What I gained even though I failed as a freelance writer

LOLshark lost 5 poundsLast time, on Rubber Ducky Copywriter, I shared my woeful story of failing as a freelance writer. Yes, it sucked in many ways. However, it wasn’t a total loss. With the bumps, bruises and occasionally obliterated self-esteem came some serious growth.

I didn’t succeed as a freelancer, but I did manage to grow as a person and as a professional.

Professional branding

One of the first rules of writing is to know your audience. As I tried to turn myself into a business, I had to take a step back and look at how I came across to prospects. This meant a hardcore look at my strengths, my weaknesses, what I want to be known for and what I never want to be known for.

I had to blueprint what kind of professional I want to be and what would set me apart.

Not as a person; as a professional. This is something that I bring to work with every day. I’m still Me, Inc. And I’ll always be working on my brand. I’m cubicle-bound, but this mentality still serves me well.

Your takeaway
You’ve probably heard it before but it’s worth repeating—freelancers are businesses. Define what kind of professional you want to be and work on becoming that.

LOLcat invisible rollercoasterThe answer to “What if I fail?”

By my last budget-related elimination, I was already tired of the “come on as contract before we make you permanent; oops, we have to eliminate your position instead” rollercoaster. And I hate rollercoasters.

Fear of failure kept me from freelancing for years. But now I know what’ll happen if I fail—I’ll find another job. I’ll be okay.

Your takeaway
Answer the question: What will happen if you fail? Will you find another way to make ends meet? Or will you dig a nice, deep hole and crawl inside to wait for the sweet kiss of madness or death, whichever comes first?

I go where the money is. There’s no money in the hole.

Ownership

When you work within a company, responsibility is often shared. When you’re a freelancer, it’s all yours. You own how much effort you put into your business. Your deadlines, your workflow, your branding—they’re all yours.

I came away from freelancing with a stronger sense of ownership. I’m back to working within a company, but I still handle my business like I own it—because I do.

Your takeaway
Wherever you work, you’re a walking, talking business. Own what you do and what you stand for as a professional.

Stronger start for next time

All those things you need to freelance? Contracts, business plan, non-boogerish website…things I didn’t have last time? I’ve been getting those in order. And every so often, I’ll even freshen them up.

I have what I need to hit the ground running next time. Except my marketing plan. Still working on that.

Your takeaway
Freelancing isn’t a one-and-done endeavor. Didn’t succeed the first time? Set yourself up to succeed next time. Pin-point what went wrong and fix what you can.

LOLcat snapping cat packPerspective

Maybe this is just my perception, but there seems to be a general feeling that writers who freelance are living the dream while writers who work within a company are trapped. And that each writer has to choose one or the other.

Again, this might just be my perception. I honestly don’t know and can’t assign it to any particular individual or website.

But I have figured out this much: I’m a professional copywriter. Period.

Whether I make a living by freelancing or by working within a company, I will make the best decision I can for the best interests of my family.

Your takeaway
Do what’s best for you. There’s no ‘Freelance Police’ waiting to cart you off if you don’t make enough or if you’re not doing it ‘right.’ Want to freelance? Rock that. Prefer a cubicle? Rock that instead.

Want to rock both? Best of luck and may the muse have mercy on your soul.

Most of all..

I came out of this phase of adventure with a better understanding of myself. When you’re left alone with your thoughts all day, you eventually have to listen. And I learned that I’m actually more capable and mentally resilient that I ever gave myself credit for.

I found a certain pride in trying to do something big. And starting your own business is a big deal. Even though I failed, I still tried. I even got clients and made some money. Obviously, I didn’t try hard enough or make enough money, but at least I tried. That’s more than a lot of other people can say.

If I’d been better prepared, less angry and more willing to put in the work, I could have made it work.

What about you?

What are some of your biggest lessons from freelancing? Share in the comments.

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