Our thoughts on being successful as a freelance writer, content creator, or independent contractor.
Being a full time content creator is hard work. If you imagine that content creators sit around all day in their pajamas binging on Netflix, think again. Whether you’re a freelance writer, an independent contractor, or run your own content platform – content creation is hard work!
Most Businesses Fail Within the First Five Years
It’s a sad fact of life, but statistics show over and over again that most startups fail within the first five years. The main reason cited: lack of capital. But a lack of capital always points to deeper issues: high costs, not enough new business, lack of repeat customers, and so on.
Our business is content creation. And, we’ve been successful at it for over 15 years. This October, Seven Oaks Consulting celebrates this milestone with a series of posts, articles, and more sharing the lessons that we – the entire freelance team – have learned from our combined years of providing freelance services.
In this post, I asked each of our contributors to share their thoughts. Everyone participates differently as a freelancer with Seven Oaks Consulting. Some are marketing analysts (Katie), editors (Kathleen), executive assistants (Atricia), or web designers (Zachary). The majority of our team, however, consists of freelance writers. Whether that’s your interest or other independent contractor or freelance work, we hope that these thoughts inspire and motivate you so that you too can celebrate 15 years of successful freelancing!
Successful Content Creators and Freelancers: Thoughts from the Team
Aditi Chordia (Freelance Writer)
I have been freelancing for over two years and writing for 4+ years. I don’t see myself as successful yet; I have a long way to get there, but what I learned in the last couple of years is that as long as you’re working on your skill, honing and sharpening it, and chasing projects that make you grow as a writer, the more ‘success’ or ‘value’ you can attach to yourself as a freelance writer. To be a successful freelancer also means to be a good entrepreneur. Set up solid systems and processes for onboarding new clients, hiring subcontractors, accounting, project management, client communication, etc. Lastly, don’t be afraid to burn some cash in the beginning. Whether it’s to run ads, get a website done, hire subcontractors, or pay for tools, you will have to risk spending money for long-term gains.
Atricia Doyle-Plummer (Virtual Assistant)
Although I am not a content creator, I’ve been a full-time freelancer for about 1 year and 9 months. I’ve learned that as a freelancer, it’s always good to be open to learning new skills as well as improving on the ones you have to offer to clients. Always ensure that you communicate with your client so they can be up to date on the progress of their project. Always ensure that you understand what the client wants you to do before you agree to take on a project. It’s also good to be organized so you can ensure that you are completing the client’s work on time. Do not be afraid to network and surround yourself with like-minded people who are in a similar field or are on the same mission as you. In the same way, Amazon, Aliexpress, eBay, and other large companies promote their business daily, don’t be afraid to promote yours.
Christopher Iwundu (Freelance Writer)
I have been a freelance content creator for about 5 years. I would say that continually improving your craft and building a network are critical to success. Freelancing is not a solo journey. The people in your network will help your journey through motivation, collaborations, information exchange, outsourcing etc. Also, freelancing can be a full-time job and is overwhelming. You’ll end up handling marketing, accounting, client management etc. Set up processes and systems to help better manage your business while keeping you healthy mentally. Furthermore, build a personal brand. It can be having a personal website or building on LinkedIn, Twitter, or any other platform of interest. Discover where your ideal clients are and build there. Finally, always ensure project details are clearly communicated and documented (a brief) before starting on the project and always revisit the brief to ensure you’re on track.
Katie DeVries (Marketing Analyst)
As an independent contractor, I believe it takes self-motivation, discipline, and setting boundaries in order to be successful. I’m also a strong advocate for overcommunication – rather than assume, it’s always best to kindly confirm what task is being requested. You’ll never regret double checking but chances are, if the final product doesn’t land correctly due to miscommunication, you’ll always regret asking a few additional clarifying questions. And lastly, it takes time to build trust between co-workers—regardless of whether it’s remote or in person—and part of building that foundation is being responsive, completing tasks on time, and having the willingness and patience to learn as you go.
Kathleen Marshall (Editor)
I’ve been freelancing since 1996, and in that time I have found that to be a successful freelancer, you need to continually sharpen your skills and have no fear of learn new ones. The marketplace is constantly changing; things you specialize in now may be less relevant in a few years. And being irrelevant as a writer is a death sentence. Flexibility is vital, and isn’t just limited to your skillset. You also need a degree of flexibility with your clients. Don’t be a doormat, but be open to new things and new types of clients. Twenty-five years ago, I never would have dreamed of working with the types of clients I have now, and they continually challenge me to keep growing.
Jodee Redmond (Freelance Writer)
I’ve been freelancing for more than 20 years. I’m not an “arteeste.” My job is to give my clients what they want. I check my ego at the door when I’m at work. That doesn’t mean that I’m a pushover, though.
There are no “big” clients or “small” clients. All of them are created equal. I give each assignment I’m given my best effort. If the topic doesn’t seem interesting at first, I find something interesting about it so the reader will be able to find something interesting in the content, too.
Laura LaFrenier (Freelance Writer)
I have been a freelance long-form content writer and short-form copywriter for over two years now. I do not consider myself to be an expert by any means and I am always looking for ways to improve my craft. Networking is an important step for any freelancer or solopreneur, as it allows you to connect with and learn from others with similar interests and ambitions. Freelancing is never one-size-fits-all, and it is important to do what you feel is best for you. Don’t be afraid to try new things and always make a continuous effort to work on your personal growth.
Lucy Klaus (Freelance Writer)
I am new as a content creator and writer but I enjoying the challenge. I draw on my years of experience to write about topics that mean something to me. The best part is being able to write when I feel inspired. That is the key to success, writing from experience and inspiration.
Sharon Wu (Freelance Writer)
After freelance writing for 8 years, I’ve learned the importance of clear and timely communication between all parties for a successful partnership. A writer is only as good as the client makes her – the client must equip their talent with what they need to produce stellar content so they aren’t in the dark wondering how to meet expectations. I also discovered that it’s much easier to become an expert in something when you niche down. When I first started, I would take on any and every writing job thrown at me. This ranged from blog articles, to website content, to social media copy, to product descriptions. After dabbling in all of these, I found that I excel in and enjoy blog writing. Crafting long-form articles comes more naturally to me. So, I decided to grow my freelance writing business capitalizing on this.
Zachary Keys (Web Designer)
I have been a freelancer for 4 years. One of the biggest lessons that I have learned is to accept and welcome critiques. In order to improve and get the job done right, I’ve had to learn to take a step back from my work and encourage criticism from clients to help fine-tune projects and accomplish goals. Another thing that has helped me is using tools to keep track of communication and projects. Since a majority of the work is remote, it is important to stay in touch with clients and team members and I had to adapt and start using different tools in order to do so. The last lesson that I’ve learned is to network! I’ve been able to grow as a freelancer through referrals and connections and it is important to always priorotize each client to keep up good relations.
What Do You Think It Takes to Be Successful?
What qualities do you think it takes to be a successful content creator, freelance writer, or independent contractor?
Jeanne Grunert, president of Seven Oaks Consulting, is an award-winning direct and digital marketer with over 20 years of senior marketing leadership experience. She’s passionate about mentoring marketing managers and providing exceptional content marketing programs and services to Seven Oaks clients. Jeanne holds an M.S. (awarded with distinction) in Direct and Interactive Marketing from New York University and frequently lectures on content marketing, search engine optimization, and project management techniques.J