In this post, I interviewed Chanell Alexander from The Remote Work Life. I met Chanell in a #remotechat Twitter talk and was curious about her journey to remote work through freelancing as a writer.
Freelancing is a great way to start working remotely, whether you want to get experience as a remote worker or simply start your own business and escape corporate America.
What were you doing before you became a freelance writer?
Before I became a freelance writer, I was a communications associate at an educational nonprofit organization. Before that, I was a program manager for a financial literacy-based nonprofit. While I was a university student, I developed a passion for mission-driven organizations.
So, my early career was spent working for nonprofits. It was actually the perfect transition because I had the opportunity to begin producing content, and managing marketing projects.
Why freelance writing?
At my previous job, I worked right near a huge window. I was able to look out into nature while I worked (which was nice). After a while, my work area started to feel a lot smaller and less flexible. I wanted to have the opportunity to work among the trees, in a coffee house, or at home. My company was not very open to employees working outside of the office, and understanding this made me see that I needed another plan.
So, I began looking into remote work jobs. There were a lot of remote marketing jobs available, but the competition was fierce. I also didn’t know many people that worked remotely. So, I did the next best thing and went freelance.
When did you know it was time to make a change?
I knew it was time to make a change when I didn’t feel fulfilled in my work environment. Braving the traffic, the hour-long commutes, and the overall lack of work flexibility was overwhelming. I wanted more control over how I worked, and freelancing seemed to be the answer.
How did you discover freelancing writing as a way to make money remotely?
I had heard of freelancing, but it felt incredibly scary. The fact that you could be making a lot of money one week and not making any the next was overwhelming. However, the benefits it offered made me want to overcome this uncertainty.
So, while I was still working at my previous company, I set up a freelance profile on Upwork. Within a few days, I had my first client, and within a couple of weeks, I had another (off of Upwork). I began to notice that I could make a living, even without the full-time job.
What surprised you at the beginning and were there any obstacles to overcome?
I definitely had to get used to the fact that I was in now in charge of my paycheck. This concept felt scary and liberating all at the same time. I had to learn how to manage my schedule while also planning for the income I needed to make.
I needed to become comfortable with the fact that there may be some weeks where work may be harder to come by, and that I had to lean on marketing and networking. I was also surprised at how challenging it was to get used to the isolation that can come with freelancing remotely.
It was also hard to deal with the steep learning curve of handling things like taxes and the more administrative activities that come with freelancing. I had to learn about quarterly taxes, statements of work, and accounting management as I went along. However, through all of this, I wouldn’t trade it for anything. I have had the opportunity to learn so much, while also sharing what I know with others along the way.
What impact do you think freelancing has had on the remote work community as a whole?
I think it has made remote work more versatile. It proves that remote work is not just one-size-fits-all. There are a variety of benefits that go along with freelance, part-time, and full-time work. Typically, freelancing provides more flexibility regarding hours worked, the type of projects that can be worked on, and in how you choose to work.
I think it has also brought about the continued expansion of the gig economy. Today, you can work for a variety of companies while also working from home. This was almost impossible before the advent of freelancing.
What advice do you have for others who want to get into freelancing but don’t know where to start?
I would definitely advise those who are interested in freelancing to do two things:
- Try it out first.See if the freelancing lifestyle is something you like. While it will be challenging if you are still working full-time, try freelancing while you are still employed. It will allow you to get a sense for what it is like to be in charge of your own schedule while also providing a safety net if things don’t work out.
- Have a portfolio or work samples. It will be easier to gain clients and make the money you want if you already have a portfolio to offer to clients. I had done work at my previous company that I was able to use in an initial portfolio. This helped me gain my first client.
What’s next for your freelance writing career?
I just launched my professional content writing website: chanellalex.com. In addition to gaining more clients, I want to use the site to share blog posts and helpful resources for entrepreneurs and small business owners who need content writing services as well as freelancers who want to jump into this business.
Chanell Alexander is the founder of The Remote Work Life, a blog with essential tips and advice for established and aspiring remote workers. When she isn’t writing about the nuances of remote work, Chanell works as a freelance content writer and digital marketing strategist for entrepreneurs and small businesses. Follow her on Twitter @Chanell_Alex1