My entrance into the life of a freelance writer began, like many others, with difficulty, stress, and a lot of hard work.
I used to work a traditional 9 – 5 office job and honestly, I was straight-up miserable.
I hated having to spend a strict eight hours at a desk every day, even if I could complete my tasks in half the time. I was sick of having to slave away all day to make money, only to find I didn’t have the time to do the things I really wanted to do.
I wanted the freedom to choose my own hours, and my own desk (whether that was from the comfort of my own home, or halfway across the world!).
I wanted to be responsible for my income, and not leave it in the hands of one single company.
Most importantly, I wanted to build a business that would create the freedom and the independence I really craved.
So, I made a change.
I hustled, hard, for months every evening while still working at my 9 – 5. What started out as a small writing side-hustle slowly turned into a business that could support the lifestyle I wanted.
Now, after a lot of hard work and many lessons learned, I have a thriving freelance writing business that I can run from anywhere in the world (last year I ticked off 10 countries in as many months!).
Why am I telling you this?
No, it’s definitely not to brag. It’s because I know there are other people in the same position I was in, feeling trapped in a desk job but unable to break out. It’s because I know that if I could turn a writing side hustle into my full-time business, then you definitely can too.
Below are some of the essential points you need to focus on to turn a small writing side hustle into a full-blown career:
Focus on Your Portfolio
When I first started freelancing, I didn’t have a big portfolio. I’m guessing you might be in a similar boat. Unfortunately, you really do need a strong portfolio to start scaling up your side hustle into a real income – but you need jobs to build a portfolio. The ultimate paradox!
Fortunately, there are ways to build a portfolio before you start landing regular paying jobs.
To overcome this, first I contacted anyone and everyone I knew who owned a business of their own, and I asked if I could write some new copy for their website or social media pages. For some, this was re-writing their entire website, and for others, it was just writing a few blog posts for them to publish. Most of the time this was unpaid work.
Secondly, I started blogging. I started my first blog, The Wallet Moth, a few months after beginning my writing side hustle.
Not only did this help me improve my writing skills and build a great pool of writing samples, but it actually brought writing clients to me! I only started writing about freelance writing on my second blog when I felt I had something to offer others.
Yes, these strategies were a lot of work without a lot of financial return, but they were essential steps for me to turn my side hustle into a real career. If you focus on your portfolio now, you’ll be one giant leap ahead of the game.
Put Your Hustle Online
Once you have a strong portfolio, you need to find a way to let people see it! Having a website to showcase your previous experience is one of the best ways to build up your client list and eventually be in a position where your side hustle could be your full-time job.
You could either set up a professional freelance writing website that showcases your services and portfolio, or you could create a ‘hire me’ page on your blog, if you have one (I actually did both!).
Whichever way you do things, the most important thing to remember is to be consistent. Try to update your social media accounts on a weekly basis and most importantly, try to connect with others in your industry, be they other freelancers or potential businesses you might like to work with.
The number one thing is to get your name out there and let people know what you are offering.
Tell the World (Yes, Really!)
Some of my biggest paying clients today are friends or friends of friends who have been referred to my business. Never ignore the power of recommendations!
It can seem intimidating to tell the world that you’re building a business and to put yourself out there, but you are much more likely to secure a fantastic, well-paying project from someone who knows you will deliver than from a complete stranger.
Tell your friends and family that you’re trying to scale your side hustle up and ask them to refer their friends and family in turn.
Things really changed for me when I went from quietly hustling in the evenings, to telling everyone that I was stepping out as a freelancer and was open to opportunities. Take that leap – I promise it will pay off!
Focus on High-Quality Jobs Right for You
When I first started trying to expand my side hustle enough to become my full-time job, I was applying for anything and everything. However, in hindsight, I now realise that I was wasting a lot of my time and energy for little return.
When you are trying to turn your side hustle into a full-blown career, it’s imperative that you look and apply for high quality writing jobs, and not the ones that are going to pay you next to nothing.
Focus on the jobs that are in the niche you specialise in. Your niche could be a subject you have training or a degree in, a personal interest, or previous jobs you’ve taken on in a related field.
When you start looking for the right jobs and spending your time on the few you stand a really great chance of winning, rather than aimlessly applying for anything and everything, you instantly boost your chances of landing quality writing jobs that will last.
Slowly Scale Up Your Business
I definitely didn’t leap from ‘side hustle’ to ‘full-time job’ in one easy jump.
At first, I spent months working hard on my portfolio and website in the evenings while I was still working in my 9 – 5 office job.
I took on small project after small project, even starting with low-paying jobs just to get on the ladder. It wasn’t until several months later that I had several secure, long-term clients that I knew I could comfortably leave my full-time job.
Even then, I was earning maybe half my salary at my 9-5. I was lucky enough to have a comfortable savings fund and to be in countries with a very low cost of living, so this worked fine for me.
However, you may need to work on your side hustle for longer to match your full-time income before you can leave your job.
It’s taken me a year to be making more than I was at my 9 – 5. I am working less hours than I was, and am so much happier, but it has been a slow process.
While this sounds like a lot of hard work and long hours, it does pay off. Slowly scaling your hustle up into a sustainable business is, in my opinion, the most sensible way of doing things.
It allows you to:
- Get accustomed to self-employment and your new responsibilities (taxes, setting your own rates, self-managing and more)
- Consistently provide a high quality of work to your clients without getting overwhelmed
- Analyse your current workload and scale up or down accordingly without letting anyone down
Jumping into freelance life full-time from the start would have left me with a low income for a long time, and probably would have lead to me burning out far too quickly. We all know that steady and slow wins the race.
Yaz Purnell is a freelance writer and business owner. She creates unique content for online businesses while managing her business from the road. Interested in becoming a freelance writer yourself? Check out her free course Thriving Freelance Writing to learn more!