In my latest freelance adventures, I’ve come across the phenomena of advice overload.
Warning: This post focuses on freelance writing and only mentions Korea toward the very end in an attempt to stay relevant. Feel free to click away if this seems boring or like some kind of cop-out that betrays my brand.
In the freelance writing world, there’s an overwhelming body of resources available. Everyone wants to share their tips on running a freelance writing business.
Because everyone in this business is a writer, maybe there’s an unusually large overflow of writing on this topic.
I mean, if you’ve started freelance writing and experienced some success, presto! You’re qualified to write about writing!
Where the Problem Lies
Obviously, what works for one person doesn’t work for everyone. As I’ve become further saturated with freelance writing advice, I’ve started to find more and more advice that contradicts other sources.
Don’t use job boards — Do use job boards.
You MUST choose a niche — It’s okay to not have a niche.
Cold pitching is dead — Cold pitching works!
Well, now what?
Laid out before me in striking clarity, I could see the dark spiral I was destined to take if I continued on this path of never-ending, contradictory advice.
Each turn of this spiral would be laden with flashy, tempting, helpful resources to help aspiring or young or downtrodden freelance writers.
Eventually, I’d become trapped, purchasing more and more resources while making hardly any money from freelancing at all.
But is there a solution? Didn’t I promise one in the title?
Yes, yes there is. And I’ll even spoil it for you right now.
Pick what works for you, and do it.
I’ll give an example.
I recently went to a job fair. (Although I wish I could say it was part of my strategy to network and find new clients, alas, I was looking for a job that could pay the bills.)
I’ve gone to several job fairs in the past, but this time I attended a job fair workshop beforehand. Why? Because workshop attendees get priority entrance.
But all the advice they gave (and my lack of preparation according to their advice) started to stress me out. On the day of the job fair, I sat in my car for a good five minutes, wondering if I was really prepared and if I should just go home. (I kid you not.)
What was happening?!
I’ve been to job fairs before!
I can turn on the (professional) charm!
I interview well!
I’ve successfully landed jobs from job fairs before!
But here I was, sitting in my car with second doubts (and third, and fourth). I eventually steeled myself and went in.
The information I’d received from the workshop wasn’t bad. It was good advice. I’m sure it’s helped lots of people. Hey, I even used some of it. But because I didn’t follow all their steps, I felt underprepared.
I’d begun to fall into a trap. I’d begun thinking that their way was the only successful way of doing things. And while their way had a high probability of success, it wasn’t the only way.
(Side note: If I’d just followed the advice from the workshop, I’m sure I would have felt perfectly prepared. But then I’d have no anecdote to share with you.)
I got so caught up in the advice I’d been given that following the advice became more important than actually accomplishing my goal. Attending the damn job fair.
The Freelance Lifestyle
I’ve run into the same problem with freelancing.
Except that it’s probably multiplied by a thousand. There is far more than just one workshop’s worth of advice available on freelance writing. There are pages and articles and blogs chock full of FREE freelance writing advice.
At first, this seems awesome. There’s so much free information out there – I can learn anything! I can do everything!
Then hopefully you begin your freelance writing business and follow some advice. You find more resources as you need them. It’s going pretty well.
But somewhere along the way, you become a little dissatisfied. You’ve kept going. You still read blog posts from the greats. But you’re not seeing the level of success you expected.
(Well, maybe I should stop projecting onto you; it’s clear by now that the “you” is actually “me.”)
I wasn’t making much progress. That’s never a fun thing to realize, but it starts to become frustrating when you’ve willing inundated yourself with articles with titles like “Finding $1K Clients!” and “How I Doubled My Salary in 3 Months!”
The Spinning Wheels
Then came the pressure the buy, ironically, more resources. Even though there was all that great stuff online, available for free. But don’t feel bad, if the writers you’re following are any good at what they do, you should feel pressured to buy. It helps them make a living.
So I broke down and purchased access to an e-course. This course had a few gold nuggets of information, but also a few letdowns. It didn’t get me out of the rut.
It hit me after seeing advice from another freelance writer that directly contradicted what I was being taught.
Freelance writers mostly agree that:
Job Boards = High Competition & Low Pay
But this writer had gotten her start on writer job boards, as well as the confidence boost she needed to keep going.
Job boards worked for her.
I had a similar experience when reading about freelance writing rates and what I should charge clients. One writer had a hard minimum rate that I decided to stick with too.
The work I had at the time was severely below that rate. Less than half actually. Even though I was learning a lot through my work, the advice telling me I was extremely underpaid permeated my mindset. I became both extremely underpaid and extremely unhappy.
But now I have experience writing blogs, articles, guides, product descriptions, and several online genres. I’ve written on the topics of health & fitness, pets, gardening, beauty, technology, economic trends, and probably more that aren’t coming to mind.
That low rate client that gave me steady but wildly-varying assignments worked for me.
I’m still discovering what works for me.
I’ve been freelance writing long enough to realize what makes sense and what doesn’t. Yes, I need to make more cold pitches, but it’s also okay to use the job boards.
The advice out there is good, but it’s also trying to convert me into a sale. Making me feel bad about supposed lack of progress helps them close the deal. So I need to maintain a healthy distance from too much “advice.”
What Works for You
What’s in your comfort zone works for you. But stay there, and you’ll never try anything new or see growth.
However, the opposite’s also true.
Get so far outside of your comfort zone without any conceivable link to where you started, and you might be too overwhelmed to grow.
Push yourself outside of your comfort zone, but don’t leave yourself stranded.
For current or aspiring ETAs, DO push yourself to do new and exciting things. But don’t do it at the expense of yourself.
There’s a temptation to push and push because the ETA grant is just for one year (or 2 or 3 if you renew), and while that may be do-able, it’s not healthy.
If you don’t have a good handle on teaching or classroom management or coteacher relations, don’t take on similar roles outside of school. If you’re lacking “me time,” forget the extracurriculars, take a sick night, or pass on your friends’ weekend travel plans this time.
The FOMO won’t kill you.