALLY enjoyed helping people. The joy it brought me to see how passionate my clients were about growing their brands excited me. All the hard “work”, long nights and dedication suddenly become worth it when you’re working from passion. It never truly feels like work.

4. Don’t be scared of constructive criticism. Actually, always ASK for it.
As a Sensitive Sally, this was hard for me to grasp at first, but thankfully my clients were gracious women who showed me my areas of improvement in a sweet manner. None of that Devil’s Wear Prada stuff. As a rookie, you’ll do a lot of rookie things. It’s nothing to sweat over and it’s nothing you can escape from. Consistent development is what you need to get better. Don’t get into your feelings and think someone is personally attacking you, they’re only telling you what you NEED to know. And the more you know what your ideal client wants or needs, the better you can improve the quality of your business.

5. Hard work is better than mediocre work.
If you want more people to give those awesome testimonials that help build your credibility in your niche, DO THE WORK. Go the extra mile, make their experience working with you worthwhile. Spend a little more time on certain tasks, think about how you could add a little more to what you’re offering. Proofread your copy with a fine tooth comb and be sure to use a plagiarism tool, like this similarity checker for students, to confirm that your work is credible and on point. Either do it at your best, or don’t do it at all. Don’t be the girl who gets articles turned around because she made sub-par effort. (Yes, that was me).

6. Time is either wasted or used wisely.
Time management was extremely difficult for me. Truthfully, I wanted to give myself time to provide value in my business, but as a twenty-something, I also wanted time to lounge around. But in business, you have to be strategic with your time. If you waste it, you won’t have much progression or see many results in efforts towards your goals.

7. Commitment and organization is key.
If you don’t follow through with your plans, then you’ll be making the same goals every quarter. Trust me, that was all year for me. Truthfully, starting out, I didn’t know how much of a commitment having and growing a business would take. And even though I was an organized person that thrives when working in systems, I wasn’t committed, which lead to goals not met and ultimately disappointment. That being said, be committed or get out of the game.

8. Never work without a contract.
Don’t even get me started on this one. Please, just don’t do it. WORK WITH A CONTRACT. No one likes to chase someone else for money...mmmk?

9. Don’t be a yes woman or man.
Only because she paid me more, I allowed a previous client to drive me crazy. And no, it wasn’t her fault, it was mine. To all my BAUCES, don’t do anything for a check and allow yourself to be stretched further than you can take, willingly or unwillingly. Yes, I wanted to make money doing what I loved, but I began to make sacrifices that at one point were non-negotiable… don’t be like me.

10. Sometimes your best won’t be enough.
I remember I asked a client if she wanted to continue working together at the end of my contract with her, she replied, “It has nothing to do with you, but I think I’ll take the blogging from here”. Fair enough. Until she posted on Instagram that she needed guest bloggers (which was my position) to contribute. It was a shocker, and I felt belittled because I did what I could for her to the best of my ability. But sadly, it just wasn’t enough.
Useful Tip: You ain’t for everybody and everybody ain’t for you.

11. Constantly develop your skill.
Whether you were born with a God-given talent or you’re learning a new skill, you consistently have to work on making it better and better, because the better you are at your skill, the more people will trust you to carry out their needs. Being a freelancer was more than just writing. Outside of the cold emailing and administrative tasks, I had to learn how to be strategic in content marketing, using SEO, and many other things that came with the simple concept of writing and blogging for a digital brand. There’s always more to a thing than just the thing itself, so make an effort to learn everything there is to know about your skill and do it. DIVERSIFY GIRL, DIVERSIFY

12. Invest or die.
I’ve personally found that the best knowledge is obtained by investments. (I wouldn’t know about some of the things I mentioned in the #11 if I hadn’t invested in myself). E-courses, mastermind memberships, etc have expanded my knowledge by immeasurable amounts. And not just on my niche, but in running a business in general. I won’t say you have to spend money to make money, but every purchase you make for your business needs to have an irresistible and clear ROI (return on investment) which means you should only be purchasing things that will enhance your business and make you more money. Before you buy, always think,”How can this help my business in the long-run?”

13. Entrepreneurship is a crash course in personal development.
There’s just as much internal work in entrepreneurship than it is external. The things that are necessary to become a successful entrepreneur are the exact things that help you become successful at life. You learn about your strengths and weakness, you fail, (hopefully) you’ll try again, you begin healthy habits so that you can do the work that will set you up for the best things in life. As your business grows, you’ll grow along with it.

14. You’ll find that you can do (and will do) more than what you think you can.
I didn’t really think I was capable of carrying out the responsibilities of a freelancer. When I say I was fresh, I was FRESH into it. But as time progressed, I amazed myself. Truth is, everything you’ll find that you need is already inside of you.

15. Sometimes breaks are necessary.
I’ve recently learned that effectively running a business is very difficult if your personal life is in shambles. When everything and everyone (even yourself) around you is shifting your focus and driving you crazy, there’s no way you can deliver to who you’re serving. Despite the new entrepreneurial belief, breaks aren’t bad — they’re necessary and beneficial to your business in the long-run. So take a breather, get yourself together, and come back ready to crush it.

16. Rookies can win.
I landed clients when I had no experience, an unattractive website, and a meek approach about me. Even when your skill set is low, you don’t have a clue how to run a business, or you may not have a ton of confidence, YOU CAN STILL WIN. Think about what you DO have when you’re getting started with determination and plenty of room for trial and error.

17. You’re never really ready until AFTER you take the first step.
Nope, contrary to your fears, you don’t have to have every little detail perfectly lined up in order to run a business successfully, (or really to do anything). The truth is, you learn everything along the way, so quite honestly you’re cheating yourself with the “I’m just now ready” excuse. There’s no perfect circumstance that is guaranteed to bring forth success, ya gotta just do it.

Running Purpose Copy has been rewarding financially and personally in many ways. In 2018, I plan on expanding the services I provide and most importantly, avoiding all avoidable mistakes that I’ve made thus far.

What have you learn in your first year, couple of months, or day of being a BAUCE? Comment below I’m dying to hear what you’ve been up to!

Featured Photo via Simson Petrol



  1. Francesca Murray

    October 27, 2017 at 3:35 pm

    Great article! As a freelance writer and journalist I can absolutely attest to many if not all of these points

  2. Pingback: Why Do So Many Solo Entrepreneurs Fail?

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