When you’re just one of many aspiring writers trying to find an available foothold in the climb to Writing for a Living status, it can help to diversify your skillset.

Nadia Eldemerdash really liked the idea of being an author when she was young. As many young aspiring writers do, she studied journalism in college, where her interests in current events, politics, and popular culture grew. She’s worked in public relations and in the newsroom, and now is a freelance writer and editor who writes her own blog and creates online writing and communication courses on the side. She’s a modern Renaissance woman of the writing world.

In this episode of the Own Up Grown-Up podcast, Nadia shares how she manages life as a freelancer and how she built a diverse portfolio.

“At first I found it [freelancing] discouraging because what do I have to offer in this sea of professionals? Now I find it encouraging because I feel like there’s this unity of people who can help each other and offer advice and assistance, and I think it shows that if other people can be successful at what you do that’s a good sign.”—Nadia Eldemerdash.

Commit to Your Craft

When you find something you love to do, commit to it. Make time for it, practice, and learn. In Jeff Goins’ book Real Artists Don’t Starve, he says, “If you don’t want your best work to die with you, you must train yourself to think and live differently than the ways we’ve been told artists behave. Don’t starve for your art. Help it thrive.”

Few freelancers leave school or their first writing job and land high-paying recurrent gigs. Humility is a good quality to nurture when you’re starting out. As Nadia says, you may not love the work you start doing when you start. You may have learn about topics as you go, but don’t get discouraged. It’s part of the process.

It takes a while to build your portfolio, develop relationships with a network of clients and editors, and find your niche. In Nadia’s case, she started supplementing her part-time job with freelance work. She also started blogging. As her confidence and portfolio grew, she earned more lucrative work writing about topics she spent time learning about.

The Biggest Challenge is the Constant Hustle

When you start freelancing, you have to hustle. You have to read lots of contributor guidelines and send in proposals and follow-up. While it would be ideal to be able to just write and have someone send you a cheque, it’s not that easy. You need to build an audience and client list.

I agree with Nadia that this is the hardest part about freelancing. You’re always looking for leads and thinking about content ideas and ways to improve.

Don’t be afraid to make friends with other freelancers. Instead of viewing them as competition, view them as colleagues. You’ll refer clients to them and they’ll do the same for you.

Take a Step Back Once in a While

It’s easy to become a workaholic as a freelancer. You can work anywhere and any time, but you don’t want to get stuck working everywhere, all the time. Burnout can be costly, so give yourself a break once in a while.

On top of my full-time writing job, I freelance and work on this blog and the podcast. Sometimes this means I work 60 hours in a week. It can get exhausting. That’s why I make a point of taking one long weekend off a month and at least four-to-five consecutive days off every quarter. Also, when I know I’m doing a big project (like “Work from Home (or Anywhere)”), I take some time off from my side projects afterwards. You have to, or you’ll go crazy and your work will suffer.

All that said, freelancing can be hugely rewarding. You get the opportunity to determine your schedule, explore different topics, and get your work published all over the place. It’s a way to do what you love while earning enough to make it all worth it.

Check out Nadia’s work on The Tempest, as well as her blog, Creative Quibble. You can also connect with her on Twitter and LinkedIn and learn more about writing and communications from her on Skillshare.

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