A few days ago I decided to put my hands on an article I had written over 3 years ago for a bit of reference material.
During that search I realized several things;
- My filing system sucks
- The ‘pack-rat’ gene is strong in me
- I could not believe that clients actually bought my earlier work
I reflected on my very first writing gig as a full-time freelancer so I started digging even deeper to find that gem.
One thing that I decided to do on my own was creating a form for every client and this client ‘worksheet’ would serve as a starting point for every piece. In about an hour I had located that first worksheet and I could not believe what I saw.
My very first paying gig was a 1000-word blog post for a logo design company. It paid $15.
The writing was amateurish at best, I had yet to nail down my editing skills, and it was also very apparent that Grammarly was not running in the background.
But…attached to that worksheet along with a copy of the submission was the first PayPal notification of my first money earned as a freelancer!
I was stoked and I created my first hard copy file for my freelancing business.
Then and Now
My invoicing was simple. The date would serve as the invoice number and the number in parenthesis after the date would be the consecutive running order of pieces sold.
For example, a blog post I sold to a private client (meaning I was totally autonomous, I pitched and they accepted with no ‘middle-man’ like a content mill) yesterday was filed away under 112122 (1943). I am fast closing in on 2000 submissions sold so I decided to look at yesterday’s 1000-word post (which brought me $125) as opposed to invoice number 032118 (1) my first gig.
Did I see any improvements? Of course, I did. It looked as if two completely different people were writing.
And the best way I can describe it is this. I no longer write. I direct.
I have seen so many Hollywood superstars in interviews and documentaries that talk about working with a director that lets them be themselves and developing a scene through casual conversations.
An early tip I hear so often in freelancing is to write as if you were having a conversation with a buddy. I take that a step further and it has paid me well.
A client’s worksheet terrified me early on. I would focus not on the content but on the word count. If they needed 1000 words on the latest trends in logo design, I panicked…1000 WORDS? THAT WILL TAKE ME ALL DAY!
And the more in-depth that worksheet was the more I began to hyperventilate at the thought of its complexity.
I no longer see it that way. I look at the request and regardless of the word count or any other particulars of the piece I start having a conversation about it in my head.
You can usually vocalize 1000 words in a casual conversation in less than 10 minutes.
If it’s something complex I break it apart until I understand. If it’s a topic I am new to, I learn how to write effectively by directing that scene between the teacher and the student.
The more notes I make on the worksheet(s) the better the scene is going to be and when the camera rolls ( typing the piece) that easiness, readability, and informative conversation reveals itself.
If I wander or get off topic I immediately yell CUT! And that is precisely what I do! And when the final product is finished and polished I yell PRINT! And that is precisely what I do!
Good writing is effective in that way. Break down hard topics, processes, industries, whatever…just be good at directing and the words will take care of the rest!
Does that work every time? Well, given enough ‘takes’ it usually does! Developing those skills, however, does take time. After all, I am handcrafting a product for my client.
I have been called a ‘wordsmith’ I’ve been called a ‘hack’. You can’t please everybody! But when I started calling myself a writer/director I began producing the work that has allowed me the freedom of riding this amazing and lucrative freelance life!
And if I can do this…a trained monkey can. In fact, a trained monkey would probably have a better filing system than me!