Every freelance writer faces the dilemma of quitting their day job to focus on freelancing full-time or keep the job as a safety net until business takes off. I fall into the latter. It’s not that I lack confidence in my abilities or business prospects, but a paycheck every two weeks and government health insurance is too alluring. It’s stability; I know what to expect. Whereas, freelance work is unpredictable and involves entering into the world of the unknown. To help prepare me for when I choose to navigate that world, I must balance my full-time employment as a Probation Officer in Champaign, IL with that of my dream career as a freelance copywriter. That way, I can be in a sound financial position to make that leap when it’s time.
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Breaking In: What Ignited My Passion
I was at a Starbucks drinking coffee when I pulled out my laptop to check my credit card statement. Bad decision. I then checked my bank account—worse decision.
Contrary to what you may believe, Probation Officers don’t make a lot of money.
I needed something to supplement my income and fast.
I got on my computer, and after a few internet searches involving the phrase “how to make money fast” (as every aspiring freelance writer knows all too well), I came across Elna Cain’s Write Your Way to $1,000 freelance writing course. I was intrigued. I spent the next few weeks learning about freelance writing, as it was all new to me. I got a few jobs here and there, but nothing serious.
By this point, it was all about the money.
However, the more I was learning and doing, the more I enjoyed it. What really guided my passion toward copywriting was when I read the famed Boron Letters.
The inspiring insights legendary copywriter Gary Halbert provided from behind prison walls made me realize how much I enjoyed writing and using the power of words to influence thoughts and behavior. As a Probation Officer, I do a lot of both.
A Juggling Act: How My Schedule Balances Full-time Employment with Copywriting
Balancing two full-time jobs is difficult. And yes, I treat my freelance copywriting career as a full-time job and not a side hustle. You have to; otherwise, you won’t get anywhere with it.
I spend my days with probation clients and my nights and weekends with copywriting clients. This works well, and, admittedly, I’ll try to knock out some client work at the office if I have time. To ensure I make time, I’ve developed a routine that has worked well for me.
I wake up every morning at 5:00 am to hit the gym because that’s important, too. Then, when I get back at around 6:15 am, I’ll look for jobs on various job boards, social media, and LinkedIn. It’s essential to apply for jobs as soon as they post. I’ll do that for about an hour then prepare for work.
Between 8:00 am and 4:30 pm, I am at the mercy of my employer and needy clients. When I can, I’ll answer client emails, work on projects using Google Drive, and strategize what I will work on when I get home.
From 6:00 pm to 9: 00 pm is my bread and butter (I got to have dinner with my wife). This is when I knock out blog posts, client work, answer emails, and prepare my next day’s schedule.
Because of my abbreviated schedule, I’ve had to turn down work because I couldn’t make the deadline. It doesn’t happen a lot because I work proficiently, but it does happen. As an example, a few months ago, I turned down a client’s proposed white paper. There was no way I could complete it within the time frame given. Still the hardest thing I’ve had to do as a freelance copywriter.
Tips of the Trade
While I’ve faced numerous challenges as a freelance copywriter, I picked up several tips and tricks which has helped me manage the stress.
Online Tools that helped the Transition
Google Drive – Google Drive has been an absolute Godsend. It has allowed me to work on clients’ projects seamlessly and save documents to work at them whether I’m at Home or my Probation Office. Unfortunately, I feel that Google Drive doesn’t get a lot of love with freelance writers, probably because there’s no affiliate program.
Thrive Suite – I noticeably omitted WordPress, plugins, hosting, etc. from this list because they’re basic business expenses every freelance writer needs. This does not include theme-building software. Thrive Suite handles website design, email conversion, online course creation, and you can conduct A/B testing. I would have saved so much time those first two months had I found Thrive Suite sooner.
HoneyBook – HoneyBook has allowed me to store all client, project, invoice, and payment information in one place. It has saved me so much anxiety and disorganization that most freelance writers experience the first few months.
Grammarly – I’m a strong writer, but Grammarly has come up big. After writing for so long, you become immune to your writing style and how you phrase sentences and paragraphs that you overlook typos and issues with fluency and structure. Grammarly catches them and has helped tremendously with applying the right tenor and sentence composition.
Mistakes I’ve made (and how to avoid them)
If I had to do it all over again, her are two mistakes to avoid. First and most expensive and time-consuming of the two, avoid “shiny objects.” People will try to sell you stuff 100% of the time. Just say no. Starting out, you don’t need a comprehensive invoice tracking system for your two paying clients. Instead, use a spreadsheet or some other freebie alternative. And definitely don’t purchase every $297 course because you’re “intrigued.” Trust me. Youtube is your friend.
Second, not to sound too preachy, but set result-oriented goals. Set daily, weekly, and monthly goals, and don’t stop until you reach them. Stay away from some arbitrary daily word count quota or time frame. They aren’t results-oriented, so they don’t work. Instead, do the work until it’s done and done right.
While my days are hectic and stressful, it’s not as bad as one might think, primarily because I can see the rainbow at the end of the workday. I enjoy copywriting, and I’ve enjoyed designing a website and starting a business. And yes, there has been a lot of anxiety, stress, and swearing. In the end, it’s all been worth it to start a career I’ve wanted.
Tim is a freelance writer who specializes in copywriting and digital marketing. He works closely with BTC and BTB brands to promote products and services and market them. Connect with him at timworman.com.