Laura Spencer started her freelance writing business in 2002. Her specialties include business writing, copywriting, editing, and web content. Before 2002, she worked for several Fortune 500 corporations developing online help systems, technical documentation, and training materials.
What did you do before launching your own business?
Before launching my own business, I spent 19 years in the corporate world. For 10 of those years, I was a technical writer for several corporations. Before that, I was responsible for corporate marketing communications.
Tell us a little bit about yourself and your freelance journey.
My freelance journey almost didn’t begin. When I was working in the corporate world there were many who encouraged me to start my own business.
Even though others saw that I had the skills and ability, I didn’t see it myself. I also didn’t realize how many freelance opportunities there really are. I saw my corporate job as being the only realistic option for having a writing career.
Fortunately, I did start freelancing despite my fears.
Give us an example of how you landed one of your first clients?
One of my very first clients came from a direct referral by one of my technical writing colleagues. I was hired to research and update documentation on a technical topic — a gig that lasted nearly 8 years.
How are you making money?
The composition of my clients has changed over the years. At first, I was mainly updating or writing training materials or researching and updating technical documents. I also had a lot of editing work.
While I love those types of tasks, in recent years I’ve earned more from copywriting gigs and from blogging (both ghostwriting and bylined pieces). I also earn a small amount from affiliate sales and e-book sales. I still take on editing projects from time to time.
How many hours do you work a week and how much is spent in your home office?
My average workweek is about 30 hours. I spend most of that time in my home office.
However, I’ve been known to bring my iPad and/or laptop with me on vacations and other trips. When I’m traveling and working, I usually rely on the Internet connection in my hotel room.
What has been your biggest business struggle as a freelancer?
At one time or another, I think I’ve probably faced most of the same struggles as any other freelancers.
At first, finding the confidence to market myself was a big struggle. Here are just a few of the struggles I’ve faced:
- Clients who want to pay me less than I’m worth
- The feast or famine cycle
- Difficult projects
- Collecting payment
And the list goes on …
I think that many freelancers think that something has gone wrong if they are struggling. Instead, they should realize that struggles are a normal part of freelancing and that there are ways to overcome those struggles.
What advice would you give to a new freelancer?
I try to be realistic when I describe freelancing to would-be freelancers.
Yes, freelancing can be incredibly rewarding and yes you get to set your own schedule.
But new freelancers should also realize that freelancing is a lot of work. You need to be ready to market yourself all the time and your clients can drop you at any time for any reason.
What tips do you have for other aspiring authors?
The key to finishing a book (or any project, really) is to keep going. Don’t stop in the middle. Commit to finishing and then do it.
It also helps if you’re organized. I’ve found that an outline helps when writing longer pieces.
What marketing strategies work best for you?
I’ve also learned a lot of things from working with my own site that I wouldn’t have otherwise been able to learn.
Facebook: I don’t actually use Facebook for marketing. I think it’s a great tool if you are offering products or services to the consumer market. However, most of my clients are small to mid-size businesses and website owners. Facebook just isn’t the best way to reach them.
Twitter: I have a fairly strong presence on Twitter with over three thousand followers. I’ve developed and grown relationships through Twitter. I’ve even been offered gigs through the direct message feature of Twitter (of course, that doesn’t happen every day — but it’s nice when it does happen).
Pinterest: While I have a minimal presence on Pinterest, I don’t actually use it for marketing.
You didn’t ask about these other marketing methods, but I think they are important so I’ll mention them.
LinkedIn: My increased participation in LinkedIn has played a crucial part in getting new gigs. The audience I reach through LinkedIn is more likely to fit the profile of my typical client.
Communities: There are tons of communities out there for writers, and many give you access to projects you might not otherwise be aware of.
For example, I was hired to write posts for Freelance Folder because I met the then owner through a now-defunct (I believe) blogging community. That turned out to be a gig that lasted over five years.
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