Freelancing is Hard! Continuing our Case Study

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EDITOR’S INTRODUCTION: One thing I’ve always been keen to do with this site is to provide completely honest information about the realities of working for yourself. Regular readers will be VERY much aware of that!

Freelancing is hard at times, especially when you’re just starting out. And this latest instalment in our ongoing case study really proves it!

While you’ll find plenty of websites out there that promise untold riches from freelancing, and then gloss over the realities (usually before selling you a book or a course!) we don’t do that here. So here’s Sam with the third instalment of his ongoing journey as a fledgeling freelancer.

If you’ve not already read the previous instalments, it would make sense to do so:

Please read on to the end of the article where I add some feedback of my own! Yes, freelancing is hard, but Sam’s showing exactly the resilient attitude you need to succeed.

Let’s begin!

It has been a rather surprising week and a half.

I’d just finished my last article in this series and was feeling pretty good. Yes, things had slowed down, but I was confident they would turn around.

I had my active Fiverr gig, an ad out on Craigslist (just in case), and I was content to sit back and let the clients come to me. Just a matter of time, I thought! Then the reality hit and I realized that I hadn’t been contacted by anyone, anywhere, for several days.

What. The. Heck? This isn’t what’s supposed to happen!

So, what did I do? Well, I reacted in three stages:

Stage One: Denial (but building exposure)

My first instinct was to tell myself to relax. My thoughts were along the lines of: “things will pick back up in a day or two; don’t panic, it will be OK; must be a slow time of the month, give it a couple of days.”


However, not one to sit around and make wishes on falling stars, I set about getting my personal website ready (still under construction but I will eventually share that URL with you!). I intend to get it set up with three portfolio sections – one portfolio for my writing, one for my photography, and one for my website work.

Getting portfolios established is hugely important; How else are you going to showcase your work? You need a place where people can go on their own – whether they get there from a link in your email signature, from your LinkedIn profile, or via social media platforms or forums. So, I was proud of myself for those couple of days I worked on it. After all, I was doing productive work towards my freelance portfolio career!

Stage Two: Competitor Research

Since I started out on the road to becoming a freelancer, I told myself over and over again that I was not interested in doing competitor research. My goal is to be me and let others be themselves. Let my work speak for itself. Rawwrr!

But then almost a week passed and I still hadn’t been approached. Not even on Fiverr.

My reviews were still positive. All 5 stars with rave reviews. Once again: What. The. Heck? So, I finally told myself that I HAD TO KNOW what others were doing. I needed to work out why I was being overlooked.

Now, for transparency’s sake, I will let you know the basics of my Fiverr gig: It’s a simple, “basic” gig offering to do a 500-word article or blog post, researched, for $5. Other options exist for more money, but for $5 you can get me to write you a simple piece.

FIve Dollars

When I first started on Fiverr this was the typical gig I saw, so I copied the concept. Here’s a free rule to work by: don’t reinvent the wheel if you don’t need to!

So, for the past few weeks, I’ve had this gig up and it’s done me fine. As a matter of fact, upon researching my analytics, I found I have a 15% impression-to-order ratio. A search on Google reveals that a 5-10% conversion rate should be considered good – so I am, theoretically, ahead of the game.

But’s that’s little use when it’s not getting me anywhere, and merely demonstrated that freelancing is hard! It was time to see what others were doing.

I have to admit that I saw the info I was looking for immediately. I was stunned, irritated and miffed – all at the same time.

I realized that something had to change. But I also needed to decide how I would meet this new challenge. The issue? No one was really doing 500 words for $5 anymore. People were doing 600 – 750 words for $5.

Remember, when we are talking about a $5 gig, buyers are looking for something cheap, with minimal quality. It’s all about price and they aren’t looking for a Pulitzer winner! So, I have been priced out of the $5 market unless I step up and do the same as others. Right now, I’m not ready to take that step (which is not to say I won’t take that step in the future!)

I decided I needed to diversify.

Stage Three: Diversification

Investors will tell you that you need to diversify if you want to have a steady, good return on your investment.

A freelance career is all about a return on your investment. That investment is your time, effort and work.

Return on investment

At the moment I only have two sources of freelance income – and you are currently reading one of those sources! So I obviously need to branch out and find more clients. This also means I have to take a more proactive role in finding new clients. The first step is right here.

I have applied (yes there is an application process) to the content mill Copify. (At the time of this writing TextBroker, an alternative content mill, is only accepting applications from UK, Ireland, New Zealand, Australia, Canada and South Africa).

I am waiting to hear back as to whether I have been accepted or not. I’ve also doubled down on pitching article ideas to other websites looking for writers. This will continue until I have found at least a couple more clients to continue building my portfolio.

When I started this series, I promised I would share all of the ups, the downs and the grit of what’s involved. I am still going strong, despite these last couple of weeks of feeling like I’m standing still.

Some people may find instant success and an ever-increasing onwards and upwards momentum. Conversely, some may never go far or even get started. Others – I suspect the majority, of which I’m a part – will find it all goes up and down like a roller coaster.

There will be days (and even weeks) in the beginning where not much is going on. You will feel like you are not making it. I would actually beg to differ, as this is exactly how you make it – by never giving up, recognizing when a change is needed, and then finding out for yourself exactly what you are willing to do.

This week, for example, I was unwilling to change my Fiverr gig to be more competitive. I may change that stance next week, but for now, the change I decided I needed to make was to find other sites that I can explore and where I can start to build a reputation. This time it was Copify.

Take heart, keep the good, leave the bad and keep on going! See you next week!

Freelancing is Hard: EDITOR’S CONCLUSION:

While it sounds like Sam’s had a tough week, these times are a rite of passage for every new freelancer. (And never truly go away, as you can read in my own article from a couple of weeks ago!)

The thing with sites like Fiverr, and even marketplaces like Upwork and PeoplePerHour, is that they’re truly global. The reason people are offering to write 700-word articles for five bucks is that they’re often in countries where that money goes a LOT further than it would in the US and the rest of the “developed” world.

Global Business

There are two ways to attack this; One is to turn your nose up at these platforms, which many people do, and the other is to get stuck in anyway. This was Sam’s approach, and in my opinion it’s the correct approach.

It’s not worth turning out what is basically “bulk content” for $5 a pop for very long if you live in the western world. However, by giving it a go, Sam has:

  • Been paid (albeit a nominal amount) to get some writing practice in.
  • Gained more experience of handling relationships with clients.
  • Learned the “ins and outs” of how Fiverr works.
  • Learned what he is and isn’t willing to do for a certain level of income.

Compare that with the person who turns their nose up at this kind of work. They’re likely still spinning their wheels, searching the internet for shortcuts to easy money, and lacking any of that valuable experience Sam’s gained over the past few weeks.

I know who I’d rather be.


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