What Does Your Freelance Writing Business Want to Be?

by Anne Wayman

Small business and freelance writersA guest post by Cathy Miller who blogs about writing at her Simply Stated Business Blog

A favorite question Art Linkletter liked to ask kids was, “What do you want to be when you grow up?”

While vast numbers of you may not know who Art Linkletter is, it’s a great question – one you should ask about your business.

What does your freelance writing business want to be when it grows up?

Think you know the answer?

Look Before You Leap

I don’t recommend starting your freelance business the way I did – slamming the phone down on a room full of your company’s senior executives.

After 30-plus years in Corporate America, I was fried.

  • The problem was more with me than my employer
  • I waited much too long to pursue my dream
  • Fortunately, I had a very understanding – now former – employer

I had researched starting my own business writing company for ages. I thought I was prepared. Boy, was I wrong.

Eyes Wide Shut

If you are thinking about starting a freelance writing business or are new to the business, you probably have advice coming out your ears, including:

  • Social media strategy
  • Finding a niche
  • Business tax information
  • And on and on

Don’t get me wrong. You need to know this stuff. It was the form and substance of my research. But I didn’t really know what I wanted my freelance writing business to be. As I walked away from a six-figure job all I was sure of was that it was okay with me. If six figures meant that level of stress I wanted no part of it.

A Blind Eye

I was burned out. I didn’t have the enthusiasm for what I spent over 30 years of my life in – the healthcare industry. Or so I thought.

I floundered – badly.

At first, I tried ignoring my health care industry experience.

  • I searched job boards for non-healthcare gigs
  • I was all over the place
  • I was an unfocused mess

Because I like to eat, I threw in the towel rather quickly and returned to my healthcare roots.

And still I floundered.

Finding a Focus

A turning point for me came in the form of a colleague. He told the audience at a seminar that he figured he could always go back to his corporate job if things didn’t work out.

I literally felt my heart lurch. I knew there was no way I could do that. At that point in time, I realized I was in this freelance thing for keeps, so, I had better figure out what I wanted it to be when it grew up.

You can set and meet all the goals you want, but if you don’t really know what it is you want from your business, you are just marking time.

  • Is freelancing a temporary solution until you find your next job?
  • Is freelancing a means to an end until you become the next great novelist?
  • Is freelance writing an expression of your passion?

There are no right or wrong answers. Whatever it is, it’s yours. And there is no law that says you can’t change your vision.

Clear Vision

By figuring out what I wanted from my business, a lot of good things happened.

  • I found the enthusiasm again for my niche
  • I am now selective about the writing gigs I accept
  • I walk away from prospects who are unable to pay my fees
  • I have the balance I need for my family needs

By no means do I have all the answers. But, what is life if not a work-in-progress?

Recently, Anne shared a link to a post of entrepreneur, Jonathan Fields, which contains a video of Bryan Franklin’s Most Dangerous Question on Earth.  It’s about 20 minutes long, but I urge you to view it until the end where he asks the “most dangerous question.”

I am still trying to answer it.

What’s your answer? Or what direction are you headed?

Cathy Miller is a freelance business writer with over 30 years of professional writing experience from small businesses to Fortune 500 customers. Cathy started her own business in 2008, providing all forms of online and print business writing.

Cathy has a business writing blog at Simply stated business, a health care blog at Simply stated health care and her personal blog, millercathy: A Baby Boomer’s Second Life.

Two newsletters:
Abundant Freelance Writing - a resource for freelance writers including 3x a week job postings.
Writing With Vision - for those who want to get a book written.

Attribution Some rights reserved by deanmeyersnet

{ 20 comments… read them below or add one }

Danica January 27, 2012 at 7:53 pm

I’m inspired by this article. Last year when I posted here, it was as a know-it-all ‘I’ve owned a business and this should be a snap’. This year, banged up, bruised and hopefully a bit wiser it seems this post finally got through my fog.

I had refused to even consider writing for business or finding clients who wanted marketing types of writing. Although every company I worked for, from Fortune 100′s to One-man-shows, I’d end up writing most of the in-house communications.

Reading the struggle Cathy had before coming back to health, maybe that’s what has been my problem – not wanting to write anything related to business.
This post has turned 2012 into my year, because business and personal development is what I know. That’s where I take my freelancing.

Thanks Anne and Cathy.
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annew January 30, 2012 at 12:26 pm

You’re welcome Danica. We often have to change course at least slightly I’ve found. Good for you and keep us posted.

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Cathy Miller February 3, 2012 at 1:36 pm

Hi Danica: Sorry for the delay in responding. I just stumbled across your comment.
One thing I found for sure is, it is a constant journey of learning new things about our business and about ourselves. But, isn’t that what makes life interesting?
I wish you much success in your journey, Danica!
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annew February 3, 2012 at 2:56 pm

Constant learning for sure, Cathy – guaranteed to keep us young.

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Ron's SEO Copywriting Blog July 12, 2011 at 3:07 pm

Being a successful freelancer is definitely hard. Especially with 5 cent writers cropping up from nowhere everyday…

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annew July 12, 2011 at 3:20 pm

Ron, that’s an attitude that often ends up in failure… there is plenty of good paying work out there imo and experience.

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Amelia Ramstead July 12, 2011 at 12:42 pm

I got tossed in, as you put it, feet first. I quit my job (also in healthcare) because I needed the flexibility to take care of my son who has several special needs that just couldn’t be handled from work. I’m still kind of floundering, picking up odd jobs here and there. I don’t mind writing on healthcare related topics, and I suspect, in the end, that will be my niche. But I love to write about games and I’ve scored a gig as a gaming columnist for a site. But healthcare will probably pay the bills. And a big thank you to Anne. This is where I come from advice and where I really discovered that what I wanted to do could actually be a career and not just a part-time money maker.

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Cathy Miller July 12, 2011 at 1:06 pm

Hi, Amelia. so nice to meet a kindred soul. :-) Family is special and I wish good health and happiness for you and your family.

Who knows, gaming could end up being your niche. It’s sometimes funny how life turns out. Continued success, Amelia, and thanks for sharing your story.
Cathy Miller recently posted..Health Care Tuesday Reviews Insurance ExchangesMy Profile

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Wade Finnegan July 11, 2011 at 4:06 pm

Cathy, the lack of direction I have makes me tentative in putting myself out there. Who should I market to? I’ve been in education the past 15 years and trying to break out of that mold is difficult. I haven’t quit my day job yet, but I do believe it will happen. Good post!

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Cathy Miller July 11, 2011 at 5:48 pm

Hey Wade-the comment came through! :-)

While I totally understand being tentative, there’s something to be said about getting thrown in feet first. :-) You sink or swim.

I did all the research and had the data, but the decision was taken out of my hands by my inner psyche kicking me in the rear. I think I needed the healing time to get focused. Leaving the security of a 30+ year career is tough, but I can honestly say there has not been one day I regretted my decision.

Thanks for sharing your story, Wade.
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annew July 12, 2011 at 10:55 am

Here you are… the comments and commentluv seem to have healed themselves overnight.

Yes, Wade if you can make the decision it may work more easily for you.

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John Soares July 11, 2011 at 2:40 pm

Cathy, thanks for sharing your story with us. Not everyone is brave enough to say what they did wrong and what they subsequently did to reach success.
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Cathy Miller July 11, 2011 at 2:46 pm

Thanks, John, for the kind words. Now, I have to go check out your post on Small Positive Changes… Sounds like it fits nicely with the topic of the day. :-)
Cathy Miller recently posted..Business Writing Alternatives to Strangling the Critic InsideMy Profile

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annew July 12, 2011 at 10:44 am

lol, I think I’ll start a post about all the things I’ve done wrong over the years of my writing career. Good thought. Not exclusive to me either, maybe we can start a trend. It is helpful when we know we are not alone I think.

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Nicky Parry July 11, 2011 at 1:32 pm

Love this post, Cathy – and such stellar advice too. Although it must be very common for many folk to not have a strong sense of direction at the beginning, it’s so wise to begin to ask yourself the questions as each day goes by. I’m in the same situation as Megan above was initially – Freelancing has started as my “2nd job”! My aim (when I grow up!) is to be freelancing FT. Like yourself though, if forced into a corner, then naturally going cold-turkey would be the only option, as well as a huge culture shock! Great to hear your start-up story though! Thanks for sharing with us.
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Cathy Miller July 11, 2011 at 2:44 pm

Thanks for sharing your comments, Nicky. Sometimes we get thrown in feet first – like those who lose their job (or hang up on their bosses) :-) In those situations, it’s not surprising that we feel a bit lost at first.

I am going into my 4th year and my focus continues to evolve, but I know at the core what I want and that gives my career purpose. Thanks again, Nicky, for taking the time to comment.
Cathy Miller recently posted..Business Writing Alternatives to Strangling the Critic InsideMy Profile

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Megan Collins Quinlan July 11, 2011 at 11:11 am

great post. This reminded me of my feelings when I started out as a freelancer too. I was simply bored with my job, it was inflexible when it came to my family life and I was undervalued and underpaid.
It wasn’t hard to walk away!

However I didn’t leave until I had a good income from writing already under my belt and I can’t recommend this enough. It is so important that you know where your income is going to come from. So expect to have to work very hard for a few months to build up your client base.

However it is worth it because here I am a full time freelance writer earning twice what I used to. Can’t ask for better than that!

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Cathy Miller July 11, 2011 at 12:55 pm

Megan: That is such a great tip about having a good income under your belt. If I hadn’t planned on that end of it, I wouldn’t have lasted.

I think I needed the healing time until I discovered what I wanted this new business to mean to me and my life. That ah-ha moment of mine showed me how much I really wanted this new career path and I have never regretted the move.

Thanks for sharing your insight, Meagan!

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annew July 12, 2011 at 10:48 am

Great story, Megan.

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Cathy Miller July 11, 2011 at 10:38 am

Thank you, Anne, for letting me guest post on your blog. I am so grateful that one of the first places I discovered in my freelancing career was your blog. You have helped me more than you know!

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