How I Freelance: Jessica Walrack

How I Freelance: Jessica Walrack

Freelancing is less lonely when you’re part of a community.

That’s one of the reasons freelance writer Jessica Walrack started All Things Freelance Writing, a resource for other writers who are building and growing their own businesses.

Jessica also knew firsthand how hard it can be to take your freelance business in a different direction when things aren’t working. After seven years of freelancing, she made some major adjustments to the type of work she offered – and the shift eliminated some of the burnout and bottlenecks she was experiencing.

Read on to discover how Jessica uses her struggles to help other freelancers feel less alone and provide opportunities for them to connect with work they truly enjoy.

When and why did you start freelancing?

I started freelancing in 2013. I was freelance writing on the side as a way to earn extra money while ramping up a different online business. The writing ended up taking off, so I ditched the other business and went all in!

What niche(s) do you work in?

Finance blogs and articles. After seven or so years as a generalist writer, I was tired of dealing with issues within my business and got serious about trying to fix them. Some of those issues were feast and famine, limited inbound, price objections and workflow bottlenecks.

I began looking for the type of work I already did that was the most profitable, enjoyable and in demand. It just so happened to be finance blogs. I experimented with tailoring my LinkedIn profile to finance blogs and had an overwhelming response of inbound service requests. I’ve been on that track ever since!

Who are the clients you work with?

I write long-form blog posts and news stories for national news outlets such as CBS News and US News & World, media publishing companies like Investopedia and Forbes Advisor, and B2B SaaS companies in the finance industry.

Where do you freelance from?

I’m currently settled in the Boise, Idaho, area, although I spent the first seven years of my business traveling abroad (Costa Rica, all over Europe, Cyprus and Mexico).

Tell us about the tools you rely on to run your business.

Google Workspace for Docs, Sheets, Forms and Gmail. Plus Grammarly, which is always watching over my shoulder. While I don’t trust it blindly, it’s super helpful for catching little typos.

Name one thing that’s surprised you about freelancing.

I was truly blown away by the amazing communities of freelance writers on Facebook, LinkedIn and Instagram. Most of the freelancers I’ve met are extremely open, friendly, collaborative and supportive. It’s a beautiful thing because building a business as a solopreneur can be very lonely and challenging.

Made any big mistakes during your freelance journey?

One big mistake I’ve made is not listening to my gut. Sometimes, you get presented with an opportunity and have a feeling it’s going to be problematic but accept it anyway. Those gut feelings always end up being right!

I’ve gotten better at spotting and heeding red flags, but I still end up on problematic projects every once in a while. They can really hold you back by eating up more time and energy than they’re worth.

Most of the freelancers I’ve met are extremely open, friendly, collaborative and supportive. It’s a beautiful thing because building a business as a solopreneur can be very lonely and challenging.

What are you proudest of with your business?

I’d say I’m proudest that I’ve aligned my business to the parameters that I set out to achieve. I won’t get into all the details, but a few years ago I was in a bad place with my business and suffering on many levels.

I made a very specific plan to improve and wrote it down in detail. I had my doubts but was committed. It took about a year and a half, but my business eventually aligned with the plan.

The whole experience taught me that, without a doubt, clear intentions, persistence and faith can open new doors.

There’s lots of advice out there for freelancers. What advice do you agree with?

One common piece of advice I agree with is to adopt a business owner mindset. It’s easy to fall into the employee role, even though you’re running a freelance business. But that’s a quick way to build a business that feels more like a prison than a key to freedom.

If you don’t have clear and firm boundaries, some clients will push as far as they can for as little pay as possible. And it’s your time, life and health on the line! We can all hustle for a while – but burnout will eventually come if you don’t take the reins and operate in a sustainable way.

What common advice do you disagree with?

Niching down right away as the rule. By starting out as a generalist, you can get your feet wet, experiment, and then make the niching decision based on experience and research.

If you niche down right out of the gate:

🟠 You may find you don’t like writing about what you thought you’d like to write about.

🟠 What you find most interesting may not be in demand in the market.

🟠 Companies in certain industries may not have the budgets necessary to pay your rates.

🟠 You can limit your opportunities.

Sometimes it can make sense to niche down right away, but testing the waters is often a safer bet.

What areas of opportunities do you see for current or future freelancers?

I think companies and publications are going to need human-centered content and copy that features unique insights from subject matter experts more than ever before.

You have some great resources for freelance writers – tell us about them!

If writers want help finding work and building their businesses, they can subscribe to the free All Things Freelance Writing Jobs email. It goes out every Friday at 8 a.m. Eastern with at least 20 new freelance writing opportunities and some other helpful resources.

Want to connect with Jessica? Find her online at ​jessicawalrack.com​ or connect on ​LinkedIn​, ​X​ or ​Instagram​. You can also join the All Things Freelance Writing community on the ​web​, ​LinkedIn​ or ​Instagram​.

How I Freelance: Sarah Barbour

How I Freelance: Sarah Barbour

Sarah started her freelance journey as an editor for self-published fiction nearly a decade ago. She made the jump to writing in 2021 – and quickly discovered a new niche that provided unexpected financial stability for her family.

When did you start freelancing?

I began freelance editing in 2014. In 2021, I moved over to full-time freelance writing.

Why did you choose to pursue freelance work?

Ten years ago, I was ready to start earning money after being home with my kids for a decade. Despite being over-educated (two master’s degrees), I didn’t have a lot of marketable skills and I wasn’t successful finding full-time work. I turned to freelancing because I was afraid I’d never get a “real” job again.

What niche(s) do you work in?

My niche is finance, with a focus on private equity and mergers & acquisitions. I work primarily with mid-sized to large accounting firms and M&A advisors.

I chose that niche because I like money – both earning and learning about it! I wanted a niche that paid well, and finance seemed to be a good fit.

It’s been a steep learning curve, as I have no formal background in finance, but it’s been worth it. I encourage other freelancers to stay open to areas outside their backgrounds and expertise.

What types of projects do you work on?

Blog posts make up about 75% of my projects. I also do some reports, white papers, thought leadership pieces and editing.

Where do you freelance from?

Mostly my living room couch (located in Oregon), which is terrible for my posture! When family traffic gets too crazy, I retreat to sitting on my bed, which is worse. I’m making an effort to work more at a table or desk.

Tell us about two tools you rely on to run your business.

I splurge on hardware (my trusty MacBook Air) and I’m a total cheapskate about software. The free version of Calendly synced with Zoom (paid) and Google Calendar makes scheduling calls so easy and saves me and my clients time and hassle. (I guess that’s four tools altogether!)

Name one thing that’s surprised you about freelancing.

How much confidence I’ve gained. It’s spilled over into all areas of my life now.

Made any big mistakes during your freelance journey?

Waiting seven years to move from editing self-published fiction to writing for corporations. The pay is much better and the work is more interesting.

What are you proudest of with your business?

I’m on track to make six figures this year! It’s been a goal (maybe more like a daydream) for ages. In my last full-time job, I made $38,000 a year, so this is a big step up.

There’s lots of advice out there for freelancers. What advice do you agree with?

You’re the boss! It’s absolutely essential to make the shift from the employee “tell me what to do” mindset to taking responsibility for every aspect of your business. This means doing things like:

➡️ Not just waiting for assignments. Instead suggest projects to clients and get involved with their strategy.

➡️ Doing some research before approaching other freelancers for advice and asking high-quality questions.

➡️ Hiring good help when you need it. (My advice: Find a good CPA!)

➡️ Setting up a retirement plan and making regular contributions.

➡️ Understanding your tax obligations.

➡️ Providing exceptional service to your clients.

What common advice do you disagree with?

There’s a lot of pressure to only charge project rates. But honestly, I think it’s fine to charge by the hour or by the word (for writers), provided the rates are good.

For example, I have a client who is constantly coming up with out-of-scope revisions. They’re paying me a very respectable hourly rate, and it saves us both the hassle of constantly revising a project rate to take changes into consideration. Not to mention that per-word and hourly rates are pretty standard with publications and agencies, respectively.

If everything else looks good, don’t make project rates your hill to die on.

What areas of opportunities do you see for current or future freelancers?

I think we still have some time before AI can produce content as well as human freelancers can, but it’s coming. This is a really good time to build a strong network – I think relationships are going to be increasingly important as the ‘bots take over. It’s also a good time to explore strategy, brush up on your editing skills and learn how to use the various AI tools (they go way beyond ChatGPT!) that are becoming available.

There is a lot of emotion, moralizing, fearmongering and hype around AI. I believe it poses a serious threat to the freelance writing industry, but it will present opportunities as well. Keep a clear head and stay positive!

You’re the boss! It’s absolutely essential to make the shift from the employee “tell me what to do” mindset to taking responsibility for every aspect
of your business.

Leave us with some words of wisdom.

Allow me to get on my soapbox for a moment: I have some pretty strong opinions on courses and coaches. There are a lot of programs out there with very slick marketing and very high price tags. Some of them are great, some are terrible. Even the best ones aren’t a good fit for everyone.

My rule of thumb: if you can’t cover the cost with your freelance income, you don’t need it. There is enough free or very inexpensive information out there that anyone who is serious about freelance should be able to at least get started. You do not need a $1,000 or $3,000 or $6,000 course.

I want to emphasize that I’m not opposed to investing in yourself. I spent $5,000+ on coaching over the past year, and it paid off very nicely. But I held off making that investment until I was sure of the direction I wanted to go in my career and what I wanted to get out of working with a coach. I was also making enough by that point to pay the installments without going into debt or digging into my savings.

If you’re going to take a course or work with a coach, talk to people who’ve done it themselves. Be leery of reviews full of affiliate links, and look for programs that offer a refund period.

Connect with Sarah! Find her on LinkedIn or online at aeroplane.ink.