Advice for creatives considering a freelance career

Finding success as a creative

Identify your skills, practice your craft, and continuously grow


Inspiration and draw of the lifestyle

When I was in university, some of my peers would joke: You’re going to be a well-read barista.

Because that’s the trending joke—arts majors make good coffee. Either that, or we find stable jobs entirely unrelated to our studies and dream about authoring our own book one day (even though a lot of us never start).

I’d laugh it off, unsure of what I wanted to do with my Bachelor of Arts in English Language & Literature at the end of my four years. For someone who studied stories, it took me a while to figure out how to make my own come to life until I learned a bit about freelance writing.

And by learned—I mean I pitched myself to a list of local publications (with no work experience to back myself up) until one agreed to give me a test run. I figured out the rest on the fly.

On thing I know: Persistence pays off.

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Identify your skills

For me, writing is my strongest skill. I’ve spent endless hours writing, practicing, learning, experimenting—and I’ve loved it the whole time. My mind moves pretty quickly and often my mouth can’t keep up, but somehow my fingers can when attached to my keyboard.

When I identified writing as my skill, I explored ways to use this. I freelanced for local newspapers and blogs in Montreal before figuring out my niche. When writing for lifestyle publications, we cover a lot of ground. I attended press conferences and events. I explored the city and shared my experiences with readers. I was able to gain experience and grow into my own voice without having to know a lot about a specific topic.

Your skill might be your artistic eye. Maybe you have a visual art degree? You’re well-suited to explore graphic design, web design, photography, or anything that requires that vision.

My advice to anyone hoping to begin freelancing is to explore your skills. What roles do you already fill in school or work and how can they be translated to freelance services?

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Practice your craft

After freelancing for a while, I did what made the most sense: I went back to school. I knew I needed a bit of extra book learnin’ to define my work experience. I studied Marketing and Public Relations and now I know not only how to tell a story, but sell a business’ story. Neat, eh?

My technical practice was well underway from the start, but everyone who’s already self-employed knows that niching down is the next most important step. Finding your niche is an essential part of practicing your craft.

Something I learned: You can’t be everything for everyone. You will be much more successful in your business if you become the expert for only a few.

Now, I don’t take every opportunity that falls into my inbox. I focus on three main services: website copywriting, content marketing, and consulting. As for topics, I like to work with businesses whose values and interests align with my own. They all need to be willing to let creativity flow first throughout our time together.

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Define success for yourself

Working for the weekend has never made sense to me. I work because I enjoy what I do, but I've also always made sure that my work allows freedom. Creativity. Personality. Words that aren't typically associated with work.

Daily commutes and cubicles are foreign languages that I don't think I'll ever learn. I'd much rather learn the language that the breeze blows in quiet waves across the river, or that one the trees use to whisper sweet nothings to their neighbours as the sun sets each night. Languages that defy reality. Ones that bring us closer together. Ones that teach us how to be better to each other.

In a world obsessed with numbers, I've decided that I define success a little differently. Instead of attaching the feeling of success to a numerical value, I measure it with emotion.

Success to me is not having to set an alarm, but waking up early anyways because you're excited to start your day.

Success to me is feeling challenged and accomplished and respected all at once. It’s the feeling of submitting a final piece of work that I’ve created from only the ideas in my mind. It’s the positive reactions from clients at the end of our time together.

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PS. I started writing this blog post about a year ago and it’s taken me this long to finish it. I’m not sure why I couldn’t before, but the process has shown me just how far we can come in a year. I think the same thoughts, but I have a new perspective. I live louder, dream bigger, feel deeper than ever before, but most of all, I am more self-aware.

This advice is still true. I hope it helps.

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