Editor’s note: Kara-Marie Hall RN is a student in the Ultimate Health Journalism Basics for Nurses workshop who is already freelancing for Verywell Health. Today, she shares part of her remarkable story with us! I hope you enjoy it. ~Beth
Ralph Waldo Emerson famously said, “Life is a succession of lessons, which must be lived to be understood.” When I started my freelance writing business, I realized a gap existed between what I wanted and who I was. I was a critical care nurse accustomed to protocols, schedules and breaks set by someone else. But, I wanted the freedom and the success associated with being an entrepreneur.
I’ve learned closing this gap is a process in which you must be actively engaged, as Emerson suggests. Since becoming a nurse writer, I’ve learned many lessons — some which are still in progress. Here are the three most valuable, in my experience:
Lesson #1: Perfection is Only an Idea
Before sending out pitches and letters of introductions (LOIs), I spent weeks researching how to create the perfect pitch and website. I read several blogs about different types of freelance writing. Lastly, I took different certification courses that I believed would help me make the best first impression.
While I thought I was doing everything to become a better writer and business owner, in reality, I wasn’t doing anything. Doing is sending that pitch or LOI. Doing is creating a sample to attract the type of client that you want. Performing hours of “research” and not promptly acting on it is not doing. It’s procrastinating.
When I asked Beth a “should I do this or that” question, Beth said, “Just throw spaghetti on the wall and see what sticks.” When I get into analysis paralysis, this quote always comes to mind.
You will never be 100% ready nor perfect. Imposter syndrome will keep you from reaching your highest potential. What’s important is doing what you know now to the best of your ability and finetuning your strategy as your skills improve.
Lesson #2: Balance Your Job, Business, and Life
I underestimated the difficulty of working 3-12-hour shifts and running my freelance writing business. To illustrate, during one tortuous night, I finished an article for a client at 2 a.m., went to sleep, and woke up 4 hours later for my hospital shift. After that incident, I came up with a few ideas on how to avoid getting burned out while balancing a full-time job and freelance writing:
Determine Your Working Style
Find the best time you feel most motivated to do anything related to your business. For me, I prefer to write first thing in the morning, before I even eat breakfast. If you work three or five days a week, how can you maximize your off days? On the days that I must go into the hospital, I wake up 1-2 hours earlier to work on something, even if it’s just writing one more part of an article.
Make Every Minute Count
Even if you’re not physically in your home office, there’s likely something you can do to advance your writing career. For example, you can:
- Use your work breaks to read about a certain topic, such as copywriting or SEO.
- Review printouts of your research and source interviews, highlighting quotes you plan to utilize.
- Listen to podcasts while running errands. (I’m a fan of The Savvy Scribe by nurse writer Janine Kelbach)
Delegate or Die (of Exhaustion)
Whether it’s childcare or grocery shopping, try to offload one of your personal responsibilities to someone you trust. Personally, I hired a housekeeper who comes to my home twice a month. This luxury has become non-negotiable. The time required to manage a clean, peaceful environment has now been redirected to working and self-care.
When you truly want your business to succeed, that in itself can be the motivation that keeps you disciplined. However, you will be tested. Hanging out with friends or family, shopping, and carrying out other desires can make you drop your business responsibilities. I use a reward system to allow myself to do what I want to do after I do what I need to do.
Lesson #3: Know Your Worth
When you’re desperate for work, money, or samples, this is a hard lesson to accept.
When I first started, I tried offering free writing services to a few non-profits in exchange for portfolio samples. Feeling rejected by a lack of responses, I decided to take a detour to Upwork, a content mill, notorious for low-paying freelance gigs. I found a prospective client who wanted an E-book with many pages for about $100. He didn’t show up to our initial meeting, but later returned. I declined to work with him, as my conscience told me to be patient.
A week later, an editor from Verywell Health reached out to me to join their team of writers. This opportunity provided me with more samples for my portfolio plus pay that I felt more comfortable with.
When freelance writers, especially nurses (who already possess a lot of clinical knowledge), take low-paying assignments, it belittles the entire freelance writing profession. In short, do not let impatience cause you to lose out on more rewarding opportunities.
Merging the Me of Today with the Me of Tomorrow
When I first started, I vowed to have 3-4 clients in 6 months. But journeys don’t evolve solely based on our own schedule. Instead, they evolve as our mindset evolves. The more we say, “I can” and “I will,” the more we stay resilient. And the more we seek and accept help when needed, the more likely we are to experience personal and professional growth. Then, one day we see there is no gap between the person we are today and the person we want to become in the future — because now the two have merged into one.
P.S.: By the way, I’d love to connect with you on LinkedIn. I’m not funny or provocative enough for Twitter, so I’m hardly there. Further, all my prospective clients have approached me through LinkedIn, demonstrating it can also serve as one of the most powerful marketing weapons in your business arsenal.