I recently received an email from a nurse who has decided to launch a freelance writing career. She asked whether or not to invest in a professional head shot and a logo. Good questions, both…except this nurse still works in clinical practice. She has not yet sent a single query letter or established a home office from which to work. She has fallen victim to what I call Shiny Object Syndrome (SOS).

I say this not in disparagement. I, too, was a victim of SOS when I began freelancing. Instead of working on finding clients, I obsessed over the color scheme of my website. Instead of, oh, writing I labored at length over what to print on my business cards. Instead of focusing on the major elements of starting up a business, I frittered away time on all the frivolous trappings that surround being an entrepreneur.

Get Your Big Rocks Into the Jar Before You Focus on the Sand

In response to the new freelancer’s message, I asked her to read this short piece by Steven The big rocks of lifeCovey called “The Big Rocks of Life.” (I don’t believe the story is original to Dr. Covey, but his version is a quick read.)

I told this nurse I believed she was focused on putting sand in her freelance jar before she had filled it with rocks. Many new freelancers do this. I did.

What Are the Big Rocks Of Freelancing? 

If you are just starting out as a freelance nurse writer, you may feel overwhelmed about exactly what steps to take to make this crazy dream a reality. I would say this is why a lot of freelancers get bogged down in the minutiae–there’s so much of it! How the heck do you prioritize everything?

I suggest you take a step back and look at the big picture–the large glass jar– of your soon-to-be business. Then start adding the big rocks:

  1. Get writing. Whether this means a blog on Blogger or paying gigs, the most important thing you do as a writer is WRITE. And good writing requires practice. So start practicing.
  2. Get pitching. Send letters of introduction to prospective corporate clients and queries to editors. Don’t let the lack of a website, logo or professional head shot deter you from plunging in. Marketing takes time to work. You should market a little every week while you’re working on the other pieces below.
  3. Consider your business STRUCTURE. A lot of medical professionals do business under their own name. E.g.: Jane Smith DNP P-LLC or Edgar Jones MD PA. I don’t recommend doing that as a writer. The reasons are relatively complicated (and I am not a lawyer; I strongly recommend you consult with one), but they boil down to this: liability. You want to shield your personal assets from debt collectors and lawsuit-happy individuals you encounter in your business. The best way to do this is by forming a distinct LLC or S-Corporation with some name other than your own. A lawyer can give you details on this.
  4. Get a website. It is the crown jewel of your online presence and marketing strategy. I recommend self-hosted WordPress. By “self-hosted,” I mean buy a domain name, buy a hosting plan and then install WordPress on your own domain. If you’re handy with computer software, you probably can just use a free WordPress theme to begin with. If you are technically challenged, you can hire a web designer to personalize a WordPress theme for you. My web designer is Thauna at Bellano Web Studio. She charges $650 for a “tailored theme.” That is dirt cheap.

Once you’ve taken care of these “big rocks” of freelancing, then you can devote some time to adding gravel, sand, and water to your jar.

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Wishing you well.