Flotsam and Jetsam

Circles in Squares: Making Your Business Anything But Yours

You are the only person who can decide what the shape of your business will look like
Photo by cottonbro from Pexels

“I can set your writing career up for instant success.” How many times have you read some version of that? Whenever a so-so freelancer’s schedule droops, they get it into their head to develop a coaching program to supplement their income. And since the freelance life is glamorous (I won’t complain), people are always eager to sign up and spend their allowance on templates and slide decks designed to generate income. Fine – but those “plans” won’t help your business. Not if you’re serious about generating a writing life you’re happy with, at any rate. Because they lack a critical element you won’t find in ANY educational program: You.

Those Who Can’t…

I didn’t jump straight into freelancing. As with any project I’ve considered, I did my homework first. That meant a TON of reading and notes. But I was careful with who I read and where I took my information from. Because (newsflash) freelance marketplaces thrive on the backs of mediocre writers generating “programs” to recruit fresh workers.

And EVERYONE with a spellcheck/grammar program and the ability to string a sentence together is eager to help you build your business. (And then exploit it)

They trot out testimonials from previous students and brag about success rates they’ve managed for their prodigies. Maybe they even list an impressive number of publications – minus references to publications you’ve heard of or a tangible portfolio you can review ahead of time. If you’re desperate to get started making money, it SOUNDS impressive.

So does the “reduced” course fee they offer. (Or, to contrast with another program I know exists and feeds on hopeful copywriters, the exorbitant cost reassures you they’re legit)

Meanwhile, they’re NOT working. Instead, their income comes from YOU.

(Not a fact they bother to reference in their flashy course materials)

“Building” Your Business

Once you’re sucked in, you’re handed a bunch of templates, slide decks, and advice that – frankly – isn’t unique. Your business? It’s bland, boring, and cobbled together from internet searches you could have performed yourself. (Mostly because it’s where THEY got the information in the first place) Maybe you’ll get lucky and find a few clients – on a marketplace – who will start filling your savings account.

And your “teacher” will ask for a testimonial and pat themselves on the back.

But in a few months, you’ll have nothing impressive and nowhere to GROW.

Because your writing and skills aren’t unique. And they lack anything different from the mill of other similarly-educated candidates.

(Though, for an additional fee, your teacher will happily offer add-ons to “upgrade” your business)

It’s an absolute crock, and it drives me crazy when I see it.

No Substitute For Hard Work

I won’t say these people are scammers, but they’re not helping anyone (except themselves).

A genuine mentor doesn’t give you the answers. They offer suggestions and advice and answer questions you may have, but they expect YOU to do the work and figure things out on your own. Because they know YOUR business needs to resemble YOU.

Even if that means you take a different path than what they lay out in their course.

Maybe you hate cold pitching. Or you could despise LinkedIn (I’m getting there, believe me!). Perhaps you aren’t willing to give up your icing niches for more cake niches. (Anyone on the waiting list for Mandy Ellis’s Freelance Writer Wealth Lab will recognize those terms) You could even prefer not to have a writer’s website!

Whatever works for YOU will be acceptable to the RIGHT teacher.

Of course, they’ll also have a portfolio you can skim, recognize, and verify. And you’ll probably know their name from talking to people around the industry. (No, I don’t consider a marketplace “industry”)

Make Your Business YOURS

When you feel comfortable with your business plan, you breathe easier every day.

Maybe your business means accepting every weird and quirky trait - the way I do!

And that could mean embracing your geeky side in everything you do:

  • Adding pop culture images to your site
  • Including movie and TV quotes in your LOIs
  • Creating a superhero (antihero) logo for your business
  • Allowing a sense of humor and lightheartedness into your writing
  • Accepting that your 8-pound demon cat WILL invite herself to every Zoom call

I promise I violate PLENTY of “rules” I’ve heard for freelancers. Doesn’t phase me in the slightest.

Because I’m HAPPY.

Every day, I get to focus on writing that delights my brain and energizes my interest. I DON’T feel like I’m dragging myself to work. My schedule is booked with clients who are a delight to engage with. And my business? It’s falling into place the way I want.

Then again, I avoided the pitfalls of those “experts” hanging around social media and marketplaces. And I found mentors who gave their blessings to my embracing my uniqueness. (Yup, they exist!)

You can do the same.

Or you can create another cookie-cutter freelance writing business – and line the pockets of someone who’d rather cobble together a “course” than work on themselves. The choice is yours.

Join the Conversation