Welcome to the sixth installment of our series, Meet the Freelance Writer!
Here, you’ll meet a diverse range of individuals who have carved out a place in the world of full-time freelance writing. You’ll learn all manner of insights about the life of a freelance writer, such as how to start out, what a “typical day” day looks like, and all those other niggling questions we know you have. If you’re curious about freelance writing as a career, or are looking for some advice on how to improve your freelancing business, this is the series for you.
Today, we’ll meet freelance writer Bree Brouwer.
1. Hi Bree! Can you tell us a bit about yourself and your freelance writing work?
I’ve been freelance writing under my own name since 2012, but I took a break in 2014 to start working full-time as a staff writer and journalist for an online video news site called Tubefilter.com. I took the job to learn more about the industry I wanted to specialize in, which was online video and all its related components (digital media, streaming entertainment, video marketing, YouTube, etc.).
After a year and a half with Tubefilter, I felt like I better understood the industry and had built up enough connections in it that I broke out on my own again. I am now back to freelancing full-time and am making more now per year in the same industry than I was when I was writing about it!
2. How did you make the transition to being a professional freelance writer?
The first time, in 2012, I was forced into it when my contract work as an online English teacher was not paying out what the school had promised me it would. I had to quit, but won unemployment and used that time while I had some income coming in from the state to start my freelancing career.
3. Can you run us through what your “typical” day looks like for you as a freelancer?
I don’t have a “typical” day. In fact, my schedule tends to change every 3-4 months because I try to match my husband’s (he works as a lead in a call center).
Essentially, though, no matter what days I work, I try to allot each work day to a specific task. For example, I tend to use at least 2-3 days each week dedicated solely to working on client projects. I allot one day to catching up on emails, making schedules, taking care of bookkeeping and invoicing, etc.; you know, the “business” side of business. I also use another day for my own marketing and blogging purposes, though I also try to work in some marketing throughout the other days, as well.
Within each of my work days, I usually work about 60-90 minutes on one task before needing to take a break. Sometimes these “breaks” last a few hours, but then I have enough energy and focus to go about 2-3 hours without a break again. I honestly just try to listen to my body and brain’s cues, and go along. It usually works out for me being as productive as I personally can be, though I know some productivity experts out there might cringe at how I operate.
4. As a content marketing expert, what is one mistake you often come across which can be easily fixed?
It sounds so obvious, but grammar and spelling are still my biggest pet peeves. In content marketing, it’s acceptable if you make mistakes here and there as you learn what works for a company’s marketing needs and what doesn’t resonate with their audiences. But there’s no excuse for being sloppy and letting your grammar and spelling slip. Even if you’re a non-English speaker, if you have access to the internet, you can learn how to improve.
5. The style of writing you use in the copy on your website is much more personable and colloquial than many other comparable sites. What was the reasoning behind this tone, and how do you think it has influenced the clients you attract and their relationship to you?
Basically, I focused too much on what others told me to do and what was “right” when I first got started, and it never felt like I was being myself. By the time I jumped back into freelancing earlier this year after quitting my day job, I had decided that even if I struggled financially for a while, I was going to let my voice and character come through on my site and in my writing. This has fortunately worked to my advantage, because an important aspect of the online video industry is being genuine. Even when I work with the more business-y, higher-level businesses, they don’t want to sound stuffy or corporate!
6. How important do you think guest blogging is for generating further exposure for your name and company?
As a freelance writer, I’d say it’s fairly important to guest blog to gain exposure. And of course, when you do guest blog, you want to be posting on sites your potential clients are reading, not on other freelance writers’ sites (unless you have a site/blog you’re trying to attract freelance writers to, like if you want to be a business coach for their careers).
Personally, I’ve found the best way to generate exposure as a freelancer is good old-fashioned networking. The majority of clients I’ve received and worked with this last year have been those I’ve met in-person at industry events or those I’ve been referred to from previous/current clients.
7. You’ve recently been focusing more on working with digital media and entertainment technology with your clients. Can you explain the particular writing process involved in such work?
It’s no different than any other freelancer focusing on copywriting and content marketing projects for clients in other industries. You just have to know the industry and what type of writing they need in particular, discuss goals and expectations with the client, and deliver top-notch content.
Within online video, for example, there are a lot of businesses popping up because the industry is growing so quickly, and content marketing in the form of white papers, case studies, blog posts, etc. are vital for establishing a brand early on in this industry.
8. What are your go-to online resources which make your job easier?
I’ve actually cut out 90% of the online resources I used to reference when I was a new freelancer. I’m at the point in my career where most of those resources simply hinder my success instead of progress it. That being said, I can’t live without my Google Drive/Docs, nor my classical and movie score playlists on YouTube Red and Google Play Music.
I also use Google Voice to screen phone calls so I’m not giving out my personal cell number on my site. So… you could probably say that if it’s anything Google-related, it probably makes my freelance business easier. Although I also use GoDaddy Bookkeeping, which is phenomenal and makes my invoicing processes much better than doing finances manually with spreadsheets.
9. Which skills do you think are the most necessary for trying to secure a new client?
Listening and knowledge-seeking. Freelancers who listen to their clients’ needs and aren’t afraid to learn something new will always stand apart from those who don’t, because these skills show gumption, interest, and determination. Most clients simply can’t help but hire you.
10. Is there any “required reading” you can recommend for people wanting to break into the freelance writing industry?
I’d hesitate to recommend any “required” reading to new freelancers. Telling people they should read this or that before they can start their careers tends to just be an excuse to procrastinate and not actually get your name out there, get clients, and do the work.
That being said, once you have a better grasp on what you want to specialize in, subscribe to a couple industry magazines, websites, or forums which provide valuable information on that topic/industry. While it’s good to keep reading about freelancing and writing in general, I feel a lot of freelancers overlook the vital strategy of keeping up with the industries they want to specialize in.
11. Have you used our site FreelanceWriting.com before?
Yes, I joined the Morning Coffee newsletter back in 2012!
12. Finally, what advice would you give to someone trying to break into freelance writing?
Just start. I was recently interviewed on another freelance-based site, and I said the same thing then, too. You never know what you’re capable of as a freelancer until you try it!
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