I think a lot of people have a misconception about freelancing. It feels like, for many, the idea is that you completely chuck your regular 9-5 aside, hop on the internet, slap together a profile, and then BAM, you have ten potential clients lined up, vying for your otherworldly talents, praising you for how amazing you are, scrambling to give you their money.
The reality of freelancing is that it is just as hard, if not harder, to land jobs with potential clients as it is applying for ‘regular’ jobs, say like in retail or sales. More often than not, you will be rejected, for whatever reason. Perhaps another applicant has more experience than you, or their application was more impressive. It can be a number of things. And it’s very easy to feel, after the first, second, third, rejection, that you’re never going to get work, or you’re never going to be hired. The questions that arise are, am I even good enough? What was I thinking?
The only way to get passed and get on with these feelings, is to keep on trying. Which, sounds very cliche in the grand scheme of things, but is entirely, one hundred percent, true. Freelancing is not a career choice where one rejection means the end of the world; it means that you have the chance to move on and seek more, perhaps even learn why you didn’t land the job you wanted in the first place, and then have the tools and knowledge to potentially land the next job you apply for.
To put things in perspective, I’ve been freelancing since February of this year. Not very long, but long enough. I have held steady jobs with several clients, and currently have three that I’m working with long-term. That, in my opinion, is pretty good, considering before now, I had never professionally freelanced, nor did I have ‘professional’ experience writing for companies or with publishing houses editing. I simply had writing under my belt, and have had experience proof reading and editing others’ work (for free.)
Here’s what my hiring history from February to this month looks like, which includes jobs that I initiated by applying to them on my own, as well as jobs that interested clients invited me to apply to:
That’s four hires out of nineteen applications sent in, with ten of those applications being declined by potential clients, three being withdrawn by myself, and two applications that expired because a client simply didn’t respond to the activity on that job. I’ll admit, it looks somewhat discouraging.
What you’ll notice, however, is that there’s a lot of application activity, regardless of the fact that there are so many declines (ten remember? That’s more than half.) The very first job that I ever applied to through Upwork, was declined by the client. Ten days later, I was hired on by another client for ghost writing, which turned out to be a good experience for me, because I was able to work with an established author on their work, and I gained a lot of feedback on my writing that went on to help not only my own writing, but other ghost writing projects as well.
You’ll then see that my next four applications were declined before I was hired again, and that it was another three applications before I was taken on by another client. Had I given up after the first, second, even third rejection, I wouldn’t be where I am now, which is working with a team of clients that I truly, honestly enjoy working for.
Now, keep in mind that all of these contracts are, or were, on-going contracts, meaning that they weren’t one-time projects. My first client has offered me work since our initial contract concluded (a project I declined because of creative differences) and subsequent contracts have given me numerous projects that I’ve completed. Large gaps (April-May) where I have no application activity, is where I was working steadily with one or two clients, and when worked dropped off, applications picked back up as I began to look for more work, and more often than when I originally started freelancing, I would be hired.
The point that I’m trying to make here, for anyone who is looking to freelance through writing, or editing – or even blogging, copy writing, whatever it is you’re doing, etc. – is that to get jobs you have to apply to jobs. You have to apply to them even when your last ten applications have been declined. You have to apply to them even when you’re asking yourself why you’re even bothering – because the answer is simple: it’s what you want to do! And starting out, unless you already have established experience, is likely going to be slow. It’s going to feel like a lot of uphill walking. But those four landed jobs are invaluable in comparison to the ten that you didn’t get, and the more you work and the better the reputation you build up, the more you’ll (1) be accepted for jobs and (2) the more likely it is for clients to approach you because of their interest in having you as their freelancer.
Just keep in mind that it’s something that takes time. It takes perseverance, and a willingness to trudge past all of the potential rejections until you get someone that wants to hire you.