There’s nothing quite as exciting as landing your first freelance writing client. At last — someone who wants to pay you for your writing services!
Some writers are lucky enough to find clients who pay reasonably well from the get-go, and can give them ongoing work.
I was not one of those lucky ones.
I know I’m not the only freelance writer whose first clients paid peanuts. Despite that, it can be hard to let them go. You can feel sort of loyal to that first client, who helped you break into freelancing, and the security of that client you know can make you complacent.
But sooner or later, it’s time to let that low-paying first client go and move on to better gigs.
Here’s the story of my first freelance writing client – and why I dropped him.
My initial excitement
I’m going to be honest here: I was absolutely terrified when I first started out on my own.
I probably went about things the wrong way, when I quit my job before finding even one client. So when someone offered to pay me to write, I absolutely jumped at the chance.
You know the feeling, right? Overwhelming excitement when someone finally offers you money for your precious words.
Yes, the offer ended up being less than 2 cents a word — but come on! I was getting paid to do what I love.
The honeymoon period
Everything was going great. I was getting a ton of work. And I was really enjoying myself.
It soon became clear that I’d have to work from 7 a.m. – 10 p.m. to make enough to cover my rent this way, but I figured my hard work would pay off, and soon I would start making the big bucks.
A reality check
After eight months working for my first client, the cracks in our relationship started to show.
My grammar was deteriorating from my rushed work. And I was extremely unhappy.
I was writing Web articles that took me a matter of minutes (many, many of those). Then one day, my client offered me a job writing copy for an entire website. Hurrah!
I had recently joined the Freelance Writers Den and discovered the pricing guidance in there. I knew Web copy paid a whole heap more than I was currently earning. Finally, this was my chance to earn decent money!
Well, not so fast. My client offered me $36. For the whole website.
Suddenly, a lightbulb went on. This wasn’t a good client!
I spoke up about the pay. He said if I was unwilling to work for that amount, there were hundreds of other people who would. So I thanked him for all the work he had given me, and that was it. He never contacted me again.
How I made it work
The first week or so after I dumped my client was pretty nerve-wracking. I definitely went through moments of panic.
But dropping this gig gave me something much more valuable than a pitifully small paycheck: time.
I started going through the bootcamps in the Den. I created a website, marketed myself to potential clients, and gained a ton of confidence.
It took a while, but I’m happy to say that I recently signed a contract with a client who is paying me eight times what my first client did. I found this client almost my chance in a coffee house. He was talking to one of my friends about needing an e-book done, and I jumped in and told him I was a writer.
I look back, and I’m shocked at how long I stuck with that first client.
But that’s the thing with freelance writing. You’ll make mistakes with pricing, vetting clients, and building your business. The important thing is that you learn from your mistakes and keep looking for better work, higher paying clients, and a community where you can share your successes and learn from each other’s experiences.
What was your first paid freelance client experience like? Tell us in the comments below.
Laura Paterson is a freelance writer specialising in copywriting, blog posts, travel writing, and photography at Flamelily Writing.