By James Patterson
It was February of 2010. I walked in the door and my wife immediately knew something was up.
â€œIâ€™ve been let go.â€
The words rolled off my tongue and didnâ€™t sound real. I had been let go from my corporate writing and public relations job, the first time anything like that had ever happened to me. Looking back, the next few days were a complete blur of trying to get my bearings and figure out what to do next.
Naturally I was worried. The job market is poor now, but back then it was even worse. Compound that by the fact that I live in a town of only about 50,000, meaning communications jobs were even more scarce. I didnâ€™t have the savings or equity built up in my house to just pack up and move to a bigger market (even if I could sell my house, which was a long shot).
I felt stuck.
For years I had wanted to try my hand at freelance writing, but never had the time to do it with my full-time job — or the gumption to quit and just jump into it with both feet. Getting let go gave me the opportunity I was waiting for.
I decided to turn lemons into lemonade.
For the first few months, I wandered aimlessly through the freelancing desert.
I wrote for Demand Studios. A lot.
It was mind-numbing, soul-crushing work, but it paid the bills. But I knew that wasnâ€™t enough to stand on.
In June, I Googled â€œIdaho freelance writerâ€ on a whim just to see if there were other people like me in my area. I stumbled across the website of Lindsey Woolman, a freelancer in Boise. I emailed her and asked her a few simple questions about how she got started, how she finds clients, etc. She was kind enough to email me back, and recommended the services of a â€œfreelance writing mentor.â€
That was my first introduction to Carol Tice, in June of 2010.
â€œYou have to spend money to make money,â€ was my line of thinking. I hadnâ€™t invested any money into my freelancing â€œbusinessâ€ up until that point. In fact, I hadnâ€™t treated it like a business at all.
Listen in on my first mentoring call:
Carol: Well, are you doing X to market yourself?
Carol: Well, what about Y? Are you doing that?
Me: Er, no.
Carol: Okay, well surely youâ€™re doing Z, right?
Me: Not exactly.
Over the next two hours, Carol laid out a plan for how I could land new clients and start having a real freelancing business that didnâ€™t involve selling my soul to Demand Studios.
A marketing plan emerges
Here were her suggestions, and what happened as a result of following them:
- Go through my LinkedIn contacts and solicit referrals from people in my network. Result: I was referred to client who has given me nearly $20,000 of work over the last year.
- Try cold calling to break the monotony of sending out emails and not ever getting any responses. Result: After several weeks of call after call and follow-up after follow up, I landed one of the hospitals in my region as a client. I now handle all their writing and social media efforts.
- Contact old colleagues and see if they needed any freelancing help. I called a former co-worker at a marketing firm in Washington, D.C. and simply asked â€œCould you use any writing help?â€ Result: That one phone call landed me projects on behalf of the U.S. Department of Education and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
If thereâ€™s one thing Iâ€™ve learned through this whole process, itâ€™s that the age-old principle of the law of the harvest really works. You reap what you sow. If you put out negativity, thoughts of doubt and feelings of worthlessness, thatâ€™s what youâ€™re going to get.
But when you put in the work, believe in yourself and your abilities and tell yourself youâ€™re really worth $100 an hour or $1 per word, thatâ€™s when things start happening. You should be the only one who can tell you what youâ€™re worth.
James Patterson is a freelance health writer and public relations consultant at OnPoint Writing and Communications. Follow him on Twitter at @jamespatterson3. His past clients include the National Institutes of Health, the Presidentâ€™s Cancer Panel and the National Diabetes Education Program. James has chosen to donate his $50 guest-post fee — it goes to homeless charity Invisible People TV. Want to guest here? See my writers guidelines.